Advertisement NEWSROOM


The ONW Salon:

Moderator Susanna Kelley - "Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, in a major policy speech Tuesday, said Canada will step up to take a leadership role in foreign affairs even as the U.S. steps back.  And while she said we remain good friends with the United States, she said Canada would take an even stronger multilateral approach to foreign affairs henceforth. That was backed up by the announcement of increased military spending. Is the Trudeau government poking the Donald Trump bear with such statements or is this a real attempt to take a larger role on the global stage? We asked Richard Mahoney, John Capobianco and Tom Parkin."


Richard Mahoney:

Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland’s speech to parliament this week was an impressive outing from one of Canada’s most interesting and refreshing new politicians. Freeland was recruited to politics by Justin Trudeau after a remarkable career in journalism and as a thought leader on issues such as what Western governments can do to help combat the rise of the “plutocrats” and how to grow a strong middle class in a global economy.

Tuesday’s speech marks her turn as one of this country’s leaders, and an important and guiding intellectual force in this government. What we heard from Freeland was how Canada can answer the call for global leadership. The threats of climate change, huge migration challenges, terrorism, combined with the withdrawal of the United States from its historical position of global leadership on many of these issues and the potential role Canada can play - all these combine to demand a new vision, and she has set that out admirably.

Our moderator Susanna Kelley asks the important question: is Canada thumbing its nose at Donald Trump? I think the answer is a polite no, but from a position of strength and global leadership. While Freeland praised the U.S. for its crucial role, she set out clearly why and how its recent action of withdrawing from the Paris Accord means Canada has an obligation and an opportunity to step up its role in the world. While it may be time for “America First” south of the border, it is time for thoughtful global leadership here.

Susanna’s question threads the tough part - how do you do that, while managing the difficulties of Donald Trump, NAFTA and our special and important relationship with the U.S. and all that entails?

We have seen, in Justin Trudeau’s deft handling of the NAFTA file, and Freeland’s speech this week, the clear answer: Canada will defend its interests and use the unique position it has to help plot the course for a more diverse, multilateral world in the 21st century.

Chrystia Freeland set an impressive course and we need that. It will be interesting to see how Canadians respond, and how those in other political parties step up. Will they embrace this vision of a new global leadership, or retreat themselves into our own look inward? The debate is on.


Tom Parkin:

Superlatives, grandiosity and the historic awesome incredibleness of Liberal perfection aside – the Liberals have announced that they will increase military spending, as long demanded by the U.S. government, because we need to be more independent of the U.S. government.

This is not a logic test. Two weeks ago, U.S. President Trump demanded that Prime Minister Trudeau and others NATO nations raise military spending to 2% of GDP. That is not a new demand by the Americans. Former President Obama also made it, to Prime Minister Stephen Harper. During the Harper-Obama years, the Canadian government resisted these demands. At the time, the Canadian military argued that our contribution in Kandahar went far beyond money. The Afghanistan war cost the lives of 158 Canadian soldiers – the third highest total of the 30 countries participating in the NATO-led ISAF command. Only the U.S. and UK lost more soldiers.

Harper’s argument in response to Obama’s demands was effective because it was true – and it remains true. It is also true that NATO and the United States massively overwhelmed any other military force – and that the United States succeeded in bankrupting itself doing it. This year, Trump has asked for a $54 billion increase for the Pentagon. This is not the path Canadians want.

But in the Trudeau-Trump years, Canada is no longer resisting the U.S. demand to increase military funding. And in usual Liberal spin fashion, the reason we are relenting to Trump’s demands is because we need to be more independent of Trump – even to oppose the currents of Trumpism.

And expect to see the Conservatives act as Trump's attack dog, hypocritically demanding that Trudeau increase military spending to levels they refused to do.

I do not believe Canadians want our government to support Trump or increased militarism. All the wondrous adverbs and incredible incredibleness may distract Canadians, but it won't change them.


John Capobianco:

This was a bold move by Minister Freeland. In a speech the Minister gave this week, she indicated that Canada will go it alone on the international stage, basically saying in a not-too-subtle way that Canada needs to forge ahead without the U.S. on matters of international importance relating to trade, environment, the military and overall leadership.

Given what is happening to the south of us and the recent announcement by President Trump that he will have the United States pull out of the Paris Accord, as well as his recent musings during the G7 meetings, the Minister and the Liberal government felt the need to follow in the footsteps of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and start considering what the world stage will be like without the United States as an active and cooperative partner.

I think it is clear to most of us who watch these developments closely and can’t help but follow what President Trump does, that he is serious when he says "America First" and is starting to put action to his words. So something needs to be done, as you can no longer hope that he was joking about pulling out of Paris, or that he was joking about not doing his fair share alongside his NATO partners. This is why the Minister felt it was the right time for the go-it-alone speech.

However, we now need to back up our words with action so that they don’t become idle threats with now power behind them. We have relied on the United States for much over decades, including trade and military safety. So for Canada to truly stand alone, we need to ensure we have a solution to what will no doubt be a more aggressive U.S. protectionist policy on trade. It also means we need to beef up our military and our share of the cost with NATO.

The government has made a big deal about playing nicely with the President and U.S. officials on the trade side to ensure we are at the table. This was good strategy as I have said on these pages a few times, but this speech will no doubt have an effect on those discussions.


