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

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5 September, 2011
Kim Richard Nossal
By: Kim Richard Nossal

Director of the Centre for International and Defence Policy, Queen's University

Although the Harper Conservatives came to power in 2006 with little interest and even less experience in foreign affairs (the 171 words in the 2005-2006 election platform devoted to international affairs remain an embarrassing reminder of just how little thought was given to international policy), once in power the government quickly found its foreign policy footing.  Not surprisingly, much of the substance of Canada’s international policies since 2006 reflects a continuity with the past.  But there can be little doubt that thetone is different, a function of the considerable effort that the Harper government has devoted to distancing the Conservatives from many of the main ideational strands of Liberal foreign policy from the 1990s and early 2000s.  And while the chatterati remain on the whole unimpressed, ordinary Canadians do not appear to be much fussed by the new tone—and therein lies a lesson.

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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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