Saturday, February 02, 2008

My Meeting With Michael, So To Speak

Ignatieff's message: "Canada matters."

On February 1, 2008, Michael Ignatieff visited the University of Alberta.

Wrapping up the U of A's annual International Week, Ignatieff addressed a packed lecture theater about the challenges Canada will face in the 21st century, and how to best meet them.

Here is what he had to say:

"Thank you so much for coming in such huge numbers. I'm almost as nervous standing up here as I am in the House of Commons.

I do want to make it clear that although I am capable of bare-knuckled partisanship, in most occasions, this is not a partisan political occasion. This is an actual academic lecture.

It's wonderful to be back in the classroom, but I do want to make a point of welcoming everybody regardless of your political affiliation and extend a particular welcome to a couple of Conservative Members of Parliament and candidates in the audience: welcome, welcome, welcome.

My subject is Canada in the world. I have a very simple thing to say to you on the basis of a lifetime's experience outside the country: Canada matters.

We matter intensely.

We matter more than ever before, so let's shed the kind of "who cares? Who's listening?". Canada counts. It's important for your generation to sieze the opportunity to assert leadership for Canada outside our borders.

I think we as a country need to focus on a few simple fundamentals.

Defend, maintain and enhance our sovereignty as a people.

Defend, maintain and enhance our union as a people. We can't do anything outside unless we're united at home. Unless our unity is an example to the world outside.

The third thing is we have to back our values, Canadian values with capabilities. We can't be a country that gives people little lectures. We have to be a country that says, "here's where we stand, and here are the capabilities. Here are the investments we're going to make to make those values real in the world."

Sovereignty, unity and this third idea of basically putting our money where our mouth is are the things that orient my thinking about Canadian foreign policy.

I want to start with Canada/US relations because it's so much the centre of any foreign policy. I want to talk to you about security, economic issues, military issues, diplomatic issues and finally some political issues.

Let me start with the US/Canada relationship. I had a funny thing happen to me in politics. I sat down with a very wealthy Canadian who shall remain nameless (you can probably guess who he might have been). I said to him, "sir," in my earnest way, "what is the biggest issue you confront as a billionaire businessman?"

He looked at me in the way that businessmen sometimes do to politicians, like "where do I start with this guy?", with this look in his eyes and said, "It's the border, stupid."

He has businesses that cross the border. Maintaining a strong border, defending our border, investing in the capabilities to defend our border, equally to defending our sovereignty.

We have to enhance our border infrastructure. You can't go to Windsor, you can't go to many of our border crossings without being concerned that the border's going to become a choke chain.

We don't want a choke chain.

We're just to be proud of having the longest undefended border in the world. It's become stickier, and stickier and stickier since 9/11. But the thing we have to do is be a competent, capable, credible security partner with the United States while maintaining an absolute control over our sovereignty and our border. That's a very, very difficult trick and important that we have to get right.

But our border is not just on the 49th. We now have an enormous sense of the salience of the arctic frontier. Our arctic border, and the immense importance of protecting and investing in our sovereignty as climate change literally changes the geographical dimensions of our country.

I'm a strong defender of investment in sovereignty and our border. But I'll make another point: we have to invest in international law here. There is a lot that is unclear and obscure in who owns what and who does what there. You can't fix this stuff just with icebreakers and overflights and patrols, although they're enhancements I support. You have to sit down with our partners and work out a stable long-term legal framework for the development of the north for those who live there and for developing those resources. The last thing we want is a sovereignty complex up there.

I want you all to go out and study arctic law, the law of the sea, and who owns the undershelf stuff and all of that. That's a challenge for you. Someone needs to become Canada's expert on arctic international law.

It's crucial to our future as a country. So those are a few thoughts about our security relationship across the border with the United States.

Let me say a little bit about our economic relations.

One of the things that I see happening is that NAFTA has been very good for our country. But I see it creating an Atlantic Canadian economy, a central Canadian economy and a western economy.

One of the questions we've not been asking, I think, as clearly as we should, is whether we're still maintaining a national economy, from coast to coast to coast.

The north-south linkages in our economic system, I think, are now stronger than our east-west ones. When I was in Edmonton recently someone showed me a map of the pipelines and the natural gas pipelines. Much stronger north-south than east-west. No problem with north-south, that's our chief market.

