On December 12, 2004, Paul Martin marked his first year in office. A year and four weeks previously, on November 15, 2003, he had succeeded Jean Chrétien as leader of the Liberal Party, realizing a deep-seated, long-sim- mering ambition to become prime minister of Canada.
After a decade of Chrétien, who was the most parochial prime minister since an early Mackenzie King, it was encouraging to hear Martin speak boldly about Canada in the world. A youthful idealist who thought much about the Third World, an activist minister comfortable in interna- tional forums, a sharp mind open to ideas, here, it seemed, was the cosmopolitan and internationalist that Canada needed after a decade of somnolence abroad.
True, when Martin ran for the leadership his statements on foreign policy were vague and infrequent. But he did promise to make international affairs one of his top three priorities (in the days when he had just three). He did say he would return Canada to the world, acknowledging that we had been largely absent. He would find new resources and restore the stature of the post-war era. At his invitation, Bono, the pop singer, addressed the Liberal Convention on AIDS and the moral obligation of the rich to the poor. Days after taking office, Martin paid a courtesy call on the Department of National Defence in Ottawa; it was an expression of goodwill to the beleaguered military, whose resources, like those of other international departments and agencies, were cut disproportionately in the deficit-ridden 1990s. Curiously, it was Finance Minister Martin who was writing the cheques then ”” or not writing them.
His first Speech from the Throne reaffirmed a commit- ment to renew the tools of our foreign policy, and the appointment of David Pratt, who had chaired the parlia- mentary defence committee, sent the right signal. Martin made a special effort to be at Juno Beach in Normandy on June 6, 2004. The anniversary of D- Day fell during the federal election campaign and there weren’t many votes in it. The other party leaders stayed home. Strictly speaking, he did- n’t have to go. But he gave a moving speech and he looked like a leader, not just a thrusting, hand-wringing, slow- tongued mercantilist from Montreal.
When he took other modest initia- tives ”” such as creating the Canada Corps, which would send young Canadians to work in the Third World ”” there was more reason to applaud. Public and private agencies were already doing some of what the Canada Corps would do, but Martin realized that it’s important for nations to be seen to be doing things both abroad and at home. And when he announced the foreign policy review, there was also reason for optimism, even if it was an internal exercise with no public consul- tation. He promised that the govern- ment would examine defence, diplomacy, development and trade as a comprehensive, whole-of-government review. There hadn’t been a review since 1994, and never in an integrated way. Despite the usual reservations about this kind of process ”” foreign policy is what you do rather than what you discuss, practitioners say ”” it sug- gested a government with an appetite for ideas and a desire for change.
Yet for all Martin’s high ideals and good intentions in international affairs, he presided over chaos and confusion in his early months. There was, for example, the unfathomable decision to separate the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, a costly and unnecessary divorce. In a government integrating foreign policy it was a decision few could understand. There was also the stormy birth of the Canada Corps, which was still without a mandate and a mission long after it was announced. Lastly, there was the promise to create a 5,000-member peacekeeping brigade. The government felt that Canadians want to keep the peace more than they want to go to war, so why not establish an ad hoc brigade? That no one knew what it would do, or how long it would take to form, or where the money would come from, seemed beside the point. Worse, where that brigade would fit into a defence policy under review was unknown.
For all that talk, the prime minister offered no significant resources for international affairs in his first budget. Yes, Martin threw some money at the military, enough for some new equip- ment, such as jeeps, and to buy new helicopters to replace the antiquated Sea Kings which Chrétien had enthusi- astically cancelled ten years earlier. Yes, Martin honoured his predecessor’s commitment to increase international aid by eight percent a year. And yes, he allocated some $100 million to the bat- tle against AIDS. Still, for all this, for- eign policy continued to struggle for attention. It was clear early on that if Martin could get away with uttering platitudes and making promises about Canada and the world, he would. Foreign policy as a priority of the gov- ernment? Not yet.
