Tuesday, February 01, 2005

The Beaver Ain't As Strong As He Used To Be

Some folks might remember a news story last week about a report saying Canada's international role was shrinking.

The full text of the report (an interim report; the final version's due this summer) can be found here. It's published by the Canadian Institute of International Affairs, a Toronto-based think tank.

A couple of trends do emerge:

-- I never thought I'd say this, but Brian Mulroney comes out of this one looking pretty good. Friendships with Ronald Reagan and the first George Bush, and good personal relations with the British and the French, enabled the Big Chin to strut the world stage. (He certainly had nothing to strut about at home.) Triumphs mentioned include South Africa, NAFTA and the environment (!).

The report also, by omission if nothing else, confirms the "non-persona" of Joe Clark, who was external affairs minister during much of the Mulroney era.

-- The other person to come out smelling like a rose is Lloyd Axworthy of the early Chr├ętien era. He gets credit for Canada's work on landmines and the International Criminal Court. The report also seems to imply that Canada went downhill in the world after Axworthy left.

-- The report is yet another cry for increase defence spending: we can't do much in the world because we don't have enough troops, we don't have the right equipment, and we're too cheap to do anything else.

Given that getting our defence spending to a proper level is going to involve (a) a steep price tag and (b) extremely critical thinking about what we want our armed forces to do, the Liberals would probably file this away in an archive somewhere. They would be well-advised not to.