Five foreign policy priorities

| September 29, 2019 | 0 Comments
"Democracy, human rights, international law, environmental protection and economic policies that work for everyone will be at the heart" of the Liberals' foreign policy, says Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.  (Photo: © Arindam Banerjee |

“Democracy, human rights, international law, environmental protection and economic policies that work for everyone will be at the heart” of the Liberals’ foreign policy, says Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. (Photo: © Arindam Banerjee |


Diplomat magazine asked all five federal party leaders to provide us with their top five foreign policy priorities in advance of the October election. Note: The Liberals didn’t give us five priorities, choosing instead to send a few paragraphs. We’ve run them as we received them.




Conservative Party of Canada
1. China
We have witnessed total weakness in how this government has handled China’s detention of two Canadians, and China’s totally unjustified trade actions directed against Canadian farmers. Justin Trudeau has declared his “admiration” for “China’s basic dictatorship” and has done nothing but get bullied since. Canada’s relationship with China needs a total reset. We should engage with the Chinese in a way that seeks to advance our interests.

2. Russia and the Arctic
Vladimir Putin cannot be allowed to act with impunity when it comes to his military adventurism. To address the increasing threat to our Arctic sovereignty posed by Russia, China and others, we must reinforce Canada’s standing as a maritime nation. We will do more to show the world that Canada is an Arctic power. Above all, we must establish, without a doubt, everywhere in the world, that our sovereignty over the North is non-negotiable. The Arctic does not only belong to us. It is us. And that includes the Northwest Passage. We will begin the process of upgrading the Royal Canadian Navy’s submarine capability. The Australian government has initiated a multi-year strategy to increase its future submarine capability. Canada can look to these and other international models as we seek to ensure we also have the capabilities that are necessary to effectively protect our national waters.

3. Israel
To stand up for pluralism and democracy, Canada must renew our support for Israel and its inherent right to defend itself. Terrorist groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah have absolutely no interest in peace. Since [the group’s] inception, the leaders of Hamas have been trying to destroy Israel. The reality of the Middle East is this: If Israel’s enemies were to lay down their arms tomorrow, there would be peace. If Israel were to lay down its arms, there would be no more Israel. The current government has abandoned Canada’s principled support for Israel by abstaining in key votes in the United Nations. When Israel’s borders come under attack from Hamas terrorists, Canada must support Israel’s right to defend itself and recognize Hamas’ direct responsibility in inciting violence and the loss of life. Canada must be ready and reliable when Israel needs to count on its democratic friend and ally. We will recognize the fact that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.

4. Iran
The Iranian regime must be held accountable for its state-sanctioned sponsorship of terror and the constant threat it poses to its own people, its neighbours, and to Israel, Canada’s foremost friend in the Middle East. Canada must do all it can to ensure that the people of Iran soon enjoy the same freedoms that we enjoy. We will immediately act to list Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist entity, as well as make full use of the Magnitsky Law to punish Iran’s worst human rights offenders.

5. Religious Freedom
Societies that protect religious freedom are more likely to protect all other fundamental freedoms, leading to greater stability and prosperity for their people. In a time when freedom of religion and belief is under increasing threat internationally, Canada must stand resolutely behind governments that advocate for religious pluralism, both among religious communities and at the state level. At the same time, Canada must not back down from criticism and condemnation of entities or state actors that threaten the ability of religious minorities to freely practise their faith, without fear of persecution and marginalization. Conservatives have always taken steps to defend religious freedom, particularly for religious minorities who face persecution from authoritarian regimes. This is why we created the Office of Religious Freedom. The Liberals inexplicably closed this office and its replacement does little more than operate a Facebook account. This is unacceptable and a waste of taxpayer dollars.





New Democratic Party
1. Fighting climate change abroad
As we work hard here at home to confront the climate crisis, Canada must also take a global leadership role in helping low-income countries deal with the impacts of climate change. Never again do we want Canadian leaders to stand in the way of international action on climate change. Canada must step up and be a global leader in tackling climate change by doing more to help developing countries cope with the impacts of climate change, and working with partners in North America to advance GHG emissions reductions and protect biodiversity. Trade agreements must have high environmental standards to prevent the offshoring of pollution. We will make climate change a priority in our international diplomatic efforts, pushing other major economies such as Russia, China, India and the United States to do their part.

