Today's discussion:

Canada needs to pick its lanes in an increasingly turbulent world

Canada cannot and should not be everywhere at once. As a small power, it lacks the capabilities to ingratiate itself in every global crisis, and, in recent decades, it has also lacked the political will to substantively engage in a broad-based foreign policy. The questions then are: what should determine Canada’s foreign policy priorities, and where should Canada focus its attention?

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Please don’t say Canada needs to pick a lane, we have nothing to do with this. Trudeau needs to stop putting himself on the world stage where he doesn’t belong. This is nothing more than him feeding is ego.

20th October 2023 at 7:32 am
Dan Brown

Really? Trudeau on the world stage is just his ego? And here I thought he had been democratically chosen for the job.

20th October 2023 at 5:50 pm

We need to increase our defense spending to at least 2%, immediately. Given the timelines for acquisition of military equipment, those purchases should come on line just about the same time the Arctic waters completely thaw and we face the rude awakening that Russia is our neighbour, and they can reach us.

20th October 2023 at 8:06 am
Michael F

You think Russia, after being bled out in a proxy war with the US in Ukraine, is going to have anything left militarily and economically to challenge Canada in the Arctic?

20th October 2023 at 11:47 am

yes, Russia with China will push our North

20th October 2023 at 3:10 pm
Dan Brown

Maybe China, with India and Pakistan, will challenge Russia for Siberia

21st October 2023 at 7:58 am
Greg Jackson

Given the absence of any substantive military installations, nuclear submarines, modern aircraft, and warships, combined with our depleted military strength in terms of personnel, we wouldn’t stand a chance against Russia. We are not the Ukraine. We are merely a shadow of our former strength in WW 2. Canada and Canadians are weak and we will pay the price.

20th October 2023 at 3:06 pm
John Trainor

To suggest that Canada is in any position to rationally determine priorities is akin to suggesting that one should adjust the pictures on the way out of a burning house. This country is so mismanaged it’s hard to imagine a single rational decision coming out of that delusional gadfly Trudeau.

20th October 2023 at 7:20 am

This article makes a clear and cogent view of what our next steps need to be. Unfortunately, we will be unable to do so, until a new government comes into power. The current one is led by those who are more interested in how they look, in controlling issues outside their constitutional authority, and in sowing divisions inside our country. They appear incapable of dealing with real federal issues – national security and defence, as well as our place on the international stage.

20th October 2023 at 9:29 am

blatting solves nothing

20th October 2023 at 3:11 pm
Luke Smith – deputy editor, The Hub

“As a small power…”

This is sadly true. But we still carry ourselves as some kind of influential middle power and that’s a big part of the problem.

20th October 2023 at 8:08 am
Chris MacMartin

We need a serious government to pursue strategic foreign policy and defence goals. We unfortunately have a government that deals with most of these issues with empty promises and platitudes. Our decline as a recognized voice let alone player in global issues is a direct result of this posture and I don’t see an off ramp.

20th October 2023 at 11:20 am
Rob Tyrrell

Without addressing the scenario you depict, our ongoing democracy with the periodic changes in elected representation and leadership is a pretty obvious “off ramp”.

20th October 2023 at 12:06 pm

Lloyd Axworthy’s adoption of ‘soft power’ as the foundation for Canada’s foreign policy in the 1990’s has led us to the state we find ourselves in today on the world stage. With little to offer other than words – and even less of substance with which to back them up – it should come as no surprise that our allies are now moving on or working around us to achieve their goals, and our adversaries seek to weaken us by exploiting our institutions.

Kim Richard Nossal accurately summed up soft power in 1998 by saying “it… encourages the view that we can do foreign policy on the cheap,” but when we are “confronted by those who damage Canadian interests in a narrower sense… in such circumstances, a squishy notion such as soft power is next to useless.”

Time to cast off that whimsical concept and forge a new approach in this increasingly volatile world around us.

20th October 2023 at 10:00 am
Rob Tyrrell

What are specific examples of how Canada could wield, presumably, ‘hard power’?

20th October 2023 at 11:15 am

Before we might ever get to the point of wielding ‘hard power’, we need to have the credible assets in place that allow us to project our foreign policy objectives.

