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Canada's New (Conservative) Foreign Policy

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More on Canadian (Conservative) foreign policy in this article which is reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions of the Copyright Act from the Globe and Mail:


What is Harper’s ‘real interest’ in Mongolia?


Campbell Clark
OTTAWA — The Globe and Mail

Published Monday, Jul. 28 2014

John Baird was given a ceremonial welcome in Ulan Bator, and invited to try a bow-and-arrow at a festival in the Jargalant Valley. The Foreign Affairs Minister is on a trip to Asia, visiting big powers China and Japan. But last week, his first stop was in a sparsely populated nation of three million.

Stephen Harper’s government is taking a particular interest in, of all places, Mongolia. Why?

Mongolia’s Foreign Minister, Luvsanvandan Bold, called Canada an important part of his country’s foreign policy. Canada just put Mongolia, a middle-income country, on its list of “countries of focus” for foreign aid.

Yes, there’s potential mining trade. But there’s also an invitation that the Harper government finds alluring: to help a little democracy maintain its independence from its two authoritarian neighbours, Vladimir Putin’s Russia and the People’s Republic of China.

“The Prime Minister has taken a real interest in Mongolia,” Mr. Baird said in a telephone interview.

Mr. Harper long ago turned from strident China critic to pragmatic trader with a rising economic power, but he still views its global influence darkly. And Mr. Harper has been a vocal critic of Mr. Putin’s actions in Ukraine: He’s called the Russian President a “throwback” to the Soviet Union.

Mongolia was once under Soviet sway, and it’s wary of being pulled back into the orbit of either of its two powerful neighbours. So it’s actively trying to show Moscow and Beijing it has a group of other friends in middle powers like South Korea, or Germany – and Canada. They call it a “third neighbour policy.”

Mongolia was a Soviet satellite until 1990, and current President, Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj, was a leader of the pro-democracy movement of that era. But there’s still a legacy of deep Russian ties.

The influence of its other powerful neighbour, China, has grown, too. It is Mongolia’s largest trading partner. Beijing is interested in Mongolia’s resources, and Mongolia wants investment capital. But they also want to guard their independence, and that appeals to the Harper Conservatives in Ottawa.

“We’ve seen a country about the size of Quebec, in terms of geographic area, but with a smaller population, really make extraordinary progress in terms of democracy and open markets, in a pretty challenging part of the world,” Mr. Baird said.

Suddenly, Canada is making Mongolia a higher priority for foreign aid. That’s not because it’s one of the world’s poorest countries. Mongolia’s per-capita GDP is higher than that of Morocco, or Indonesia, or the Philippines. The Conservatives have made the country an aid priority – funding projects to improve governance – to further Canadian mining interests and to provide political support to a government it admires in Ulan Bator.

That is itself a controversial change under Mr. Harper: overtly using foreign aid to serve political and commercial goals. Mongolia is a prime example.

Canada’s mining interests in Mongolia used to be more pointed. The giant Oyu Tolgoi mine, expected to account for a quarter of Mongolia’s GDP when it is in full production, was once owned by Canada’s Ivanhoe Mines, but control of the mine has since been sold to international mining firm Rio Tinto.

But there are other Canadian miners active in Mongolia, or looking at projects, and they’re still concerned by the kinds of issues that have delayed the Oyu Tolgoi mine.

Mongolia set demanding conditions for mine exploitation when copper prices were high, which were aimed at steering a bigger portion of mining revenues to the government. But prices have fallen, and foreign investors have balked at going ahead with projects unless the government reconsiders the terms. And Canada is also pressing for an investment-protection agreement to provide legal assurance for investors.

All that is part of the hard-interest motivation for the Canadian government. But the high-level political interest in Ottawa wouldn’t have followed if Mr. Harper and his Conservatives didn’t see a post Cold War cause themselves – helping a little democracy surrounded by Russia and China.

Of course, Mongolia isn’t the main avenue of Canada’s foreign policy. It’s a side road. But it’s one chosen by Mr. Harper – and it provides a glimpse of where he likes to go when he has his druthers.

I think Campbell Clark is right when he says, "Mr. Harper long ago turned from strident China critic to pragmatic trader with a rising economic power, but he still views its global influence darkly."