My concern is to strengthen the east-west spine of our country. Energy cooridors. Pipelines. The national economic space is not as unified as it should be. BC and Alberta have set a good model for the rest of the country by sitting down and working to reduce the friction in the labour markets between Alberta and British Columbia. This is good.

We need federal leadership to strengthen the ties that bind. What's what the federal government of Canada for? It's to maintain common economic space and common citizenship.

The north-south pull fostered by the post-NAFTA world is great, provided that we don't splinter and fragment into increasingly separate economic spaces. That, it seems to me, to be the challenge that is at the center of Canadian economic policy.

It's also one of the biggest puzzles in our relationship with the Americans. I'm not an economist. What is the nature of the linkage between our economy and theirs?

In the old days we used to say "they get a cold, we get pneumonia." Right now, they've got a cold. They've got a nice, big bronchial infection right now. And nobody rejoices over their unhappiness, least of all me. One of the themes of our economy, we're unclear about that. We need to have much better economic analysis right now, but all I know that we can do is keep our fiscal fundamentals sound.

Sound fiscal discipline. No deficits. Management of our economy. Those fundamentals are thing we can do do maintain our economic sovereignty.

But the other thing we have to do in this context is understand the tremendous importance of investing in you. The future of our country is in this room. We have to bet the store in investing in training in education in science and technology. If we continue to be an economy based on hewers of wood and drawers of water, exporters of untreated natural resources, increasingly integrated into the American economy, I don't like what I see for you in 25-30 years, because I don't think our economy the gets the value out of the high-end of the economy. We get the untreated, raw end of the economy, not the high-value end.

So invest, invest, invest and invest in what? Invest in

The other thing I feel very strongly about and I know we've been saying it for 30 years: diversify, diversify, diversify. 86% of our economy is integrated with the Americans. That's a good thing. It's natural. It's the market, it's close. We're the largest investor in the United States by a considerable margin.

But I would hope in the next generation, it's China, it's India. We start putting our eggs in a bunch of baskets. My instinct tells me that builds a stronger and safer economic foundation for your future.

A few thoughts there about our economy.

A little thought about the role of the military in our foreign policy and international profile:

I've always thought one thought. I remember where I started: Canada matters. Canada has mattered because in the First War, for example, we were in combat three years before the Americans. In the Second War, three years before the Americans. Canadians forget that we have always stood and fought for what we believe even when our neighbour to the south was not there. It's part of our DNA as a people.

Our use of military force is fundamentally different from any other country's. We cannot use military force for aggression, or conquest or occupation. The decision by the Liberal government, and I'm not about to launch into partisanship here, to keep us out of Iraq was the right decision for Canada. One of the reasons it was the right decision for Canada is that use of military force did not have UN Security Council authorization.

So, in general, I think that we have to maintain a military capability. It's not to use for aggression, conquest or occupation, but is to use with the authorization of the United Nations wherever possible, and then is used to protect human beings.

Anne [McLelland] very kindly referred to the fact that I was part of the commission that drafted the doctrine of Responsibility to Protect. That doctrine says that when people in country A are being chopped into small pieces or driven from their homes en masse, or if a genocidal massacre and ethnic cleansing are occuring in another country, and that state is either unable or unwilling to stop it, other states have an obligation under the UN Charter to do what they can to stop it.

That doctrine is, in my view, a core Canadian value and interest. It's a value because human right is indivisible. My right is not worth any more than Ali Johnston's.

Human indivisibility is the driving force of the sense of international obligation and international citizenship. But it can't just be talk. Responsibility to protect moves us from talk about human indivisibility to the protection of human indivisibility, which that seems to me in turn requires from Canada a military capability.

One of the things I have learned in 15 years out there in the killing fields of Africa and the Balkans, is that you can't protect human beings with blue berets and a sidearm. I'm fiercely proud of our peacekeeping tradition. Where peacekeeping of the traditional Pearsonian sort can be practiced we must practice it. But in a lot of cases now, in situations where you want to protect human beings, you want to prevent them from being ethnically cleansed or massacred because of their race, religion or ethnicity, you've got to have bulked up capabilities. You gotta go in there with flak jackets, you've got to have armour, you've gotta protect them.

This is a very tough issue for Canadians, because they feel fiercely attached to that Pearsonian model, with the sidearm and the blue beret.