2. Disarmament
Canada has a proud history of promoting global disarmament. However, Canada’s more recent actions have undermined this record and Canada is becoming an increasingly important global arms merchant, threatening to undo the good work the country has done to promote disarmament. For decades, the NDP has been the only major political party advocating for peace and disarmament. The NDP is leading the conversation with important proposals that would make our world safer. Global peace and security demand serious efforts at disarmament. The Canadian government should live up to its proud history by engaging fully in disarmament negotiations, complying fully with the requirements of disarmament treaties and supporting disarmament efforts worldwide. The NDP will also make sure that Canadian-made weapons are not fuelling conflict and human rights abuses abroad. Lastly, Canada should join the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and work with international partners toward a nuclear weapon-free world.

3. International development
A defining feature of social democracy is solidarity with people around the globe — particularly the poor and powerless, those facing persecution and victims of conflict. New Democrats believe support for human rights is the central value of an independent foreign policy. We believe Canada has an obligation to share its wealth with the world’s most poor and vulnerable. A New Democratic government is committed to boosting Canada’s international development assistance, with the goal of contributing 0.7 per cent of our gross national income to international aid. Canada must do its share to help achieve the United Nations sustainable development goals for 2030, including alleviating poverty, ensuring decent work, protecting the rights of Indigenous communities and supporting global peace and justice. To improve global health, Canada should contribute more to The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria to end these epidemics and support health-care systems in developing countries.

4. Human rights respect and enforcement
The respect and enforcement of human rights through multilateralism across the planet will be an important priority for the NDP. Not only will we not be shy to denounce other countries’ leaders when they are violating human rights, the NDP will also hold Canadian companies to a high standard of corporate social responsibility at home and abroad — and ensure they meet it. Upholding the rights of women and girls will always be central to New Democratic foreign policy, and we will step up efforts to promote gender equality abroad with a strong international agenda to promote rights, security and access to education for women and girls, including ensuring that women have a seat at the peace table. A truly feminist foreign policy needs more than words — it needs money. The National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security is nothing more than rhetoric without a dedicated line in the budget.

5. Multilateralism and peacekeeping
New Democrats believe Canada has a meaningful role to play on the world stage. Canada’s foreign policy should be serious and must follow through on its international obligations. We should hold to the letter and the spirit of the agreements we sign, participate fully in international negotiations and comply with the binding resolutions of international organizations. These are the actions of true global citizens. These actions are also necessary to stop the real and sad decline in Canada’s global standing. Canada should renew its commitment to peacekeeping and must stand by its promises to the international community. The current government over-promises and under-delivers. Through peacekeeping operations Canada makes an important contribution to global peace and security and protecting the world’s most vulnerable — that is why it matters to fulfil our promises. Under a New Democratic government, Canada will be a force for peace.




Liberal Party of Canada

We are living in a time when the international order and the multilateral institutions that underpin it are under greater strain than perhaps any moment since the Second World War. Economic anxiety is fuelling rising populism. Climate change has become an existential threat.
Countries, such as Canada, understand that a stable, safe and prosperous world is in our interest. The challenges we face — providing a brighter future for the middle class, fighting climate change, ensuring that free and fair trade benefits everyone, and maintaining international peace — require global solutions.
Under a Liberal government, Canada will continue to step up on the world stage, including by expanding our leadership within such institutions as the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, the G7, the G20 and others. Democracy, human rights, international law, environmental protection and economic policies that work for everyone are at the heart of these efforts.
Canada has a proud tradition of solving international problems, defending individual rights and building a better world for all. This tradition forms the basis of our foreign policy and will continue to do so.




Green Party of Canada
1. The climate emergency
Our planet is in a climate emergency. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says each nation must contribute to ensuring that the global average temperature doesn’t rise more than 1.5°C over pre-Industrial Revolution levels. If not, we risk runaway global warming and the potential extinction of most species on Earth, including humans. Holding to 1.5°C is not negotiable; it is do or die. The Green Party has an ambitious yet achievable plan that will meet Canada’s obligations to the international community. Our “Mission: Possible” is the most comprehensive Canadian Action Plan to combat the climate emergency and includes setting a target to reduce GHG emissions 60 per cent by 2030 (against 2005 levels) and achieving zero emissions by 2050; modernizing and “greening” Canada’s east-west electricity grid; ending foreign oil imports; banning fracking and maintaining carbon pricing. Our plan guarantees a just transition to a green economy that leaves no Canadian behind and that creates millions of well-paying jobs, working in partnership with Canada’s Indigenous peoples and every part of our national community.