It should come as no surprise that I think Prime Minister Harper is wrong. I think that making China into an enemy would be a colossal strategic blunder, but I also think it is a very popular notion in a slice of the conservative "movement." I do not think China is or is going to be our 'friend,' but it ought not to be our enemy. Russia was (and may be again) and enemy because it had aggressive designs on its region and, possibly, the whole world. (My, personal, assessment is that China wants to be the regional power in Sinic Asia but it is seeking respect rather than dominance. It wants, for example, US troops off the Asian mainland, but it does not object to a (strong) US Navy 'footprint' in Asia; that's power projection and China understands that the USA a) has global power, and b) can and even should project it; China has similar ambitions, at least into the Western and South Pacific and the Indian Ocean.) I see China as a competitor in the marketplaces of commerce and ideas: not a friend, but not an enemy, either.
I have no way of knowing if their there is a defined policy with respect to Asia in general or China and Russia in particular.

However, if I were a resource rich, population poor country like Canada I might be inclined to seek out similar countries, with similar interests and build alliances.

Also if I were concerned about sparks between Russia and China, as they compete for influence and resources, I might be inclined to contemplate assisting in the creation of a fire guard, or cut line, between them of independent trading states.

Canada can't defend its resources against a grasping US.  Fortunately the US doesn't raid. It trades.  It seems to me it is in Canada's interests, and the interests of the Stans, as well, ultimately as the interest of China and Russia, to establish a similar, mutually beneficial and symbiotic relationship.

Tibet and Xinjiang are not good models for China.  Nor are Moldova, Ukraine and Georgia good models for Russia.

An arc of independent buffer states, committed to peaceful trade, north of the Himalayas, linking Japan and South Korea to Poland and the Baltic would seem to me to the basis for a defensible foreign policy.

Is it not possible for Canada to make "friends" with countries like Mongolia and Ukraine, to demonstrate solidarity, and still maintain good relations with Russia and China?  I believe it is, Vlad notwithstanding. 

Edit - spelling error  :-[
While a trade "cutline" across central Asia is a brilliant strategic idea, the reality is our political class thinks and moves tactically in order to keep voters happy, and most voters become concerned about the issues about a month after the election.

I doubt many voters could even point to any of these places on a map, so trying to explain why places like Mongolia or Ukraine are important to Canada from a trade, diplomacy or security perspective will be quite...challenging....
Thucydides said:
While a trade "cutline" across central Asia is a brilliant strategic idea, the reality is our political class thinks and moves tactically in order to keep voters happy, and most voters become concerned about the issues about a month after the election.

I doubt many voters could even point to any of these places on a map, so trying to explain why places like Mongolia or Ukraine are important to Canada from a trade, diplomacy or security perspective will be quite...challenging....

Perhaps that would explain a deafening silence on policy?  It might also suggest that the absence of a stated policy is not the same as the absence of a policy.  The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office is notorious for its adherence to its own internal policies regardless of the current talking points.  And based on some informed commentary on this site by others I might suggest that Canada suffers/suffered from its own version of the same malady.

Taken together with Kim Campbell's observation about elections being a poor time to discuss policy, and the current wisdom that prescribes a perpetual election - policy will never be publicly discussed.

Look at Obama and the LPC.  Policies tomorrow, policies on Monday, but never policies today.
With apologies to GB Shaw and Rex Harrison: Why can't Canadians be more like Australians?


White Paper 2000, 2009, 2013 and now a Defense Issues Paper 2014 for public consultation prior to a new Defence White Paper 2015.

Radical questions being asked:

Key questions and issues
• Is the risk of conventional military conflict growing?
• Does Australia face any immediate military risks?
• What can Australia do to contribute to strengthening peace and
stability in our region?
• Where and how should we contemplate using the ADF in support of
global and regional security?
• In our nearer region, what are the likely missions the ADF might be
called on to perform?
• How well placed are we to understand the impact of changing
strategic developments?

