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Hampson: What issue should John Baird prioritize?

By: /
13 June, 2011

Economic power is shifting away from the United States, Canada’s traditional market for goods, services, and investment, to the fast-rising economies of the Asia-Pacific region. Trade diversification will be critical in this decade to securing Canada’s future. We we can no longer count on the US to sustain our economic growth.

Canada must also move ahead quickly with the Canada-US Shared Vision for Perimeter Security and Economic Competitiveness. This will not be easy. President Obama, whose engagement is essential to the success of this endeavour is already in campaign mode to secure a second term.

The “Arab Spring” presents great risks but also enormous potential to transform a region where ordinary citizens have taken to the streets, rejecting violence and religious and political extremism. Canada should be at the forefront of those offering assistance to those countries now trying to build a viable political and economic order.

We also need to forge new partnerships with other “Constructive Powers,” like us, who punch above their weight and are committed to building a new, stable international order such as Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, Turkey, South Africa, Brazil, Korea, Japan, South Africa, Switzerland, Norway.

The marketing of Canada begins with our foreign service. The days of strict message control and gag orders must end. If the department is to do its job, Mr. Baird must let his officials speak freely.

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Journalism in Canada has suffered a devastating decline over the last two decades. Dozens of newspapers and outlets have shuttered. Remaining newsrooms are smaller. Nowhere is this erosion more acute than in the coverage of foreign policy and international news. It’s expensive, and Canadians, oceans away from most international upheavals, pay the outside world comparatively little attention.

At Open Canada, we believe this must change. If anything, the pandemic has taught us we can’t afford to ignore the changing world. What’s more, we believe, most Canadians don’t want to. Many of us, after all, come from somewhere else and have connections that reach around the world.

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