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Opinion: It’s time for Canada to radically rethink its role in the world

Commentary

As the United Nations General Assembly convened this fall, it yet again was a stark reminder of the challenges that multilateral institutions face—and further motivation for Canada to reshape its role in the world.

The UN, which was founded with high hopes of driving global peace and cooperation, has often been hampered by its very structure. Authoritarian adversaries, notably China and Russia, exploit their significant roles on the UN Security Council to often subvert the very fundamentals of international order. 

The recent hostilities in Gaza are another example of the failure of the UN system. Not only have the terror attacks against Israel by Hamas shown the UN to be largely irrelevant, but it may just have solidified the end of “naïve globalism.” We can no longer assume that the political differences within these multilateral systems are negligible. 

The geopolitical landscape has undeniably transformed in the past decade. There’s mounting tension between the West and its key Asian allies and an emerging authoritarian axis comprising China, Russia, and Iran. Add the rise of the Global South—powerhouses like India and Brazil attempting to tread the middle ground—and the result is multilateral organizations that often remain ineffective in addressing global challenges.

For Canada, this presents a dilemma. While our nation has always been an advocate of multilateralism, these platforms no longer consistently advance our interests or reflect our values. Neither do they serve the needs of the most vulnerable in the world. 

An emerging trend is the rise of issue-based groupings of like-minded states. Minilateral arrangements such as the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue and AUKUS are the hallmarks of the current geopolitical era. This “minilateralism” isn’t about sidelining multilateralism but reshaping it. It’s about banding together with aligned interests to make significant strides where larger platforms have stumbled. 

Canada needs to pivot its approach. While there’s pride in our traditional image of being a cooperative country, the reality is that trying to be everywhere often means being nowhere. Neither our allies nor our foes are buying what we’ve got to sell, and by all accounts we currently don’t seem to have much to offer.  

With limited resources, we must take a discerning stance on where to invest Canada’s energies and make sure that the intended results are achieved. We owe this to Canadians and to the rest of the world, especially the most vulnerable in the Global South. 

Multilateralism for its own sake shouldn’t be our North Star. The desire to merely be seen, to uphold the status quo, and the fetishization of dialogue, needs a re-evaluation. Our guiding light must be advancing Canadian interests in concert with addressing global issues. 

In the quest for a refreshed approach, the role of civil society organizations can’t be underestimated. Beyond a government-led agenda, our global engagements should tap into the expertise of civil societies, faith-based organizations, diaspora communities, and the private sector. Their grassroots connections, especially with countries of the Global South, can pave the way for more fruitful partnerships and a more holistic global view.

But the onus isn’t just on policy changes—it’s also about making the case for a new approach to the Canadian people. Gone should be the days of obscure bureaucrat-speak and empty platitudes. 

Policymakers owe it to Canadians to articulate a compelling case for renewed and focused global cooperation. This includes a frank assessment of which groupings no longer serve our strategic interest, or whose evolution has outgrown Canadian participation.  

Additionally, duplicate mandates with global institutions need to end. Most Canadians would agree that we no longer need to be a member of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, where Canadian capital is going to support oil and gas investment in Turkey and Russia. Nor should we remain in the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank a.k.a. the Chinese bank for global influence.

As the UN once again shows itself to be irrelevant on things that matter, it should be a reflective moment for Canada. It’s time to transition from a passive adherence to age-old habits to a clear-eyed, purposeful strategy for global cooperation. 

It’s not about discarding our history but enhancing it, carving a path that prioritizes our nation’s interests while collaboratively addressing the world’s shared challenges. It’s time for Canadian global cooperation that is fit for purpose; it’s time for intention over convention.

‘Everyone, including governments, must live within their means’: The best comments from Hub readers this week

Commentary

This week, the Hub Forum had great discussions about immigration, housing affordability, the cultural importance of hockey, and how the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission could kill Netflix in Canada in an attempt to “modernize” broadcasting.

The goal of Hub Forum is to bring the impressive knowledge and experience of The Hub community to the fore and to foster open dialogue and the competition of differing ideas in a respectful and productive manner. Here are some of the most interesting comments from this past week.

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Canadians are turning against immigration. Labour economist Mikal Skuterud on how to reform the system and reverse this trend

Monday, November 13, 2023

“Politicians need to show leadership and end this. They need to give up ideology for good policy which will change the country for the better. They need to be able to pivot when it is demanded.”