Key questions and issues
• What are the primary roles for the ADF?
• Where should the ADF be expected to be able to operate, and in
what circumstances?
• What are the potential adversary capabilities against which the ADF
should plan? (capability)
• How much of each task should the ADF be able to perform? (capacity)
• In what time frames should the ADF to be ready to deploy? (readiness)
• Are there contingencies that Defence has not previously prepared
for, but should?

Key questions and issues
• What Defence capabilities should the Government invest in now
and for the long term?
• What enabling capabilities are critical to support ADF operations
and to eliminate hollowness in the force?
• What military capabilities must we be able to mount and operate
ourselves, short of allied assistance?
• How organised should the ADF be for high intensity conventional
• What can international and regional defence engagement achieve
for Australia strategically?
• What is the optimum use for reserve forces?
• What Science and Technology capabilities are critical to underpin
our broader defence capabilities?
• What is the right organisational structure for Defence?
• Should Defence contribute more to domestic counter-terrorism
• What support should Defence offer to local communities?
• What capabilities are critical for Defence to most effectively work
with other Government agencies?

Key questions and issues
• Which industrial capabilities are vital for the ability of the ADF to field
forces and must be located in Australia?
• What are the consequences for Australian industry of international
trends in the defence industry sector?
• How can the Government best encourage the development of an
internationally competitive Australian defence industry?
• What is the future of existing industry support programs provided by

Key questions and issues
• Is the priority allocated to Defence adequately explained to the
Australian community?
• How can the Australian community contribute to the development
of defence policy?
• How can the ADF ensure that Australians have confidence in the
organisational culture, abilities and professionalism of their armed
• With Australia’s changing demographics, can the ADF continue to
recruit the right people and meet the expectations of Australia’s
youth and the community as a whole?
• What opportunities exist for Defence to contribute to economic
development in regional Australia?

Also up for debate - The US Australia Alliance

And finally - a clear, succinct statement of existing capabilities and resources to guide the discussion.

The budget is clearly delineated as Capital, Operating and Personnel in a media friendly format.

Hangzhou, for those unaware, is not that far from Shanghai, which means that DFAIT/DFATD personnel at the Consulate General of Canada in Shanghai will have been busy for at least a couple of weeks to a month preparing for this PM visit.


PM Harper arrives in China hoping to increase exports

Canadian delegation, including business representatives, lands in Hangzhou

Prime Minister Stephen Harper arrived in China on Thursday to begin a four-day visit that will focus largely on building closer economic ties to Canada's No. 2 trading partner.

On a mild, hazy night, Harper and his wife, Laureen, were greeted at the Hangzhou airport by Liang Liming, vice governor of the Zhejiang province, and other dignitaries.

If I can recall correctly from last night's report about the PM visit to China, the CBC seems to emphasize that a rift has grown in Harper's cabinet. It's between those who want Canada to be more vocal about human rights abuses to China, such as Jason Kenney, (who was recently photographed with the Dalai Lama), and those who want to continue pursuing trade with Beijing in spite of those abuses.

And that's all aside from the highly publicized story of that Canadian couple detained in China because they were suspected of espionage.

Canadian Press

Harper talks trade with Chinese official linked to religious persecution

HANGZHOU, China - Prime Minister Stephen Harper discussed business ties on Friday with a Chinese official accused of ordering the widespread demolition of Christian churches in his province.

Christians in the industrial boomtown of Hangzhou say decrees enforced by Xia Baolong, the Communist party secretary for the coastal Zhejiang province, have resulted in the destruction of hundreds of crosses and churches in the region over the last few months.

Sometimes you have to make the least worst choice. Trade with China is worth billions of dollars and will improve the lives of millions of Canadians, as well as millions of Chinese workers. To know and articulate your principles is one thing, to make a firm stand where it will only hurt vast numbers of people without making much of a practical difference in achieving these goals is another.

Long term, the Canadian pursuit of trade agreements around the world, such as with the EU and entering the TPP will give Canada some more leverage (we can still improve the lives of millions of Canadians without Chinese trade, so cutting or reducing ties is less liable to result in us shooting ourselves in the foot), but we have not reached that point yet.
And the PM still brings up the case of the Garrat couple while simultaneously signing multiple trade deals:


Canada signs China trade deals, raises case of two detained Canadians

By Andrea Hopkins and Megha Rajagopalan

BEIJING (Reuters) - Canadian and Chinese companies have signed trade deals worth more than C$2.5 billion, despite continued tension over the detention of two Canadians near the North Korean border.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said the more than 20 commercial agreements signed between executives from both countries are expected to create more than 2,000 jobs in industries as diverse as aerospace, infrastructure, mining, energy and agri-food.

