In The Media

Why defence matters in this election

by George Petrolekas

The Globe and Mail
August 19, 2015

Normally, in Canadian elections, defence is an afterthought. In the past decade, defence featured because of our engagement in Afghanistan. This time, defence may form, in part, the path to power.

More than any other party, the heretofore unseen NDP defence platform will have much to do with whether the party forms the government.

For years, the NDP has functioned as the social conscience of the nation. Its base of committed voters historically has not been large, but NDP policies have influenced every other party’s social platforms for decades. But to affect other parties’ platforms is not the route to power, only to influence.

In the 2012 election, the NDP captured the imagination of many Canadians, particularly in Quebec, vaulting the NDP to official Opposition status and putting the party within striking reach of forming a government. But its being on the cusp of power induces fears in some that an NDP government would displace what is positioned as a more principled and muscular vision of the country.

For the Liberals, an outlook that appears to be at variance with the grand liberal internationalist viewpoints appears to be struggling to find a foundation on which to rest. Is it activist? Is it isolationist? Is it globally responsible? These elements do not seem clear at all so far in this campaign.

To achieve power, the NDP will have to balance its perceived root philosophies with enough centrist positions to attract on-the-fence Liberals, and even some Conservatives willing to take a chance on Thomas Mulcair as prime minister. It is doing so with middle-of-the-road economic positions, but will have to be seen as more centrist on the defence file as well.

The NDP has narrowed its margin of manoeuvre, given its current stand on the anti-ISIS mission by declaring its first act would be to bring the troops home – in contrast to what most Canadians believe. In three national polls conducted during the mission-extension debate, a majority of Canadians (as many as 74 per cent) supported the air campaign and its extension. In earlier polling by Ipsos Reid, Canadians agreed that “everything possible” needs to be done to stop ISIS from establishing its self-declared caliphate – the Islamic State, as the group now refers to itself – and that included putting Canadian boots on the ground. Surprisingly, this pro-mission support was echoed in Quebec as well.

The whole NDP history on defence will be ridiculed by Conservative Leader Stephen Harper, including its long campaign to have Canada leave NATO during the Cold War. Mr. Harper won’t do that with Mr. Trudeau, because previous Liberal governments decided to send Canada to Afghanistan. As such, Mr. Trudeau’s current ideas on interventions abroad will be questioned.

And so for the NDP, the tipping point to power may indeed become the position it will take on its vision for the Canadian Forces.

NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair will likely try to offset a perception of weakness in this area by outlining a comprehensive defence policy, likely reaffirming peace missions and care for veterans. It would go over well as many centrist Canadians have not abandoned the attachment to Canada’s blue-beret past.

The Liberals, in comparison, have a far more difficult task in front of them. So far, they have not been able to carve an identity that is clearly identifiable in the minds of voters. If anything, they have minutely calibrated on the edges, but not enough to create a discernible difference. No air strikes for example, but far more training of advisers.

If the Liberal position is unclear with respect to current engagements, so far, there has been little indication from either the NDP or the Liberals on what kind of military Canadians should be entitled to or how they would use it, except to say that fixing the Royal Canadian Navy would be a priority.

Mr. Harper is not immune on this file, either. Given past experience on the F-35, various procurement delays, and veterans, Mr. Harper generally gets a free ride because of perception of being action-prone abroad; the deep defence cuts of the past two years glossed over in part by rhetoric, and his willingness to use the Forces in the Ukraine, in support of NATO and also against ISIS.

And so, with an engagement in Iraq and Syria ongoing, the present budget insufficient to afford the military we have, let alone the military we envision, the ultimate differentiator between the three parties may indeed be what they envision for Canada’s military.

George Petrolekas is a fellow with the Canadian Global Affairs Institute. He has served in Bosnia and Afghanistan and has been an adviser to senior NATO commanders.

 


Be the first to comment

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.
SUBSCRIBE TO OUR NEWSLETTERS
 
SEARCH
PODCAST

Canada's State of Trade: Getting Our Goods To Market

May 17, 2018


On today's Global Exchange Podcast, we continue our series on the state of Canadian trade in a world of growing populism and protectionism. Today's episode, recorded during our February 13th State of Trade conference in Ottawa, features Bruce Borrows, Jennifer Fox, and David Miller in conversation with the Wilson Center's Laura Dawson about getting Canadian goods to international markets.


IN THE MEDIA

Between Trump, Iran and North Korea, Canada’s G7 has a high potential for chaos

by Chris Hall (feat. James Trottier & Colin Robertson), CBC News, May 18, 2018

The struggle Trudeau could face if Kinder Morgan walks away from Trans Mountain

by Robert Tuttle & Michael Bellusci (feat. Dennis McConaghy), Bloomberg News, May 18, 2018

Canada 'a laughing stock': Experts react to Trans Mountain indemnity

by April Fong (feat. Dennis McConaghy), BNN Bloomberg, May 18, 2018

AUDIO: NAFTA update

with Danielle Smith (feat. Sarah Goldfeder), Global News Radio, May 18, 2018

VIDEO: NAFTA Deadline Day (@ 3:00)

with Don Martin (feat. John Weekes), CTV Power Play, May 17, 2018

VIDEO: Deal or no deal on NAFTA: Canada and U.S. send mixed messages

with Rosemary Barton (feat. Colin Robertson), CBC The National, May 17, 2018

Trump’s 'submission' strategy is not working so expect NAFTA talks to drag on

by Kevin Carmichael (Feat. Eric Miller), Financial Post, May 17, 2018

Backstop deal may be last hope for TransMountain pipeline, says former oil executive

by CBC News (feat. Dennis McConaghy), CBC News, May 17, 2018

Stuck with limited oil export options, Liberals may regret B.C. tanker ban

by John Ivison (feat. Dennis McConaghy), National Post, May 17, 2018

Feds OK early start to construction of navy’s new supply ships

by Lee Berthiaume (feat. Dave Perry), The Canadian Press, May 17, 2018


LATEST TWEETS

HEAD OFFICE
Canadian Global Affairs Institute
Suite 1800, 421-7th Avenue SW
Calgary, Alberta, Canada T2P 4K9

 

OTTAWA OFFICE
Canadian Global Affairs Institute
8 York Street, 2nd Floor
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada K1N 5S6

 

Phone: (613) 288-2529
Email: contact@cgai.ca
Web: cgai.ca

 

Making sense of our complex world.
Déchiffrer la complexité de notre monde.

 

© 2002-2018 Canadian Global Affairs Institute
Charitable Registration No. 87982 7913 RR0001

 


Sign in with Facebook | Sign in with Twitter | Sign in with Email