Lester B. Pearson is often cited as the ”œmodel” for Canadian foreign policy, including the two very different conceptions espoused by Lloyd Axworthy and Andrew Cohen. Pearson was above all a pragmatist who worked endlessly to maintain good relations with the United States and the United Kingdom.
In his memoirs Pearson notes that ”œCanada’s great- est interest is international peace and security…This interest is prejudiced when there is division within the Commonwealth or between London, Washington and Paris…Canada must do what she could to promote unity between the United States and Britain.” He also said it was ”œa first principle of Canadian foreign policy to coop- erate closely with the two countries with whom every impulse of sentiment, history, self-interest, trade and geography counsels such co-operation.” When they dis- agreed ”œwe are in trouble.” Pearson also admitted in his memoirs ”œthere will be times when, in the interests of the unity which is so necessary, we may have to abandon our own views in favour of those held by the United States.”
Pearson was also the consummate multilateral diplomat, but here again he showed his pragmatism when he confessed in his memoirs: ”œI felt that support for the UN was at times less of a call to action than a prayerful and undemanding expression of our idealism and our hopes, a kind of satisfying ritual like the automatic repetition of the Lord’s Prayer.”
Conservative critic Howard Green charged that Pearson was the ”œchore boy of the Americans” for his role in solving the Suez crisis and this no doubt resonated with a portion of the Canadian public during the 1957 general election when Diefenbaker upset the Liberals. John Diefenbaker’s efforts to restore relations with the British came to naught as did his attempts to shift 15 percent of trade away from the US towards Britain. He didn’t withdraw Canadian troops from United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) in Egypt after his election and his position on South Africa’s expulsion from the Commonwealth remained until the apartheid regime crumbled in the 1990s. His policies with respect to Cuba and selling wheat to China also became stalwarts for all future governments.
Diefenbaker’s minority govern- ment imploded over his inability to take a decision to arm the Bomarc mis- siles, which he had bought as a substi- tute for the cancelled Avro Arrow fighter/interceptor (CF-105), with nuclear weapons. Diefenbaker resent- ed the clear intrusion of the US gov- ernment into the 1963 federal election, which he fought and lost using very anti-American rhetoric. However that anti-American rhetoric kept Pearson from winning a clear majority in 1963.
When Pearson became prime min- ister he tried to repair the relationships damaged by Diefenbaker with both the British and the Americans. Pearson, even with a minority government, made early visits to London to meet Harold Wilson and to Hyannisport to meet President Kennedy (none of the angst, indecision and delay associated with where and when Paul Martin Jr. should meet with President Bush). Pearson agreed to pass messages between the Americans and North Vietnamese, he agreed to Lyndon Johnson’s request for Canadian troops in Cyprus and secured the Auto Pact with the United States which con- tributed greatly to the economic well being of central Canada.
Pierre Trudeau turned his back on Pearson’s concept of Canada’s role in the world and early in his mandate he rejected the foreign policy review conducted by foreign affairs officials as being too consistent with the past. He put his own stamp on foreign policy by proclaiming that it was merely an extension of domestic policy and Canada’s national interests. Trudeau’s foreign policy review was issued in six pamphlets in 1970, entitled Foreign Policy for Canadians. It identified the following priorities: fostering econom- ic growth; safeguarding sovereignty and independence; working for peace and security; promoting social justice; enhancing the quality of life and assuring a harmonious natural envi- ronment. None of the pamphlets directly addressed relations with the United States.
That omission was corrected in the fall of 1972 when Mitchell Sharp issued a paper on options for relations with the United States which noted that ”œthe challenge of living distinct from, but in harmony with, the world’s most dynamic and powerful nation, the United States, was one of the two inescapable realities, both cru- cial to Canadian policy needs.” The other issue was national unity. The paper looked at three options for rela- tions with the US: 1) the status quo; 2) deeper economic integration; and 3) diversification away from the US toward other economic markets.
Trudeau chose the third option and tried to establish better relation- ships and more trade with the European Economic Community and Japan. When Trudeau left office Canada’s trade with the United States had increased to three quarters of all Canadian exports. The third option had failed because Canadian business, which does the trading, wasn’t inter- ested, nor were the Europeans or Japanese business communities.