He also raised the case of expatriates Kevin and Julia Garratt, held by China for suspected theft of military and intelligence information and for threatening national security. The couple, long time residents of China, operated a coffee shop near the North Korean border.


The headline deal was an agreement between China's and Canada's central banks to a currency swap worth 200 billion yuan ($32.67 billion) or C$30 billion.

That will help set up a clearing bank, and allow the two banks to swap currencies if needed to ease trade and investment.
The yuan clearing bank would be the first in the Americas, and allow Canadian financial institutions to use it to process payments for their customers in yuan.

Harper said deals also included an investment agreement in the sustainable technologies sector between Canadian-owned Airborne China Ltd and Heilongjiang InterChina Water Ltd to cooperate on air pollution reduction projects in China.

From the APEC summit in China then back to Canada then on to the G-20 summit...seems CF-One is seeing a busy week:

Edmonton Sun

Stephen Harper heads to New Zealand, Australia

OTTAWA - Fresh off a week of trade talks in China, Prime Minister Stephen Harper heads to the other side of the world again for visit to New Zealand and the annual summit of G20 leaders in Brisbane, Australia.

Harper's official visit to New Zealand, from Nov. 13-16, will be a first for him.

He's scheduled to meet with Prime Minister John Key and Lt.-Gen. Sir Jerry Mateparae, New Zealand's governor general.

Conversations are expected to focus on bilateral trade and international security matters.

Accompanied by Finance Minister Joe Oliver, Harper will then bring his economic agenda to Brisbane, Australia, for a meeting of G20 leaders Nov. 15 and 16.

I hope you mean Canforce Two. I would hope Canforce One is reserved for our Head of State, who is not the PM but the Queen or her rep., the GG.

Otherwise, I think it would be an indication of the PM's delusional state of mind (thinking he runs the country :) )
Oldgateboatdriver said:
I hope you mean Canforce Two. I would hope Canforce One is reserved for our Head of State, who is not the PM but the Queen or her rep., the GG.

Otherwise, I think it would be an indication of the PM's delusional state of mind (thinking he runs the country :) )

Not sure that's a particularly fair comment.

Ref: GPH-204A Flight Planning (page 62)

Royal 1 (or Rideau 1) would be for H.R.H. (or G.G.).  Canforce 1 is indeed the PM.

Ottawa's need to to balance Canada's interests in China with our belief in respect for human rights (both in Hong Kong and other parts of China) continues...


Canada lawmakers hear Hong Kong democracy activist over China's objections

By Randall Palmer

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Veteran Hong Kong democracy campaigner Martin Lee, testifying on Tuesday at a Canadian parliamentary committee over the objections of the Chinese government, appealed to Ottawa to stand with those struggling for democracy in Hong Kong.

"I hope the Canadian government and the Canadian Parliament will speak up for us at this difficult stage," Lee told the House of Commons foreign affairs committee.

"If Hong Kong were to go down the slippery slope as now, Hong Kong will become just another Chinese city," said Lee, a former legislator and one of the founders of Hong Kong's main opposition Democratic Party.

Johanna Quinney, spokeswoman for Canadian Foreign Minister Rob Nicholson, responded that Canada has recently raised concerns regarding the treatment of political dissidents with senior Chinese leaders.

"Canada continues to support the rule of law and the democratic aspirations of the Hong Kong people,"
she said in an email to Reuters.

I have said, many times, that the most important single element of Canadian foreign policy, the only overwhelmingly important element is our relationship with the USA.

Like it or not - and many, many Canadians don't - the USA is our best friend; most trusted ally; the guarantor of our sovereignty and security; biggest trading partner; and the source of most of our socio-cultural attitudes.

Canadians invest, directly, almost as much in the USA ($(CA)352 Billion) as the Americans, ten times our size, do in Canada ($(CA)360 Billion). (Source: Foreign Affairs,Trade and Development Canada.)