Indeed, for internationalists, it was bracing when the premiers convened in Ottawa in September to discuss health care, arriving with formidable energy and publicity; it showed how health care has become a mantra for Canadi- ans, a strange, mystical national incan- tation. Canadians could be forgiven for wondering if Canada would ever do the same for foreign policy ”” not that many would want Ralph Klein deciding how to vote at the United Nations or where to deploy our peacekeepers ”” but whether we could summon the same commitment to inter- national affairs as social affairs? They might idly wonder: what if the prime minister decided to raise its stature in Canada, opening a national conversation on our role in the world? Sadly, that wasn’t going to hap- pen, even for one of Mar- tin’s ”œtop three priorities.”
Indeed, much wouldn’t happen in Paul Martin’s first year in office. There was little sense of the future, and little vision of Canada in the world. Mr. Martin had been in power for nine years and out of cabinet some 17 months; how had he used the time, we wonder? Where was the imagination?
A year later, we have the begin- nings of the Martin Doctrine. Its ele- ments are still unformed but seem to incorporate both the romantic and realist currents of Canadian foreign policy. In North America, Martin wants to mend fences with the United States, which means agreeing to pro- tect and tighten the border and embracing missile defence, albeit reluctantly. It also means welcoming George W. Bush warmly when he came to visit in December and expelling Carolyn Parrish from caucus (even if that had more to do with what she had to say about Martin than Bush).
It is to understand, more than Chrétien could, that Canada cannot countenance anti-Americanism in high councils of government and that the United States was, is and will always be our most important relation- ship. So we must treat it that way. That may not solve softwood lumber or wheat or open their border to Canadian cattle as quickly as we would like, but it enhances the chances of getting our way, at least some of the time. Accordingly, Martin will agree with the Americans where he must and disagree where he can because the Canadian psyche wants that distance. In fact, it demands it, and in the era of George Bush, who is disliked intensely in Canada, that is more true now than ever. That is the realist speaking. It means taking care of business in the neighbourhood, respecting our ally, and managing prosperity because smart people know that without the United States there is no prosperity.
At the same time, we see in Mr. Martin a romantic streak in Canadian foreign policy. The Martin doctrine embraces muscular multilateralism, institutional reform of the United Nations, and new rules ”” our rules ”” for humanitarian intervention in failed states (as laid out in The Responsibility to Protect, the report of the blue-ribbon panel Canada initiat- ed, organized and financed in 2000). It is also institution-building, principally in Martin’s proposal to establish the L20, a group of leading industrialized countries trying to find the consensus which eludes them in the United Nations and elsewhere.
Once safely elected, Mr. Martin packed his bags and took his show on the road. He likes to talk about ”œthe Canadian way” and how ”œthe world needs more Canada,” a catchy slogan from Indigo Books. From his view, it also seems to need more Martin. Last autumn his ”œnew multilateralism” took him to Russia, Hungary, France, the United Nations, Haiti, Chile, Brazil, Burkina Faso and Sudan. In December, he went to Libya, and early in 2005, to India and China. His message has won him praise in some places for creative diplomacy. As the son of a former minister who served under Lester Pearson, he revels in it. It feels natural.
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But for all those visits and all those words, the gnawing question drop still remains: Is the government really committed to restoring our internationalism? Is it willing to pay? If the world needs more Canada, more of what? In the 1940s and the 1950s, when Canada saw the world as its sandbox, when its diplo- mats were internationalists creating the post-war architecture, its foreign minister a Nobel laureate, its solders everywhere in war and peace, the answer suggested itself. More Canada meant more imagination. Today, it is hard to know what more Canada means, except more of the same. And more of the same means a weaker military, a diminished diplomacy, a parsimonious amount of interna- tional assistance.
Martin has yet to show he is really serious about articulating an overarch- ing vision of Canada in the world and finding the means to pay for it. By and large, he shows more motion than progress, which isn’t to say he isn’t thinking boldly. But there is a lot of talk these days about values. Not fami- ly values or moral values like those shouted from the rooftops of the United States, but Canadian values. Pierre Pettigrew, the foreign affairs minister, has become the ”œMinister of Values.” ”œForeign policy, more than any other area of government activity, expresses the personality of a country,” he says. ”œIt is not just a matter of what we do ”” it is, even more importantly, a matter of who we are.”