It was ironic that Trudeau who had initially scoffed at the Pearsonian ”œhelpful fixer” role for Canada ended his time in office in pursuit of his peace initiative designed to lower tensions between East and West. At the same time Trudeau agreed to test cruise mis- siles over Canadian territory notwith- standing the fact that a majority of Canadian public opinion was opposed. In his memoirs, Trudeau’s second to last foreign minister, Mark McGuigan, notes that in the 1980-82 period ”œCanadian difficulties with the United States had seldom been so widespread and deep-seated. Those problems were compounded by the lack of rapport between Trudeau and Ronald Reagan, which threatened to end in a rather ugly fashion, but which we were eventually able to manage ”” just bare- ly ”” with the prime minister’s eating of some humble pie.” Trudeau set up quarterly meetings between the Canadian and American foreign ministers in October 1982 after he appointed Allan MacEachen to replace Mark McGuigan as his foreign minister in an attempt to resolve some irritants on both sides. This practice was continued throughout the time that George Shultz was secretary of state, but it fell into disuse after Jim Baker succeeded him in 1989.
John Turner wanted better rela- tions with the United States and he instructed his foreign minister Jean Chrétien to pass this message to George Shultz at their one and only meeting in Jakarta in early July 1984. Turner also decided not to proceed with a Canadian initiative in the Committee on Disarmament in Geneva to ban anti-satellite weapons after a personal intervention from George Shultz.
Brian Mulroney made clear in his 1984 election campaign that he, too, wanted a new and better relation- ship with the United States and that he intended to give the Americans the benefit of the doubt on certain issues. Mulroney defended the United States in some instances and in others chal- lenged the US to take account of the views of others. He took issue with the Americans over South Africa and parts of their Central American policy. Mulroney was unfailing in his pursuit of Canadian interests with respect to a free trade agreement, acid rain, and Arctic sovereignty. On the latter issue he obtained a totally unscripted com- mitment from President Reagan: ”œlet’s put the sovereignty issue aside, we won’t do anything up there without your permission.” This proved to be the basis of an agreement that has done just that for the past eighteen years. Mulroney said ”œno” to one of Reagan’s pet projects, the Strategic Defense Initiative, without any signifi- cant impact on the relationship because he had already established good personal relations with Reagan and had taken concrete steps to rein- vigorate the relationship by addressing several other American concerns.
The Mulroney foreign policy review conducted by Joe Clark in 1985 and issued as a Green Paper entitled Competitiveness and Security: Directions for Canada’s International Relations. It identi- fied six basic objectives strikingly similar to Trudeau’s Foreign Policy for Canadians: unity; sovereignty and independence; peace and security; justice and democra- cy; economic prosperity and the integri- ty of our natural resources.
Mulroney also implemented a rec- ommendation from DFAIT that there should be annual summits between him- self and the president of the United States. A suggestion to resurrect this prac- tice has recently been made by Thomas Axworthy and makes eminent sense.
The Chrétien government’s foreign policy review issued in 1995 was entitled Canada in the World. It identified three key objectives (the so-called three pillars) of Canadian foreign policy: the promo- tion of prosperity and employment; the protection of our security, within a stable global framework; and the projection of Canadian values (human rights, democ- racy, rule of law and the environment) and culture. While the packaging may have been different, the underlying objectives were consistent with those identified in the Trudeau and Mulroney foreign policy reviews.
Chrétien failed to establish the same relationship with George W. Bush as he had with Clinton and appeared so engrossed in the internecine warfare within his own party that he was incapable of disci- plining those knee-jerk anti-Americans, who supported him against a more pro-American Paul Martin.
In January 2003 the then foreign minister Bill Graham launched a ”œdia- logue with Canadians” to try to find out exactly what Canadians wanted their foreign policy to be. Six months later, just after the Iraq War formally ended, Graham announced the results of his dialogue. The key issues identified were: 1) strengthening a multilateral system based on the rule of law; 2) reforming international institutions; 3) close relations with U.S. should be a fundamental foreign policy priority; 4) security at home depends on the sta- bility, order and prosperity of the glob- al community and with the human rights and democratic development of people around the world. Graham sug- gested that the three pillars of the Canadian foreign policy announced by the Chrétien government in 1995 remained virtually intact with minor embellishments.