But don't forget Rwanda. Don't forget what happened to Romeo Dallaire. Don't forget the situation when we had troops watching people being chopped into little pieces. You don't ever want to put a Canadian in that position
ever again.

I feel a fierce conviction that when we make a promise to protect civilians we do it right or we don't go at all.

That has to be the basis on which we act in the international arena. It's just fundamental. I work with Romeo every day and I just don't like to see what that experience did to a proud Canadian soldier.

So we have to pledge ourselves: do it right or don't do it at all.

We can't do it everywhere. We have limited capabilities. This is not a charter to intervene in every place. But when it's really bad, when it really offends the conscience, Canada matters.

And Canada can only matter if we have a capability -- a military capability -- appropriate to that role. And that comes down to decisions that we as Canadians have to have the guts to make. Which is, we have to pay for it.

Everybody wants to spend it on your education or on hospitals or on schools much more than they want to spend it on the military and I fully understand that, and even respect it.

But if we believe in human indivisiility, we have to stump up. That's how I see this issue.

We've got difficult issues in Afghanistan right now. I don't want to be drawn into the whole debate, but understand what I believe, and I think what most Canadians believe.

Canadians are intensely troubled by this mission. Are we making progress? Are we really helping? Is our security better now than it was when we started? Those are real questions, and I don't have some heartening, tub-thumping, bang-the-table kind of answer. I'm not going to spin you. It's tough. It's difficult. The Manley report is to be praised simply because it says how difficult it is.

It's saying, we could lose. We could lose.

We don't know what success looks like in Afghanistan but we sure know what failure looks like. The Taliban take over, civil war restarts. The girls who are going to school don't go to school. The women who get health care as they deliver their children don't get health care. We slide back. I speak with feeling on this matter because I happened to be in Kabul in September 1997 when the Taliban took the city. I've spoken with the Taliban, I've worked with the Taliban, I've talked with the Taliban, and I know what they think about women.

This isn't propaganda.

Victory is not clear. But losing this is pretty clear to me, and I don't think we want to lose.

What Canada should do here is an urgent matter of Parliamentary debate. Canadians need to think. As a politician, I sit and listen to Canadians all day on this issue. They are troubled, not sure that we are making progress, but they are fiercely proud of the men and women -- it's a fact, it's a political fact. You may be against the mission, you may be for the mission, I respect both opinions -- but there isn't a Canadian who isn't proud of what we're trying to do. That's a political fact. There are very few Canadians who don't think Canada should persevere in Afghanistan in some form.

Because the thing about international engagement, like domestic engagement, with any issue is that it amounts to a bunch of promises to particular people. We have made promises to the Afghans. Canada has to decide what those promises are worth. What solidarity with Afghan men and women means to us. That's the issue. That's the difficult moral issue. And what form should that solidarity take? The Parliament of Canada is debating that issue right now.

I hope we will come to the right decision. I hope we won't polarize this on political lines. I hope we will do the nation's business. I hope we will serve your interests.

Let me talk a little bit more about a couple of other issues. I've talked about security, I've talked about the economy, I've talked about the military side of our international presence. Let me talk a little bit about the diplomatic and the international assistance side.

One of the other things that is fundamental to Canadian foreign policy and has been since my father worked for Mr Pearson. It goes back a long time. Canada likes to join any club that is going. And we're great members of every club we join: the UN, NATO, the Law of the Sea Conference, you name it. And we do that because it's in our interest.

We're a medium power. How do medium powers expand their influence? They get into the key clubs, and they run the club. That's how we do it.

We don't like to talk about Canada's power but we have power through our participation in multilateral institutions. One of the things we must not do is wait for the United States to build the multilateral world we want.

One of the things we got right in the 1990s is that we didn't sit there waiting for the great powers to act. On landmines, we acted. On supporting the International Criminal Court, we were a key player. On Responsibility to Protect we didn't sit there waiting, we took leadership. We pushed that doctrine in international bodies.

We've got an issue coming up on cluster munitions. It's a terrible, terrible weapon. Because when it's out there, you fire cluster munitions, they have a military purpose, but when they're left around, all they do is kill little kids. When they're left around a battlefield, you can tell cluster munitions have been used by the number of amputations you see in hospitals and most of it is some poor kid kicking a soccer ball around and blowing his leg off.