A. Chezzi

“Historically, immigrants have been willing to do work that many (most?) Canadians are unwilling to do, and still are. Where else can we find well-trained doctors from other countries willing to drive taxis here because our system is far too stupid to recognize credentials in this and other sectors desperately short of professionals?”

James

“First it was Catholics, then Eastern and Southern Europeans. Then Asians and non-Christians. Each set of immigrants was made out to be the death of this country with their foreign ways and strange cultural practices. But yet somehow this country managed to grow and thrive. We are in the midst of another growth spurt and are experiencing all the growing pains that go with it.

Many people don’t want to acknowledge what has been mentioned in another post here. We are an aging society and we are not having enough children to replace our population so we need new, young people to move here. And Canada has tough immigration policies.”

Michael F.

Doug Ford is blowing it on housing

Tuesday, November 14, 2023

“We need immigration to maintain our economy.

The broad question is how much immigration is optimal and how can the infrastructure and society itself by prepared for the planned levels. Housing is a clear example of the supply not being aligned with the demand. Coordination of three levels of government that have distinct powers over different aspects of the many factors and short-term political incentives make this a very difficult problem to pin down, let alone solve.

Premier Ford seems to be the epitome of a short-term political reactionary. As a leader, doing the correct thing can be hard in the face of public, or lobbyist/friend, pressure, especially if the benefits are not felt/recognized until after the next election.

Housing is a prime example of government coordination failure. It could be the example, hopefully a shining one, of determined and effective government collaboration (even if only two of the three levels) in addressing a significant and acute problem despite the citizen NIMBYism.”

Rob Tyrrell

“Anything that helps streamline the planning and approval process for new housing would be a step in the right direction. As long as city planners are rewarded for their caution and delay, we will be playing catch-up with immigration for years, if not decades. If all levels of government truly wanted to ‘solve’ this, they could. This is one issue we already know how to fix.”

Tom

Fewer kids than ever are playing hockey. What does this mean for Canada’s national identity?

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

“Gone are the days, when I was a kid, that we had lots of local outdoor rinks, and lots of pickup games, which allowed a lot of kids to easily access the game. Add to that, in today’s economy, with high inflation, too many families are struggling just to pay for housing, food, gas, heating, etc., and hockey becomes a luxury they cannot afford. With respect to immigrants, and other nonwhite communities, with all due respect, in most cases, I would suggest that they, and their parents, just weren’t brought up playing hockey. Some want to assimilate into the Canadian way of life and get their kids involved in ‘Canadian’ sports, but many just have no interest, and are not going to be attracted to a sport that is expensive to get into and outside their culture.”

Dave Collins

“Cost is definitely an issue and I see it around the area I live in—some cities subsidize recreational sports by providing cheap/at-cost access to facilities like arenas, courts, fields, pools, etc., and participation is booming because a whole season costs a couple hundred dollars. But there’s also a cumulative effect, the kids who grew up here playing hockey/swimming/etc. are raising their kids here now and volunteering to keep the tradition going (and some have impressive pedigrees that got their start from within the community).

New communities need to be built around community facilities—parks, pools, fields, courts, arenas, etc. all need to be part of the plan.”

Toby Hemingway

“I would concur with the costs being prohibitive. House league can be reasonable if you buy used equipment or exchange as your kid grows, but once they show any aptitude for the sport, they will be pushed or drawn into trying out for select teams and then rep teams. Once you hit that rep level you are into thousands and thousands of dollars per kid. My wife and I routinely ask each other ‘How do some families afford this?'”

Maclean Graydon

Canada has a serious fiscal challenge looming as the federal debt explodes

Thursday, November 16, 2023

“I like the comparison to 1995 having lived through that time. It is also good to understand that serial deficit spending is a global issue. For those aiming to replace the current very tired government I would suggest the following slogan ‘Spend wisely, Save more.’”

Doug Lee

“Canada cannot solve our deficit problem by taxing a lot more without damaging our economic competitiveness. At the end of the day everyone, including governments, must live within their means.”

GH

How the CRTC could kill Netflix in Canada—All in the name of ‘modernizing’ broadcasting

Friday, November 17, 2023

“The government should stop interfering with broadcasting, stop protecting media companies at the cost of the public wants/needs, and focus on issues that the people of Canada actually want their help with, like housing and affordability.”

Michelle Webber