Our organization – the Indus Global Policy Institute – has long advocated Canada’s engagement with the World. We firmly believe in the power of positive, productive, diplomatic engagement. Canada’s foreign policy should be one that builds respect among World leaders and nations, and enables the swift growth of bilateral trade and cooperation.
What we have been seeing since the “Harper Government” took office in 2006 is a rash of incidents creating tensions with old friends and trading partners, and ruffling feathers with potential new ones. The Conservatives’ open attacks on China created ripples in the international community, and ensured Canada was sealed out of China in a broad range of affairs. Harper’s unclear messaging on India has embarrassed Canada in foreign quarters. You simply do not affront the government of the World’s largest democracy, then bathe in the photo-ops. It’s no wonder the Indian PM refused to do a joint news conference with Harper.
We’ve all observed the antics of the Harper Conservatives as they alienated 90% of the planet with their unscientific approach to climate change and global warming. Recently, we’ve seen what appears to be another oil lobby-driven decision: the withdrawal of Canada from the UN Desert Convention.
Canada is the ONLY nation withdrawing from this agreement (Harper Ministers attempted to ignore the fact that this is indeed an international agreement or ‘convention’, and not simply some commitment to funding). The immediate UN reaction is one of shock and dismay, but member nations have already painted Canada as an “outlier” nation on the science of climate change.
What’s behind Canada’s decision? As with any decision the Harper Government takes, it is agenda and ideology-driven. They claim it is because they feel a large part of the $300,000-some-odd dollars Canada was contributing was being spent on “administration” and “bureaucratic” costs. Before we go any further, let’s address the 70% number for ‘administration’ which they claim could be spent better. Compare that number with other charities in Canada, and the numbers are similar. Compare to other GLOBAL organizations, with the added impediments of distance, travel, lobbying of foreign governments, security costs, etc., and you can quickly see that ANY such organization will have large administrative costs.
They argue that money was being wasted on ‘meetings’. Oh my goodness! Not meetings! Does Mr. Harper, or any of his band of merry men understand that most all of the UN’s actual work gets accomplished by those horrible ‘meetings’? It is diplomacy (that’s “meetings” for all who don’t understand) behind highly secured doors which has been the World’s salvation for much of the last 65 years, from Suez, to the East Indies, to the Cold War detente. The Harper Government is simply using manipulation of facts to attempt to gain the trust of the Canadian public. Of course the public is going to be concerned if they are told funds are being mismanaged, but the facts all point to a manipulation of the truth by this government. The fact is that most of the UN’s work IS meetings and administration. It’s how they make things work!
So what is the real reason for Canada’s withdrawal? Why can this government spend 10s of $Millions of tax-payer dollars on self-promotion (“Action” Plan ads), but not $300000 on a worthwhile international cause?
The Alberta – whoops – Federal Conservative government is being driven by the oil lobby, which wishes to avert any bad PR sent their way by the government’s participation in this international Convention. They are all too familiar with the black eye the industry has had from the tar sands. This is simply a pre-emptive strike. Remove yourselves from a vital international conversation because we really don’t want to do anything for the Canadian environment (even though Alberta environmental groups are crying out).
This ‘disengagement’ from the World – this act of ‘turning turtle’ – is just the most recent in a long series of Harper government withdrawals from participatory internationalism. They perhaps don’t even believe some of what they are saying themselves, since they refuse to stand and defend it – rather attempting to subvert and undermine established international norms and conventions. Since most of the World doesn’t agree with the Harper Government’s alien views on things which are mostly proven scientific facts, he’ll just take his ball and go home.
Canada cannot thrive in a World where we’ve turned our backs on the ideas of most of humanity. We must engage both our friends AND those who we see as ‘enemies’… We are best served in creating a thoughtful international dialogue, and building a climate of cooperation in which global trade, and human progress flourish. The cooperation of nations since the end of the cold war has brought great growth and economic success world-wide. This progress can be measured by the growth of a huge World ‘Middle Class’, which has become the drivers of economic growth.
Canadians need to seriously consider whether the current resident of 24 Sussex Dr. is on the correct path to create our best formula for success. Does the Harper Government value the growth of the Canadian – and Global – Middle Class, or is he beholden to the interests of a small few in a particular resource sector in one Province?
Herman Thind, BSc., OOST,
Certified Social Media Strategist.
Herman is a community advocate, consultant, and a student of all things political. He was born and raised in Saskatchewan, and grew up across Western Canada.