Canada Foreign Policy
Wednesday, July 28, 2004
  Bush, Edwards, and Stephen Harper
Part I

Pessimism and negative campaigning are not the same things, though they are intertwined. Any political leader who fails to understand this, and the subtleties that bind these concepts, isn’t likely to hold high office. If by some fluke he/she finds him/herself in government, he or she can rest assured of not remaining there long. I’ll return to pessimism and negative campaigning later.

At least on the surface July has provided a number of important stories and events for observers of Canadian foreign policy to sift through. On the 20th of the month, Pierre Pettigrew became the country’s Foreign Minister, an eventuality that saw former minister Bill Graham moved into the Defence portfolio. According to some observers, this was a clear sign that Prime Minister Paul Martin was serious about moving Canada’s external relations more in sync with both our and our North American allies’ needs. A good conspiracy theorist at this point may be tempted to argue that if this does prove the case, it may only be a matter of time before news stories explain the minority Liberals, likely with the covert backing of some Tories, have reached a secret accord on missile defense with Washington. Any such revelations may prompt new headlines, of a variety that announce members of the New Democratic Party, while not surprised, remained in the dark about any such bargaining until it became public.

 The 23rd also was of significance. A Department of National Defence press release issued that date explained that Ottawa had finally realized a commitment to the military by moving on the long-overdue purchase of new craft for the Maritime Helicopter Project. Sikorsky, the supplier of the winning bid,  “will be awarded two separate, but interrelated contracts. The first contract will cover the acquisition of 28 fully integrated, certified and qualified helicopters with their mission systems installed, and will also include modifications to the 12 Halifax Class ships.” [DND News Release, 23 July 2003, posted at]. Minister Graham added: “‘The Government of Canada firmly believes that the Sikorsky H92 helicopter represents the right helicopter for the Canadian Forces at the best price for Canadians…The Sikorsky H92 provides a world-class robust, multi-role helicopter that will serve our defence needs for years to come.’” [DND News Release, 23 July 2003, posted at].  Yet this deal remains shrouded in some controversy. No sooner had the announcement been made than the Globe and Mail, on 26 July 2004, noted that the government had been “forced to buy Sikorsky” because that company’s rival for the 5-billion dollar contracts, Team Cormorant “had been previously disqualified on technical grounds, sources say.” Reporter Daniel Leblanc continued: “instead of saying that the contract had been awarded to the only company that was still standing, government officials made it seem as if the contract had been a two-way race to the end.” [Globe and Mail, 26 July 2004, posted at].

Going on for some time now has been a rift in Canada’s relations with charter ‘Axis-of-Evil’ member Iran. Ties began to run aground last year after Zahra Kazemi, a dual Canadian-Iranian citizen, died in custody in Tehran on 10 July 2003. Kazemi, who had been taking photos outside a Tehran prison during student demonstrations, passed away after suffering a fractured skull and related injuries. The single defendant in the case, secret service agent Mohammad Reza Aghdam Ahmadi, was cleared of all charges on 24 July 2004 and official Iran now stands by the story that Kazemi’s death was purely accidental, the result of a fall taking place some time after the journalist announced plans to go on a hunger strike. This month Canadian Foreign Affairs signaled that ties with Tehran deteriorated markedly after Ottawa officials were barred from observing the proceedings. Since the announcement of the verdict in what Kazemi’s family in Canada regards as a sham trial at best, Kazemi’s son, Stephan Hachemi, told reporters in Ottawa that this country should sever all relations with the theocracy: “‘The Iranian ambassador has nothing to do in Canada right now…He should be expelled. The embassy should be closed.’” [cited in AP, 28 July 2004, posted at]. At the moment, Canadian officials are said to be considering a wide range of options, including the likelihood of having The Hague take up Kazemi’s case, but seem to have ruled out cutting off diplomatic relations.

Other weighty stories have surfaced, but my intention here is only to point out perhaps the most important and now to draw attention to the one that has slipped off the radar, or maybe has yet to be detected. Namely, while all of these stories were breaking, the Liberals were in charge of the foreign policy agenda. In fact, they remain firmly in charge of all politics in Ottawa. Why this should be a story is simply because this just wasn’t supposed the case, according to what was evolving only a few short months ago. Going into the recent elections, polls showed the Conservatives not only gaining ground, but at one point being in the position of possibly overtaking Paul Martin to form perhaps the slimmest of majorities. But when voting day came, the Liberals found themselves back in power, and the results proved not to be so close after all. Is there a lesson in all this for our Southern Cousins? Do Democrat John Edwards and Republican George Bush have something to learn from Canadian Conservatives? Perhaps, perhaps not, but there are far worse instructors or object lessons than Tory leader Stephen Harper. 

Stan Markotich
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A discussion of geopolitics and Canada's role in the world. A series of essays to examine the components of Canadian foreign policy making. Psychological, sociological, historical, and cultural variables impacting Canada's perceptions of the world.

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