For a nation that once had immense pride in bringing the concept of peacekeeping to the world (the Nobel Committee conferring its peace prize in 1956 upon Lester B. Pearson “for his crucial contribution to the deployment of a United Nations Emergency Force in the wake of the Suez Crisis”), we cannot muster up sufficient resources today when asked to head up a mission in, of all places, Haiti (but apparently Kenya can).

Our military, now challenged to maintain a battle group of 1,000 soldiers in Latvia, finds itself directed to cut $1B from its annual budget. We owe to our allies there and, more importantly, our deployed troops that we have provided them the means to support Latvia and defend themselves if Russia’s belligerent ways once again turns on the Baltic states.

21st October 2023 at 12:32 am
Michael F

Exactly. What’s a huge country with a relatively small population going to do? Build an expensive, large military to keep at the ready for what? With the exception of the invasion of Ukraine, every flare up in violence around the globe has been by irregular forces in the last 20 years. Do you fight terrorists with fighter jets, submarines and other conventional military equipment? No. We may need some equipment like this in the far north but what we also need is resources to counter cyber war and other types of cold war.

20th October 2023 at 12:03 pm
Greg Jackson

If you want to be protected by the USA, you have to at least show some interest in contributing to the effort. We have been left out of AUKUS. We are not included in all the Five Eyes intelligence briefing. Australia has a much smaller population than Canada, but they understand that the price of admission is the willingness to contribute.

20th October 2023 at 3:29 pm

I agree with the priorities set in this article with the exception of defense spending. I think what we need to do is find better ways of creating and maintaining peace, Better to spend money on foreign aid which will build the ability of a people to fend for themselves than on arms to destroy. If the amount of money used for arms was put into development, if only a fraction was put into development, the cause of peace would be much further ahead. I know some people will say this is a Pollyanna view of life but without dreams, nothing is accomplished.

20th October 2023 at 9:16 am
B. Fisher

Trudeau: Sunny ways. The budget will balance itself. I ve had enough of the dreams. Really stupid dreams from really stupid people who a lot of Canadians voted for.

20th October 2023 at 9:48 am
Michael F

Finish the quote. Conservatives love to lob this partial quote around out of context. The actual quote was: “the commitment needs to be a commitment to grow the economy and the budget will balance itself”

20th October 2023 at 11:52 am
Greg Jackson

The results of 8 years of this government speak for themselves. That is the context.

20th October 2023 at 3:10 pm
Stuart Thomson, editor-in-chief

The question of defence spending is such an interesting one. Lots of experts and pundits agree that Canada should meet its NATO commitment to spend 2% of GDP on defence, but no political party will commit to it. At the outbreak of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Anita Anand, as defence minister, seemed to suggest Canada would increase defence spending, but then never mentioned it again. The budgets since then speak for themselves.

The view of our political leaders, on both sides, seems to be that Canadians may aspire to increase defence spending (as some polls show), but they aren’t willing to give up social programs or go into debt to do it. So, it doesn’t happen. I can’t see that changing anytime soon.

20th October 2023 at 9:29 am
Greg Jackson

Canadians’ dependence on the government to support them from cradle to grave, is part of the problem. Too many Canadians would rather vote for a living , than work for a living.

20th October 2023 at 3:14 pm
Gordon Divitt

Canada couldn’t invite Russia or anyone else to invade without intervention from the USA. My suggestion is get out NATO, commit to NORAD and concentrate on defending our northern boundaries

20th October 2023 at 10:16 am
Rob Tyrrell

“…they aren’t willing to give up social programs or go into debt to do it. ”

Or increase tax revenue.

20th October 2023 at 9:56 am
Stuart Thomson, editor-in-chief

Hah, yes. I guess that’s so out of the realm of possibility it didn’t even occur to me.

20th October 2023 at 9:57 am

Well written article. My personal concern is our North, the Arctic, the NW passage, our treasure trove and freedom buffer.

20th October 2023 at 3:08 pm
Richard Courtemanche

As the world evolves with mass immigration/invasion, self-serving woke politicians, and devolving populations superseding the normal and civilized, it would seem egoistical and unfair to bring up new people.