We are, in other words, inextricably linked and, as someone else said, playing on Margaret Thatcher's famous phrase, "there is no alternative," we are TINA2 (TINA Squared), we are "Trapped In North America," and, "There Is No Alternative."

But relations don't need to be good to be close as this article, which is reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions of the Copyright Act from the Globe and Mail, explains:


How Ottawa left U.S. Ambassador Bruce Heyman out in the cold

OTTAWA — The Globe and Mail

Published Wednesday, Mar. 18 2015

There was a moral to the story. U.S. Ambassador Bruce Heyman went to Ottawa’s city hall to give a speech about Canada-U.S. relations, but he started talking about the 1871 fire that levelled Chicago. By 1880, the city that Mr. Heyman calls home had been rebuilt bigger, demonstrating that the devastation of the blaze wasn’t all that mattered. “The important part is what happened next,” he said.

It’s a tale about optimism that Mr. Heyman might be repeating to himself. He’s had a rough year.

New U.S. ambassadors are usually courted assiduously by those in power in Ottawa. Not so Mr. Heyman, who arrived in Ottawa last April, at a time when Stephen Harper’s government was already cool to the Obama administration over such issues as the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, and he was put in the diplomatic freezer. His initial meetings with Canadian cabinet ministers were uncomfortable, even testy. Then for months senior figures in the Conservative government refused to even see him.

The cold shoulder turned to the ambassador was part of a chilly year for U.S.-Canada relations, which have become unusually discordant at the top. With Keystone a hot-button issue in both capitals, neither side spares feelings. Mr. Harper blames delays on President Barack Obama putting “narrow” politics before the will of Americans. Mr. Obama insists the pipeline won’t help U.S. jobs, but only Canadian oil, extracted in “an extraordinarily dirty way.” There have been spats about bridges, counterfeit goods and Asian trade talks. There’s so little love that Mr. Harper kiboshed the Three Amigos summit he was to host in February with the U.S. and Mexican presidents.

Not everything is broken. Military and security co-operation ticks on, managed by officials and, because of its importance, unperturbed by politics.

The $2-billion-a-day trade continues. On Monday, U.S. and Canadian officials announced a deal to expand preclearance for travellers – a piece of the 2011 Beyond the Border deal once touted as a big advance for border trade.But there is a new edge to Canada-U.S. relations, and Mr. Heyman’s experience is a symbol of it. Over recent months, The Globe and Mail has spoken with dozens of political players, officials from both sides of the border, and current and former diplomats, to paint a picture of Mr. Heyman’s troubled tenure in Canada. Several close to events asked not to be named because of diplomatic sensitivity. Mr. Heyman declined to be interviewed.

There are at least two sides to the story. People who spoke to The Globe largely agreed on the facts, if not their interpretation. Either Mr. Heyman quickly gave offence, or his hosts were quick to take it – or both. But it’s clear that Mr. Heyman – who had come from the high-powered, “Masters of the Universe” world of investment banking giant Goldman Sachs and brought an assertive, goal-oriented style – wasn’t prepared for how easily he’d set off tripwires with a government that wasn’t feeling much goodwill.

It’s not typical. In the 1990s, Gordon Giffin sipped Scotch with Jean Chrétien. Mr. Obama’s first envoy, David Jacobson, went snowshoeing with Laureen Harper. Canadian governments usually worked on the relationship. Former deputy prime minister John Manley noted the Chrétien government figured only one person in the U.S. administration woke up every day thinking about Canada, so they’d better get close.

But things were different this time. After Mr. Jacobson left in July, 2013, the ambassador’s chair sat vacant for nine months while frustrations bubbled. It wasn’t just that a Conservative prime minister didn’t feel admiration for a Democratic president. Washington hadn’t put in a cent for a new cross-border bridge to Detroit, and now was stalling Ottawa’s request that it at least pay for a customs plaza on the U.S. side. Ten days after Mr. Heyman arrived, Mr. Obama punted the decision on Keystone again, citing a Nebraska court case.