An international policy review to enunciate the Martin government’s policies with respect to diplomacy, defence, development and trade was announced on December 12, 2003, the very day of the government’s swear- ing-in and reiterated in the February 2004 and October 2004 Speeches from the Throne. The document was prom- ised for the autumn of 2004, but has yet to surface. Such a coordinated exer- cise would be difficult in the best of times at both the bureaucratic and political levels, which perhaps explains why none of Martin’s prede- cessors ever attempted to do so, and why it has not yet seen the light of day. Such a document should produce the Canadian equivalent of the National Security Strategy of the United States, by bringing together in one document how the various strands of policies available to the government in its relations with other countries will be knit together. The Martin govern- ment did produce a national security strategy in April 2004, which is really the Canadian version of the US home- land security strategy.
One of the earliest announce- ments from the new prime minister, who had directly supervised the drastic decline in foreign policy, defence and aid expenditures throughout most of the 1990s, was his commitment on his frist day in office to strengthening Canada’s influence in the world. Four specific measures were announced: First, the minister of foreign affairs was asked to lead in the development of an integrated and coherent international policy framework for diplomacy, defence, development, and trade; sec- ond, the creation of a new cabinet committee on global affairs, chaired by the PM, which would take an integrat- ed approach to foreign affairs, defence, international development, trade and other international issues; third, the creation of a new cabinet committee on Canada-US relations, chaired by the prime minister, to ensure an integrat- ed, government-wide approach to Canada-US relations and to be sup- ported by a Canada-US secretariat in the Privy Council Office; and fourth, the appointment of a parliamentary secretary to the PM for Canada-US relations. The mandate of the cabinet committee on Canada-US relations noted that at the discretion of the chair (the PM), Canada’s ambassador to the United States and the parliamentary secretary for Canada-US rela- tions could be asked to participate at its meetings.
The prime minister’s early promis- es for a new and better relationship with the United States sounded encouraging but then it took over four months for a real meeting between him and President Bush in April 2004.
The November 30, 2004 visit to Ottawa by President Bush resulted in the issuing of a ”œJoint Statement by Canada and the United States on com- mon security, common prosperity: A new partnership in North America.” The statement sets an agenda for Canada-US co-operation not only in key bilateral areas, but also commits the two countries to work together internationally on a wide range of issues ”œin support of our common val- ues.” This statement was virtually ignored by the Canadian media in much the same way that the Quebec Summit declaration of March 17, 1985 between President Reagan and PM Mulroney had been two decades earli- er. The Quebec declaration was the first step on the road to a bilateral free trade agreement. Whether this latest statement of partnership will develop into the North American Security and Prosperity Initiative (NASPI) espoused for the past two years by the Canadian Council of Chief Executives remains an open question.
The PM has also promised more money for defence spending and an increase in the size of the Canadian Forces to enable them to carry out more operations abroad. At the same time all department shave been instructed to carry out a five percent reduction exer- cise under the guise of ”œprogram review.” There has been no suggestion that the departments involved in the International Policy Review are exempt- ed from this expenditure cut.
On the issue of Canadian values, Prime Minister Martin initially reminded us that many of these are in fact universal values treasured by Canadians (liberty, democracy, indi- vidual opportunity, fairness). By the time of last October’s Speech from the Throne those universal values had again become transformed into Canadian values and the PM was sug- gesting that the world needed ”œmore of Canada.” He has also called for mul- tilateral institutions that work and suggested that no one nation can manage the consequences of global interdependence on its own.
It should be clear from the above that while changing world circumstances have resulted in various changes to Canadian foreign policy over the years, there have been some fundamental Canadian foreign policy objectives which have not changed: pro- viding for the security of Canadians and the rest of the world; providing for Canada’s economic security; and the promotion of universal values of social justice which most Canadians embrace. Various governments have responded in various ways in their attempts to achieve these objectives, but the basic objectives are still there. That is hard- ly surprising. It also means that the proposition that the fundamentals of the three-pillar policy enunciated in 1994-95 are outdated today is balder- dash. The Martin government has chosen to take the second pillar (the promotion of trade and investment) away from foreign policy and make it a fifth pillar of its economic strategy, but it still relates to interaction with the world outside Canada.