20th October 2023 at 10:57 am
Richard Courtemanche

The incompetent, irresponsible, and corrupt Liberals have to be terminated for any chance of living decently again and re-establishing our overall proper reputation internationally. Anything less is pretending therefore useless. A lot of room for the Conservatives to adjust right away, e.g. freedom of expression, energy, climate & fraudulent taxes, etc. Hopefully, they can adjust without playing politics. A fear is that no matter who’s in charge from hereon, an ethical and orderly government might be a thing of the past, not to mention an evil global takeover coming through.

20th October 2023 at 10:04 am
Rob Tyrrell

“.. an ethical and orderly government might be a thing of the past…”
When have we had an ethical and orderly government. There is certainly precedent for orderly but ethical?

At least in our modern Canada corruption must be hidden and is not assumed and easy-to-hide. Perhaps PM Chretien was the last of this era. Whether or not people are held accountable when discovered is another story.

PM Trudeau set the ethical bar even higher than expected in 2015. Look what we got (obviously you have). An adherence to an explicit set of ethics would require much stronger governance (open, transparent, independent, accountable) than we currently have.

20th October 2023 at 11:10 am
Greg Jackson

PM Chretien gave us Adscam. Channeling millions of dollars of public funds through Liberal-friendly ad agencies and into Liberal coffers. Canadians have short memories, and that is part of the problem.

20th October 2023 at 3:21 pm
Dan Brown

I disagree with abandoning Europe in favour of focusing on the Indo-Pacific. We should do both.
Also, looking more forward would be seeing the emergence of Africa. Africa has what will soon be the largest nations by population.
I agree with greater defence spending as long as we invest in Canadian enterprises and do not just purchase the wares of other nations. At the same time we should put more effort into supporting the UN. A shrinking planet needs more cooperation.
For all the Trudeau bashers, Trudeau’s government did not initiate Canada’s decline on the World Stage. Trudeau is not mocked by the rest of the World Leadership – stop confusing created content news stories manufactured by alt media paid actors with the real thing. Also, are you not paying attention right now to the trouble with India and past exchanges with China? Those two nations honestly thought that simply telling Trudeau to jump would see it done. Guess not. He had some grit.
Canada has been losing credibility internationally for decades and every year we seem to slip further away from supporting the UN. Trudeau did not start that either. I think we need to get back to it.
The UN is the place where everybody not a Superpower has a say. Being the sidekick of a Superpower is like being the Little Buddy of a bully . Not cool.

20th October 2023 at 6:27 pm
Alisha – content coordinator (The Hub)

“A third key regional priority should be the Indo-Pacific. Yes, the Indo-Pacific and not Europe. Europe was the geopolitical centre of the last century, but the Indo-Pacific is the geopolitical centre of the future.”

Canada needs to be a substantial partner in this region of the world. This will be vital to future economic prosperities for Canada, which is highlighted well in piece. Currently, we are seen as late and need to reestablish our credibility with various Indo-Pacific countries.

20th October 2023 at 10:53 am
Rob Tyrrell

The assertion that national interests should be the basis for policy and that the priorities should be US, Artic, and Indo-Pacific, in that order, seem practical and reasonable. And then comes the “therefore, we should…” part of the article.

On the first, “getting to the bottom” of foreign interference is simply something that should be done, regardless of our stated foreign policy. Once we have “gotten to the bottom” of what is happening, any potential action mostly falls within our third suggested priority of Indo-Pacific.

The second, the recent defense cut, has a direct negative impact to suggested priority focus one, our relationship with the US. As such, and for other good reasons, it should be restored…and our 2% NATO commitment met.

The third, foreign policy review, is warranted. However, as with policy everywhere, there is inevitably a gap between policy and reality. The important part is execution (an overall poor track record with this government). Policy is certainly used as broad guardrails for spending limited attention and considering specific action/inactions and, ultimately, as an accountability feature when the execution is inconsistent with, or even contrary to, the stated policy.

I guess this is just a wordy way of saying that I agree.

20th October 2023 at 10:50 am