For Mr. Heyman, it’s telling that since the day he presented his credentials nearly a year ago, when he and his wife Vicki had a 15-minute meet-and-greet with Mr. Harper and his wife Laureen, the U.S. ambassador has never had a one-on-one with the PM.

In his first meeting with then-foreign affairs minister John Baird, Mr. Heyman’s message landed badly. He told Mr. Baird there was nothing he could do about Keystone, so he’d leave the whole file to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. And money for the Detroit bridge customs plaza was off the table.

Mr. Baird was stunned. The new ambassador was telling him he couldn’t work on Canada’s big issues.

The Americans had reasons. The Homeland Security budget was already facing a rough ride in Congress. Funding for a customs plaza wouldn’t get through – and the owner of the existing Ambassador Bridge, Matty Moroun, had allies including House Speaker John Boehner who would block it. But Mr. Harper’s government still expected the U.S. envoy to address Canada’s big asks.

In public, Mr. Heyman rubbed the wrong way, too. In his first big speech in June, at Ottawa’s National Arts Centre, he did what many U.S.ambassadors have often done, stressing the positives of the relationship. But he didn’t mention Keystone. And when Frank McKenna, the former New Brunswick premier and ambassador to Washington, pressed him in an after-speech Q &A about the pipeline and the customs plaza, Mr. Heyman chided him for being negative. “I’m sorry you’re all bummed out here,” he said.

Bummed out? It rang in the ears of his Canadian government hosts, who complained Mr. Heyman had arrogantly told Canada to get over it.

A week later, three Conservative ministers trooped to an energy summit in New York, organized by Mr. Heyman’s former employer, Goldman Sachs – and behind closed doors and in public, excoriated the Obama administration for mistreating a friend with its handling of Keystone. Natural Resources Minister Greg Rickford called it “an affront in no uncertain terms.”

There was something else: Mr. Heyman pushed for U.S. wins. One focus was intellectual property – a perennial concern in Washington, where U.S. firms lobby politicians to pressure Canada to toughen laws on copyright and counterfeits. Mr. Heyman was asked about it in his own Senate confirmation hearing. So he asked Mr. Harper’s government, already revamping the law to allow customs agents to seize counterfeit goods coming into Canada, to give border guards power to intercept goods going through Canada to the U.S.

He figured it was the sort of border co-operation Canada often proposed, so he walked into a meeting with Industry Minister James Moore optimistic, according to a U.S. source. He walked out confused. The two clashed.

One offence was that he made the request public, at that NAC speech. “All of a sudden to open up the newspaper and read about this – you don’t expect this from a friend,” one Canadian insider said.

That was a surprise complaint from a Canadian government whose ambassador, Gary Doer, works Washington politicians and doesn’t shy away from public lobbying about Keystone. But there was no doubt about the pique. At a Senate committee in November, Mr. Moore pointedly said he’d told U.S. officials it was “a bit of a stretch” to ask Canada to police goods going to the U.S.

By then, the chill was obvious. The Americans got the message that their outstanding files would be going nowhere. For months after his June speech, Mr. Heyman couldn’t get in to see cabinet ministers. “There was no edict,” one senior Canadian government figure insisted. But several sources said there was at least a common narrative, from the Prime Minister’s Office to ministers, that Mr. Heyman wasn’t welcome.

Most in Mr. Harper’s government weren’t worried. They could afford to freeze out Mr. Heyman, they felt. The Prime Minister and the President met several times a year, and although they didn’t have a warm relationship, neither leader was known for warmth. Some ministers had their own direct links: Mr. Baird could call John Kerry, for example. They could go around Mr. Heyman.

“That’s a very circuitous route, to go around the ambassador,” said Mr. Giffin, who served as ambassador to Canada during the Clinton administration. Ambassadors co-ordinate across U.S. departments. Mr. Giffin’s relationship with Ottawa always stayed warm despite disputes or blunt talk, he said.

Mr. Heyman’s freeze-out did start to thaw in the fall. He gave appreciative interviews as Canada joined the military mission against Islamic State. After two terror attacks on Canadian soil, Mr. Kerry came to issue public condolences. And four other U.S. cabinet secretaries trooped to Canada last fall to meet their counterparts, which helped Mr. Heyman warm up relationships and get meetings again – Mr. Rickford joined him for a Blackhawks game in Chicago.