So we don't like cluster munitions. That's a place where Canada can say "let's work to get the scourge of cluster munitions out of the international system." It'll be difficult. It'll be hard. You can only do it multilaterally, but we can do it.

We mustn't hesitate in the international scene to use our leverage. We're in Afghanistan. 78 of our brave men and women have died. It entitles us to go to the Pakistani government and say "turn off the water for the Taliban. Stop this stuff".

Canada is unaccustomed to banging the table. It's unaccustomed to using leverage. But we have to use leverage. We have to be much tougher in the international arena. We need to get NATO to go talk to Musharrif and say "your security apparatus has enduring ties to the Taliban. Let's work together. It's not in your interest, it's not in our interest for those links to continue. How can we work together to ensure that the Taliban don't basically have a secure base in Pakistan?".

Because if we don't get that under control then I don't know quite how we get the Taliban insurgency under control and I really don't see how the Afghan government makes progress toward peace and stability.

Let me say a few other things about international assistance. This will be controversial and difficult, but I don't think CIDA is working the way it should. Too many people in Ottawa, not enough people in the field. Too bureaucratic, too bulked up.

What are the better models? It's another question for you to ask. Jeffrey Simpson had a good column in the
Globe and Mail today saying we're too parochial. Canada's got to look up over the parapet of political debate and say, "okay, what country in the world does international assistance right? Is it Denmark? Is it Great Britain?" Because we sure aren't doing a terrific job.

How do we learn from other than countries that get it right? Find a model that works, then let's do it.

My sense is that we have to focus. We're still offering assistance to China and India. That doesn't make any sense to me.

Let's focus on the poorest countries, the most desperate countries. Let's adopt a country, let's have Canada say, next five years, it's Mozambique. Everything we do, every high school visit, every university exchange, every university connection, it is with Mozambique. Every bit of aid we do is to Mozambique. That would be a way to focus. Why Mozambique? Because it's a good country. We can get some return. We can get a partnership going that they'll never forget and we'll never forget.

So focus, focus, focus. Find models that work.

And be tough enough to say CIDA isn't doing its job.

Another think I think we need to do in our international presence is understand why Canada matters to the world. I've always believed that the kinds of things we're good at are absolutely crucial to peace and stability in the world.

We're a bilingual country. It's incredibly important that we help other countries divided by linguistic tensions to figure out how to do that. The world needs that specific expertise.

We're relatively well governed.

We've got things to teach the world about governance. About good governance. Sometimes I would hesitate to export Canadian federalism to my worst enemy. But I also think that Canadian federalism is a model to many countries to accomodate regional, linguistic, social and national difference.

The key problem in the 20th century is not climate change. It's providing political systems with the legitimacy capable of meeting the challenge of climate change, and poverty, and everything else.

The challenge of the 21st century is political stability. Making sure that countries are well enough governed that they don't blow themselves up. If they can maintain political legitimacy and stability they can do anything, and this is where Canada, I think, can help.

One of the things where I think government is behind the Canadian public, and I see it in a room like this, is you are the most international generation in human history. Many of you come from 190 countries. In this room there might be 30 or 40 languages that you speak.

Canada has never really seized the opportunity to represent a multicultural society. We have this untold wealth and strength of expertise on other countries. Our foreign service doesn't fully reflect that diversity. Our political system doesn't fully reflect that diversity. Our board rooms, the exporters, don't fully use that quality that we have.

That is an extraordinarily valuable asset. For those Canadians who don't have that automatic internationalism created by their origins, I can't see why the federal government, working with the provinces, exempting the fact that education is a provincial jurisdiction, why we can't make a year overseas a standard feature of every single Canadian's education.

Many of you are already doing that, but can't we do more of it? It's the best way for Canada to make friends. It's the best for Canada to get smart. It's the best way for Canada to pass on the values that make us the exceptional country we are.

Ignatieff's speech was followed by a 40-minute question and answer period, which will be transcribed here tomorrow.

In the meantime, here is Mr Ignatieff's speech for all Canadians to consider and enjoy. Far from the cariacture that predominates among Canadians on either side of the political spectrum, Ignatieff's vision for Canada is valuable and respectable, even if not quite perfected.

More tomorrow. Stay tuned.

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