Apr 012013
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Discerning any kind of thread in Canada's foreign policy is difficult.

by John Baglow

Does Canada actually have a foreign policy? Alone in all the world, we have now pulled out of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification, the latest in a confusing series of muddled moves that appear only to have accelerated since we were denied a seat on the UN Security Council.

We are left attempting to divine a coherence where none may exist. Relating foreign policy objectives to business profitability, one apparent thread in the tangle, is no simple matter, but no overall strategy suggests itself — only piecemeal measures. Uncritical support of Israel’s Likud party seems unrelated to any broader policy goal. Leaving Africa high and (literally) dry makes little geopolitical sense, but maybe it’s just that there isn’t a buck in it. We should never look for complexity when it comes to Conservative motives.

But the government does enjoy creating little mysteries, lowering curtains that may conceal little or nothing. And so CTV reports:

Baird’s office forwarded questions about the withdrawal to the Canadian International Development Agency, but CIDA did not respond to interview requests.

In an email statement, a spokesperson for International Co-operation Minister Julian Fantino said “membership in this convention was costly for Canadians and showed few results, if any for the environment.”

Fantino’s office would not say how much money was being saved by withdrawing from the convention, but documents show that the government committed to providing around $350,000 a year to the convention.

Which brings us to the CIDA-DFAIT merger. We know that CIDA has been drifting this way and that for some time. A recent example of uncoordinated decision-making was the freezing of aid to Haiti without letting DFAIT know. As The Globe & Mail reported:

Haiti’s ambassador to Canada, Frantz Liautaud, said he heard about it through the news media.

“I’ve had no communication from CIDA so far, but I’ve asked right away for a meeting with Mr. Fantino,” Mr. Liautaud said. He said he called Canada’s ambassador to Port-au-Prince, who didn’t know about it, either. “He also learned about it from the press,” Mr. Liautaud said.

Of course, this sort of problem could be resolved by Julian Fantino, the minister responsible for CIDA, having a chat with John Baird, the minister responsible for foreign affairs. But it’s perhaps simpler, given the personalities involved, to put Baird in charge of it all.

Will we see the activities of the former CIDA take a new direction? Very likely — in fact, a direction of any kind would be welcome. But do we know, overall, what the hell we’re doing? That question remains open. And to the rest of the world, Canada must seem, to repurpose the words of Winston Churchill, “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.


About John Baglow

John Baglow is a former Executive Vice-President of the Public Service Alliance of Canada. He is currently a writer, researcher and a consultant in the fields of public and social policy
You can read his blog at drdawgsblawg.ca.

© Copyright 2013 John Baglow, All rights Reserved. Written For: StraightGoods.ca

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