Richard Mahoney:

We see in Tom’s response the beginning of the NDP’s view in opposition to this new role for Canada: the building of a Trojan horse in that somehow, if Canada steps up its role in organizations like NATO, somehow we will become the equivalent of the U.S. in terms of our military spending.

That is laughable. Even with a more robust contribution to some of these efforts, Canada will never be a nation with a huge military presence, or a large role in the world’s military conflicts. We can’t be that and Canada does not want to be that.

But we do have an opportunity here. The Prime Minister has a unique standing in the world. Unique among our leaders, he is known around the world, and widely admired. Our pluralist democratic tradition has always been a model for the world: we are a model, albeit an imperfect one, of how different cultures can live together in peace. And the rise of a new global order, combined with the rise of the America Firsters south of the border, calls out for some leadership.

I am happy to see a new course arise, and even happier to see the rise of new leaders like Chrystia Freeland, setting out an intelligent avenue in our foreign policy. Let's see if the current NDP leadership race, and the new Conservative leadership, add to this debate, and possibly set out a different view.

As optimists, we can but live in hope. 


Tom Parkin:

It is simply an objective fact that Canadian policy has now suddenly changed and will increase military spending. It is simply a fact that this happened within weeks of Trump demanding we do so. All the wondrous superlatives and shirtless selfies may distract some people from that fact, but they do not deny their truth. Nor, I think, are Canadians intimidated or dissuaded by having their statement of facts being derisively called “laughable.” They just take note.

Liberals will distract and deride. They will argue that Justin Trudeau is respected as a global leader. I don’t think so. Merkel condemned Trump’s Muslim ban. Macron condemned Putin’s propaganda “to his face.” They didn’t hire discredited former Prime Ministers like Brian Mulroney to implement a Trump suck-up strategy. They didn’t wait to see which way the parade was heading then try to get to the front of it - they created the parade. 

One of my favourite journalists was I.F. Stone. And one of my favourite quotes by Stone was “All governments lie, but disaster lies in wait for countries whose officials smoke the same hashish they give out.”

I, for one, am not smoking it.


John Capobianco:

There is a new normal that is shaping up on the international stage, as was witnessed by the recent trip President Trump made and his comments while he was meeting with his international peers. No one will dispute that, but many will question if it is indeed "normal".

This government, from the time Donald Trump was elected President, knew things would be different and they have attempted to act on it - thinking that things were going ok - until the G7 happened. Chancellor Angela Merkel said what many world leaders were thinking but too afraid of the consequences to say themselves, and that was that the new normal is the need to work around the United States on international cooperation.

Minister Freeland jumped on this and now has to back it up. The Minister was careful not to mention President Trump by name, but that was more for diplomacy purposes than anything else. Everyone knows full well what the meaning of her message was and whom it was intended for, right or wrong. There will no doubt be consequences from the United States on this. Let's hope for all our sakes that the consequences have been thought out by the Minister, the government and other international leaders.

Whether you like the President or not, we need the United States to remain and active and cooperative partner not only in our backyard, but also on the world stage.


Richard Mahoney is a lawyer with deep experience in politics and governance.  He is a former senior advisor to the Rt. Hon Paul Martin, a former Campaign Chair and President of the Ontario Liberal Party. John Capobianco is a Senior Partner and National Public Affairs Lead at FleishmanHillard. He has been a Conservative strategist with over 30 years of political activism at all three levels, including as a former federal Conservative candidate. Tom Parkin is a veteran NDP strategist and a frequent commentator on national issues



Posted date : June 08, 2017 NEWSROOM
There have been quite a number of colourful and populist politicians in Ontario's past. So perhaps a Doug Ford win isn't as unlikely as some might think.
February 17, 2018
Family of the late Colten Boushie met with two Liberal ministers after Gerald Stanley was found not guilty of his murder. Was that helpful? Mahoney, Stewart and Parkin debate.
February 13, 2018
We need to stop calling car subsidies "investments" and put the money where it makes the most sense - public transit.
February 07, 2018
From Justin Trudeau to Caroline Mulroney to Christine Elliott, dynasties seem to be dominating politics. A good or bad trend? Mahoney, Stewart and Parkin debate.
February 06, 2018
A recent poll shows Patrick Brown's PCs in a virtual tie with Kathleen Wynne's Liberals for voter support. Are we headed for a minority government?
January 31, 2018
Ontario PC leader Patrick Brown's resignation for alleged sexual impropriety is only the tip of the iceberg. Will Bill C-65 solve the problem? Alvaro, Stewart and Parkin discuss.
January 30, 2018
Does Justin Trudeau's attendance in Davos for the World Economic Forum really benefit Canada? Mahoney, Stewart and Parkin weigh in.
January 23, 2018
The latest Forum poll shows little change, but trends over the last 18 months say a lot. They may mean a big opening for the Andrea Howath.
January 17, 2018
A new poll says only 37% of Canadians approve of the job the Trudeau Liberals are doing. We asked Richard Mahoney, Will Stewart and Tom Parkin what the numbers really mean.
January 16, 2018
As the Tim Horton's brand takes a national pounding after a franchise counters the minimum wage hike by taking away benefits, labour may become an election issue.
January 15, 2018
Will CPC Leader Scheer's move to kick Beyak out of the CPC caucus hurt him with some supporters? Mahoney, Stewart and Parkin weigh in.
January 09, 2018
Voter participation has been declining in the 21st century. Are Ontario voters interested enough in the upcoming election to vote?
January 07, 2018