2. Global migration
In 2018, the United Nations reported 24.5 million registered refugees; 68.5 million individuals forcibly displaced due to persecution, conflict, violence or human rights violations; and 18.8 million displaced by environmental disasters. The International Organization on Migration expects that events related to the global climate emergency (including extreme weather events, sea-level rise, water scarcity and environmental degradation) will trigger large-scale migration and displacement, and that the world can expect up to one billion environmental migrants by 2050. Canada must prepare for this challenge. The Green Party will lead a national discussion to define “environmental refugee” and will advocate for the inclusion of environmental refugees as a refugee category. We will revamp Canada’s immigration policies to ensure that we are prepared to accept conflict and environmental refugees, in keeping with our identity as a just, fair and open country.

3. Fighting the global erosion of fundamental human rights
We are living through a troubling era in which hate, fear and division threaten global peacemaking and the fundamental freedoms of the world’s most vulnerable peoples. In the last few years, civil society activists and multilateral institutions have continuously sounded the alarm on the erosion of human rights. The 2019 Rule of Law Index, which measures respect for the rule of law internationally, reported a troubling decline in respect for fundamental human rights worldwide. The attacks on civil society groups and a worrying resurgence of sectarianism, populism and authoritarianism have contributed to this erosion. The Green Party of Canada is committed to intensifying our efforts to promote respect for basic human freedoms. Internationally, we are committed to the protection of human rights defenders, the last frontier against state abuse, and to reversing the systemic deterioration of fundamental aspects of the rule of law.

4. Achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals
The Green Party of Canada is united with the global community in a commitment to meeting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs are 17 interconnected targets covering issues such as poverty, climate change and peace and justice, to be achieved by 2030. They offer a blueprint for how the world can tackle our greatest challenges in a just way that leaves no one behind. If there is any chance of meeting the SDGs by 2030, wealthy nations, such as Canada, will need to step up and take a visible leadership role. The Greens will do this. In order to achieve sustainability and provide for the needs of present and future generations, the current unchecked and unequal distribution patterns in growth, global consumption and population can and must be reversed.

5. Ban on nuclear weapons
The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has chosen to keep its Doomsday Clock set at two minutes to midnight for a second year, citing a lack of progress on the dual threats of climate change and nuclear war. This is the closest the clock has ever been to midnight since the end of the Cold War. Yet, the current government has shown no leadership on nuclear disarmament, and it failed to attend the 2017 Conference for a Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. The Green Party of Canada will ratify this treaty, adopted by 122 countries at the conference, and will promote the effective deployment of multilateral mechanisms aimed at eliminating all nuclear stockpiles and preventing the rebuilding of nuclear arsenals. We will reclaim our country’s traditional leadership role on disarmament, advocating the conversion of all military industries in Canada and worldwide towards peaceful and sustainable purposes. We will do this by acting multilaterally, notably through the United Nations.




Bloc Québécois
1. Climate change
Climate change is the most urgent challenge facing mankind. Greenhouse gases don’t respect political borders and only a concerted global effort can be effective. The Paris Accord, which sets global warming objectives, is a good first step, but it falls short of setting binding obligations in terms of GHG emissions. It should be our most urgent task. We should work side by side with the most proactive nations, especially in Europe, and press countries who neglect to do their part, including a carbon tariff, if need be. Of course, our ability to achieve it depends on the exemplarity of our own behaviour in the areas of energetic transition and environmental protection. A coherent foreign policy requires that we adopt much more ambitious targets and prevent Alberta’s oil industry from growing even more.

2. Push the “reset” button on trade
The World Trade Organization is paralyzed. Its golden rule — deregulation and liberalization — does not address the challenges we face today. The limitless global competition applies pressure on environment, food safety and labour regulation, driving up income inequalities and social tensions. A trade model that favours the exploitation of the south, the de-industrialization of the north and the depletion of natural resources is not viable. We need to take a new approach, where trade law reflects the advances in international law; where the products that circulate freely are those produced in keeping with the major international agreements, including on environment and labour; where trade becomes a real development tool. Everything must be on the table, including the integration of the WTO into the UN system. If we don’t come up with such an alternative, the population will continue to see the outside world as a threat, leading to a rise of populism and protectionism in a less stable and friendly world where the politics of power — be it American, Chinese or Russian — will replace international co-operation and multilateral agreements.

