Kinsman: Is Conservative foreign policy different from Liberal foreign policy?”

By: /
September 5, 2011
Jeremy Kinsman
Former ambassador to the European Union and high commissioner to Britain

Conservative minority governments entered with sparse world experience or interest beyond using foreign opportunities to pitch to Canadian ethnic voters. Afghanistan and beefing up the military absorbed the policy oxygen. Canadian comparative advantage in multilateral diplomacy and soft power and influence built over time by Progressive Conservatives as well as Liberals was repudiated. Very mediocre Foreign Ministers cost us internationally. The UN vote defeat reflected all this.

Now, John Baird lifts Canada’s credibility personally and on big issues such as China and Libya. PM Harper is finally building key relationships, with Brazil and India, Cameron, Sarkozy. The revamped military gets international respect.

But Canada’s soft power vocation for capacity-building needs revival, especially to put meat on the PM’s rhetorical bones of support for democracy development and human rights, the tsunami sweeping world youth.

A behavioural difference from predecessors persists that may still block Conservatives from returning national foreign policy and influence to a world-class level. They inhabit an ideological bubble, scanning outside opinion only from neo-conservative like-minded in the US and Israel, whose drumbeat of threats obscures the chance to grasp the world’s complexity and real developmental potential.