The essay calls into question the Post’s long-time promotion of free markets and open trade. Over the next few weeks, articles in the paper will “ask tough questions about how our desire for more and freer trade must be balanced against our responsibility to always ensure that Canada can look after Canadians.”
Inasmuch as proponents of protectionist initiatives like supply management and Canada's Industrial and Technological Benefits Policy might say ‘I told you so,’ the Post’s position is hardly a turn to the political left.
Looked upon favourably, it is a prudent re-imagination of the national interest. More critically, it is also a surrender to those who seek an end to the liberal democratic world order that has dominated the international system since the end of the Second World War.
That order, anchored by the United Nations and its affiliated organizations and agencies, has been held together by two complementary forces: first, the immunity of the great powers (the United States, the Soviet Union / now Russia, China, the United Kingdom, and France) from its reach; and second, the unspoken commitment of the United States to defend its integrity (presumably on their behalf).
There are plenty of flaws within this framework: for instance, it ignores the wants and needs of the Global South. Nonetheless, the trade-off has meant that in times of existential emergencies, Canada's only critical ally in terms of security, economic prosperity, and just about everything else could be counted on to engage.
The authors at the Post seem to be implying that Washington has abandoned its preserver role for good. All Canada can do now is look out for itself.
Perhaps they’re right. Arguments that the current US administration is less an aberration than representative of an ongoing American withdrawal from global leadership abound.
But it seems to me that it’s too soon to give up.
I can’t disagree with the argument that Ottawa should think seriously about “how much of our safety should be kept in Canadian hands.”
But the best future for Canada still includes renewed American leadership within the liberal democratic system that it did so much to create.
Now is not the time to give up on the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, the World Health Organization, the G20, and the other international institutions that have served Canadian interests so well over the last 75 years.
If we do, they are even more likely to be undermined, if not replaced. And whatever comes next will be far worse than what we have now.
On international organizations, I like the work of David Bosco. You can find some of his writing here. On the future of the Canadian economy, the work of Sean Speer (a Conservative) and Robert Asselin (a Liberal) is getting a lot of good press. You can find some of it here. And if you’re on Twitter and are looking for a combination of thoughtful commentary, wit, and good humour, why not follow @loleen_berdahl, a true role model for Canadian academics.
If you need something longer to read while sheltering from the virus at home, you can find some my books here, here, or here.
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