3. Multilateralism
Isolationism coupled with a patchwork of bilateral agreements is, at best, a 19th-Century response to 21st-Century global challenges. Global challenges require global responses. The planet is getting smaller. The problems that were distant yesterday now directly impact us through mass migrations, economic turmoil, nuclear threat or environmental catastrophes. International co-operation has never been more important, and we must do our part to rehabilitate it. We should better fund UN institutions, refuse to be part of military actions that are inconsistent with UN resolutions and international law and strengthen our arms-export control to uphold humanitarian law. Before taking strong positions on the international stage, intense coalition-building efforts will be necessary if we don’t want to be left alone when a conflict occurs, as is currently the case with China and Saudi Arabia. This is the cornerstone of Bloc Québécois foreign policy.

4. Tax base erosion
Direct investments in tax havens are growing twice as fast as the global GDP. Transnational corporations, especially those involved in immaterial economies, such as the internet and the financial sector, often avoid taxation altogether. It’s unfair to taxpayers who pay their share and problematic for governments around the world, who must deal with a smaller tax base, permanent deficit and harsh austerity. The OECD’s base erosion initiative is interesting, but, as we often see in consensus-based international institutions, the slowest walker determines the speed of others. We must do more. The French government’s decision to tax the internet multinationals based on their local activity rather than the location of their shell companies is good policy. We must support it, implement similar legislation and try to build a coalition of like-minded countries who want to curb the excessive pressure that those giants exert on tax, culture and society.

5. Give Quebec access to the world
Be it in terms of culture, economic structure, social programs or, more generally, influence, Quebec is a bridge between North America and Europe. If we want to develop our full potential in the numerous areas of international co-operation, we shouldn’t be limited to negotiating with N.B. or Ontario. The Constitution doesn’t specify whether the federal or provincial level of government has the authority to conduct international relations, including treaty-making. The internal distribution of legislative powers should guide the way international relations operate. Still, the federal government continues to act unilaterally on the global stage, even if the Quebec government considers its actions inconsistent with the federal and binational nature of the country. In the event of a minority parliament, the Bloc Québécois will use its enhanced influence to open a window to the world for Quebec.




People’s Party of Canada

1. A Canada-first approach
The exclusive priority of the government of Canada on the international scene should be to manage our relations with other countries in order to protect and further the interests of Canadians. Canada needs a common-sense foreign policy focused on the security and prosperity of Canadians, not an ideological approach that compromises our interests.
A People’s Party of Canada government will continue to work closely with our Western allies to maintain a peaceful international order, but will not get involved in foreign conflicts unless we have a compelling strategic interest in doing so.

2. Against United Nations globalism
There is a growing trend to dilute national sovereignty, and to favour increased international policy co-ordination as well as the redistribution of wealth from rich to poor countries under the supervision of the United Nations.
The United Nations is a dysfunctional organization in which non-democratic countries, because of their large numbers, have the most influence. This leads to ridiculous situations. For example, several of the member states on the UN Human Rights Council are among the worst human rights offenders in the world. As one country among almost 200, Canada has no interest in seeing the UN grow into a more powerful, quasi-world government.
A People’s Party of Canada government will withdraw from all UN commitments, including the Global Compact for Migration and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, that threaten our sovereignty, and reduce our presence in UN institutions to a minimum.
3. Relations with the United States
Our relations with our American friends and neighbours is the most important of all our external relations. The United States is by far our main trading and defence partner, and there is simply no way for Canadians to have security and prosperity if this relationship is not properly managed. This will remain the case even with the emergence of other major world powers such as China and India in a multipolar world.
A People’s Party of Canada government will prioritize relations with, and work with the Trump administration, or whoever occupies the White House, to reinforce our friendship and co-operation.

4. Relations with China
The arbitrary arrest of Canadians by the Chinese government and the attacks on our exports are very preoccupying. The Chinese government must understand that we have rule of law and cannot simply release Huawei’s Meng Wanzhou because they ask for it.
We want to be friends and trade with China, but only if they respect us and don’t kidnap our citizens and try to bully us. This friendship must be based on our country’s security and economic interests.
A People’s Party of Canada government would look at all diplomatic options to convince the Chinese government to free the Canadians and to re-establish normal commercial exchanges. We have to be realistic. We cannot interfere directly in China’s legal system and impose our Western conception of human rights. But if they cannot follow basic rules of civilized countries, we will need to review and scale down our relations with them.

5. Abolish foreign development aid
There is no persuasive moral or economic efficiency argument for development aid. Countries that remain poor are those om which governments are still crushing private initiative. Until they liberalize their economy and free their citizens, no amount of development aid will solve their problems. Rather, it creates a cycle of dependency and often helps these authoritarian governments stay in power.
A People’s Party of Canada government will save billions by phasing out development aid and focussing Canadian international assistance on emergency humanitarian action in cases such as health crises, major conflicts and natural disasters.

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