Canada’s International Stature
On March 12th, the Globe and Mail had a front page headline “Canada has lost international stature, Chrétien says” which sparked a wave of media discussions. Most comments agreed with Mr. Chrétien and put the blame on Mr. Harper’s doorstep.
A western think tank’s motto is: “If it matters, measure it.” How does one measure ‘stature’? There are metrics for the UN’s Human Development Index (Canada ranks 11th) and OECD’s Better Life Index (Canada places 6th). But stature is a very subjective assessment and is ‘influenced by personal feelings, tastes, or opinions’ (Oxford). Sadly, Canadian opinions about the world are often based on our worldly experiences from the beaches and pools of the Caribbean, Arizona, and Cancun.
It was Jean Chrétien’s successor Paul Martin who started the change in foreign policy lexicon from Canadian ‘values’ to ‘interests’; Mr. Harper has accelerated that change. One could argue that our values form the basis of our interests. Regardless, Canada of late has been more forceful in its rhetoric of supporting countries that are more aligned to our interests. Not surprisingly, values such as good governance, human rights, democracy, and transparency have caused us to support like-minded countries, including Israel. After all, we definitely are not a member of the UN recognized Non-Aligned Movement of 120 countries whose current Chairperson is Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
We often sell ourselves short – the constant comparison with the U.S. fuels this short-sell. But on the world stage, we would be surprised at how others view us more for our dissimilarities with the U.S. than our similarities. Our Westminster style of government, with all of its warts, actually works. Three traditional mainstream parties do give voters a choice compared to the viscerally toxic relationship between the two U.S. parties. Social programs are sustained by arguably reasonable taxes. To the good, we accept sensible intrusion of the State in our private lives (gun control, merit-based appointment of Judges and Police Commissioners versus election, etc). And our immigration policies are being touted as the example for the U.S. (Globe and Mail 17 Mar: “In quest for skilled workers, U.S. looks to Canada as an example”).
The new Chinese President Xi Jinping is calling for a renaissance in China. Perhaps Canada has already started a quiet renaissance of our own. Who would have thought that Canadians would head the UK’s Royal Mail and the Bank of England, Air Canada would be voted as the top North American airline, and a Canadian almost becoming the Pope? Maybe we are coming of age. We now produce credible single malt (ting of smoke from Cape Breton) and the Toronto Maple Leafs might, just might, have a playoff berth. Who’d thunk?
Cam Ross is an Executive Fellow with The School of Public Policy