Who we are. The declaration seems to please us. ”œCanada’s hope to have a greater influence on the world lies in our values and the importance we place on diversity,” says Pettigrew. ”œIt is what makes us truly Canadian, being who we are, doing what we do best. And I intend to bring these values to the forefront of our foreign policy.” Pettigrew calls this ”œour exceptional- ism” ”” an enduring commitment to pluralism, diversity, democracy, liber- alism. To listen to him, foreign policy is all about values. Who we are is more than what we do. This sounds very much like soft power, a heady cocktail of influence and ideas.
Behold, then, Canada the Exemplar. We are, therefore we matter. For many contented Canandians, Canada’s exceptionalism ”” its ideals, its people, its geography, its history ”” are enough to get us through the day, to become our gift to the world. The reality is that it isn’t. As Richard Gwyn has written in The Toronto Star, ”œnow the softness of our soft power has been exposed by the slowness of our response to the tsuna- mi disaster in Asia…. We’re doing soft power in a soft way. And while the world does not need more Canada, there are, in the greatest of all humanitarian disasters in more than a century, no Maple Leafs out on the front lines ….”
But Pettigrew and others celebrate soft power, probably because it costs less than hard power. In the 1990s, when Lloyd Axworthy was minister of foreign affairs, soft power was an inventive way to gain influence in international affairs. It was also a cre- ative response to a government which had no money. But after years of annu- al surpluses of $9 billion and beyond, that is no longer so. Soft power has its uses, which we should exploit, but it cannot sustain a foreign policy.
This winter, as the government drafts its new foreign policy, it must think more broadly and ambitiously, considering interests more than val- ues. It must be about hard power more than soft power ”” a real mili- tary, a real aid program and a real for- eign service, with the resources each of them needs. Defence spending in Canada has now fallen to one percent of Canada’s gross domestic product, far less than NATO expects of its members. Aid in Canada is about 0.28 percent of GDP, a little more than half of what it was 30 years ago and a lit- tle more than a third of the interna- tional standard set by a blue-ribbon panel chaired by Lester Pearson and other luminarites in 1969. The for- eign service is being re-organized, but it needs more money, too. The three D’s? Canada will have to struggle mightily to ensure that they no longer mean disarmament, disinvest- ment and disinterest.
If Paul Martin wants an activist Canada, now is the time to prove it. As the Boxing Day tsunami showed, there is opportunity everywhere. If he wants Canada to help emerging democ- racies running elections, as it has in the Ukraine and Palestine, and promoting the reform of international institutions, as it is pushing at the United Nations, he will have to recast our diplomacy. If he wants Canada to play a role in bring- ing peace to Sudan and give life to the idealism of The Responsibility to Protect, he will have to rebuild the military. And if he wants to help Sri Lanka, Indonesia and other poor, hard places, and to show leadership in fighting AIDS, he will have to find new money for international assistance.
There is no magic: it is about money. Martin will have to match rhetoric and resources, doing what this government and previous gov- ernments have been unable to do in recent years in imagining Canada and the world. This is the great challenge of the International Policy Statement, as it is now called. At the turn of the year the debate over a late draft was mired in argument; apparently the leading ministers couldn’t agree on what it should say and the choices it should present. And if it wasn’t going to say anything of substance, what was the point?
For the government, this is a critical moment. There is a window of opportunity here. Having talked of recasting our place in the world, it has to produce something memorable. If the government raises expectations and doesn’t deliver, it will not only undermine its credibility, handing its critics more ammunition in a minority Parliament, it will have lost an exqui- site opportunity to bring Canadians into a grand national enterprise think- ing about themselves in the world.
As he enters his second year in office, then, Paul Martin has a real choice in fostering a new internation- alism for Canada. Do we continue doing what we do now with a declin- ing military, an under-funded aid pro- gram and an unfocused diplomacy running errands and taking on special projects, satisfied to rest on national values? In other words, are we content with Canada as a moral superpower? A supersoftpower? Many Canadians are.
Or, as a mature, self-aware people and trustees of a proud international legacy, we can decide that we want to make more of ourselves in the world. That we want to do things that matter. That we want to make a difference. That we want to act like the wealthy, blessed country we are.
The choice Paul Martin makes will determine whether history calls him Lester Pearson or Jean Chrétien.