But there are still barbs on the fence. Aside from the security and military co-operation, and work on a few items from the Beyond the Border agenda, like the Regulatory Cooperation Council to harmonize business regulation, there is almost no new work on bilateral issues. “There’s nothing going on,” said one U.S. diplomat.

And things could get worse: Mr. Obama might make his final Keystone decision, and say no. Canada is threatening to retaliate against a U.S. beef labelling law with a mini trade war. There are even fears the Americans, insisting Canada must put its protected dairy industry on the table, will bump Canada out of the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership trade talks.

Mr. Heyman is now focusing outside Ottawa. He has heavily courted provincial premiers, and has touted plans to boost trade by connecting provinces and U.S. states – including a campaign to have all 50 U.S. governors send trade delegations.

And for the Conservatives, the big picture on Canada-U.S. relations is now mostly about waiting. Mr. Harper is in an election year; he may or may not win. The U.S will then face its own election cycle and Mr. Obama can’t run again. Big new plans, and maybe Keystone, will wait for the next president.

But there is one thing that Prime Minister Harper can do to President Obama: Canada can, publicly, back out of the F-35 programme. The programme is politically unpopular - merits don't matter, the commentariat have made it nearly toxic. It would be good 2015 election politics ... reopen the project to look for the 'best'* fighter jet for Canada. It would take the issue off the political table and allow Prime Minister Harper to do what he likes to do: take the advice of a small team of very high level bureaucrats.

I don't know if there is another 'good'* choice; politically it probably doesn't matter if we end up giving the RCAF a 'less than best'* or just 'good enough'* airplane.

* Best and good are very, very relative and, in politics, elastic terms
And things could get worse: Mr. Obama might make his final Keystone decision, and say no.

He already has. The minute it landed on his desk as he said he would do. The Senate Democrats stood with their "leader".


Obama’s Keystone veto will stand after Senate vote fails

The Senate failed to override President Obama's veto of a bill (24 Feb 15) authorizing construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, severely dimming prospects for its approval in the next two years.

I don't think cancelling the F-35 commitment will bother Obama at all. It may constrain defense of North America and US/Canada/Allies interoperability. Many other purchasers. Our 65 aircraft purchase is not that significant.

In other developments in the US under President Obama who wants a legacy deal with Iran:


U.S. Omits Iran and Hezbollah From Terror Threat List

An annual security assessment presented to the U.S. Senate by James Clapper, the director of National Intelligence, has excluded Iran and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah from its list of terror threats to U.S. interests, despite both being consistently included as threats in previous years.
"Plausibly ordinary" ?  ::)

Yahoo Canada News

The dwindling power of the Canadian passport
By Andrew McKay | Yahoo Canada News – Thu, 16 Apr, 2015

It’s probably no surprise that when it comes to universal access, the US and UK passports are the best in the world. But you might be shocked to find out Canada’s passport isn’t as powerful as you might have thought.

Arton Capital has built a “Passport Index”, which ranks all the world’s passports based on the ease of travel they offer, counting all the countries a passport holder can visit either without a visa, or with a visa they can obtain on arrival. The US and UK passports provide direct access to 147 countries.

Technically, Canada has a rank of 7 on the Passport Index because our passport provides access to 140 countries. But there are actually 18 countries whose passports provide better access without visa restrictions, including some surprising ones like South Korea, Luxembourg and Portugal.

We shouldn’t worry too much about the waning power of our passport, though; it’s apparently still the document of choice for “for spies, state-sponsored assassins, terrorists and just about anyone else seeking to be plausibly ordinary across a range of languages, ethnicities and religions,” according to the Globe and Mail.

Mulcair gonna complain "Harper's hiding something about the Iraq mission" again in 3...2...1...  ::)


Canada PM arrives in Iraq on surprise visit

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper arrived in Iraq on Saturday for a surprise visit expected to include a meeting with Canadian soldiers advising Iraqi troops fighting Islamic State militants.

Canada has around 70 special forces in Kurdish areas of northern Iraq. Canadian jets are also taking part in a U.S.-led mission to bomb Islamic State positions in Iraq and Syria.

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