The real threats to Canadian security today are different from those that existed during the Cold War and they may require responses which have nothing to do with the traditional role played by the Canadian military. But Canadians still want armed forces that are capable of intervening in international peace- keeping and peacemaking operations approved by either the UN or NATO. The October 2004 Speech from the Throne’s proclamation that it is no longer possible to separate domestic and international policies is a reitera- tion of what Trudeau said in Foreign Policy for Canadians 34 years ago.
A foreign policy which is grounded in promoting Canada’s security and economic growth cannot but focus on our relations with the United States. But Canadians don’t want their foreign policy to focus exclusively on relations with the United States and it is folly to suggest otherwise. One of the greatest chal- lenges facing Canadian foreign policy is how to re-engage the United States in the multilateral system which it was so instrumental in creating at the end of the Second World War. Without the United States’ active par- ticipation the UN system will fade and wither. This may be an opportune time to recall Pearson’s view that there may be times when ”œwe may have to abandon our own views in favour of those held by the United States.” The November 30, 2004, joint statement committing Canada and the United States to co-operate inter- nationally of a wide range of issues is to be welcomed and provides an opportunity that should be seized to promote co-operation.
The changing nature of the compo- sition of Canada’s multicultural society has had an on-going impact on aspects of Canadian foreign policy. In the 1990s the large ethnic communities with roots in Eastern Europe (including the wife of Prime Minister Mulroney) were instru- mental in forcing the active involvement of both the Mulroney and Chrétien governments in the search for peace in the Balkans. The Haitian community in Montreal is important enough in several ridings to ensure that Canada can no longer ignore this poorest country in our Caribbean neighbourhood. The list could go on and on. Almost every ethnic background is now represented in Canada and it has become almost inconceiv- able to imagine an event hap- pening anywhere in the world which does not resonate some- where in Canada at both the public and political level.
This reality has been over- looked by proponents of ”œniche” diplomacy, which requires a degree of homogeneity which has never existed in Canadian society. The same reality impacts on the government’s ability to be more selective in concentrating our aid pro- gram to a small group of countries. It also impacts on which crisis we regard as salient to Canada.
Another of Prime Minister Martin’s first acts on December 12, 2003 was to introduce changes to the organization of his government, breaking up the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade into two separate departments and setting up a secretariat in the Privy Council Office to run Canada-US relations and to backstop a new cabinet committee on Canada-US relations, chaired by the prime minister. This left the new departments of Foreign Affairs and International Trade with little or no responsibility for policy development with respect to our most important ally and overwhelming trad- ing partner, the United States. Foreign policy is henceforth to be conducted on a ”œwhole of government approach” ostensibly due to the ever increasing dif- ficulty in distinguishing between domestic and foreign policy. But promo- tion of trade and investment is no longer part of this government’s foreign policy, but rather its economic policy.
Any policy document like the International Policy Review which is sup- posed to deal with the operations of at least four departments and which affects many others as well is unlikely to see the light of day before it receives the stamp of approval from the Privy Council Office and the PMO. It would appear that the PM is not anxious to bring forth the document until he is cer- tain that it fully reflects how he wants to proceed to achieve the objectives he has already set out since November 2003.
One of the more puzzling mes- sages sent out by the breakup of DFAIT is that foreign policy and trade policy are somehow no longer directly linked. ”œJobs, jobs, jobs” was a key ele- ment of the Mulroney and Chrétien foreign policies. Martin appears to have decided that somehow our eco- nomic interests in promoting foreign trade and two-way investment are bet- ter served by a stand-alone department separate from foreign policy. This cre- ates uncertainties which go far beyond the inevitable turf wars between bureaucrats involved in the divorce. Will Canadian heads of mission still be involved in the promotion of trade and investment or will that be left increasingly to trade commissioners? The Canadian model of an integrated department of foreign affairs and international trade was working well and certainly was not a holdover from the ”œhorse and buggy age” as suggest- ed by a senior mandarin in the new Department of International Trade. Some see it as a deliberate ploy by the PCO to denigrate the whole concept of a professional foreign service.
While the rhetoric of the Martin government’s International Policy Review may try to be innovative, Canada’s fun- damental foreign policy objectives have and will remain more or less constant. The means to try to achieve those objec- tives may well be different. What is important is that the means be real and not just hortatory wishful thinking that the world needs more Canada.