… but still no foreign policy U-turn
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This report was prepared specially for RI by the George Grant Society (GGS). Named after George P. Grant (1918-88), Canada's finest 20th-century political philosopher, the GGS educates and informs Canadians about the need for economic nationalism, a balanced foreign policy, and the protection of Canadian national sovereignty. The GGS will be contributing quarterly Canada Sitreps to RI.
ELECTION RECAP. Stephen Harper's ramshackle Conservative government is pulverized. Harper was not only a Bible-Belt social/fiscal conservative with ambitions to lastingly cripple the federal government, but also a decorated cheerleader of neocon wars and serial denigrator of Vladimir Putin and of Russia. However, Harper's fall coincides with the implosion of Canadian social democracy: led by a crypto-Thatcherite, the social-democratic NDP made an incomprehensible lurch to the right (in the year of Podemos, Syriza, Sanders, and Corbyn, no less) and were clobbered for it at the polls. This allowed Justin Trudeau's Liberals, a centre-right party masquerading as centre-left (and the architects of one of the most punishing labour "flexibilization" programmes ever adopted by a sovereign nation), to outflank the NDP and sweep into power via an empty-rhetorical posturing of "change."
JUSTIN TRUDEAU. Son of polarizing 1970s prime minister and sex symbol Pierre Elliott Trudeau; heir to a gas fortune that dates back two generations; "believes in creating equal opportunity for all." Widely seen as an intellectual lightweight relative to the elder Trudeau, who stands enshrined in the Canadian political canon as the "father of modern Canada" (but whose Catholic-traditionalist and Vichy-sympathizing youth is a profound embarrassment to the liberal intelligentsia). Likely destined to perpetuate the status quo, but captivates the imagination of a Harper-fatigued nation with hacky sound bites, moist-eyed apologies (for Canada's very real misdeeds), and goodies for the yuppie leftist.
SYRIA. Grotesque photo-ops of Trudeau, sleeves rolled up like an ersatz Bernard Kouchner, welcoming Syrian refugees. Meanwhile, his "badass" defence minister parrots the neocon mantra that "Assad must go," effectively championing the destruction of Syria's state institutions and guaranteeing more death, destruction, and refugees. Risum teneatis, amici?
WOULD-BE VICTORIA NULAND SNUBBED. Chrystia Freeland, journalist-turned-rising-star in the Liberal Party whose writing on Ukraine is a toxic mix of ludicrous Maidan mythologizing and paranoia about marauding "polite men," is effectively sidelined from the cabinet. Freeland's appointment to Foreign Affairs, in particular, would have dealt a further blow to Russia-Canada relations (the dovish Stephane Dion leads this ministry instead, while Freeland has been safely tucked away in its junior International Trade portfolio, where she'll be too busy trying to whitewash the unpopular TPP and rubbing elbows with Davos oligarchs to do much harm).
AIRSTRIKE AMBIGUITY. Trudeau vows to withdraw Canadian aircraft from combat missions over Syraq; a "ramp-up" of airstrikes is observed instead. Canadian CF-18s dropped 524 bombs on ISIS targets in 1,264 sorties in 2015, but conducted less than 2% of all strikes in Syria.
GOODBYE, "GOODBYE LENIN." After much sound and fury, the notorious "Memorial to the Victims of Communism" -- ostensibly a non-partisan tribute to Canada as "land of refuge"; in reality, a thinly-veiled anti-Russia jerk-off -- is no more. "Too political, too divisive and ultimately far from its goal of remembering the horror of victims of communism" is the official line. (The Estonian lobby's panicky drivel about needing a monument to guard against "Soviet-inspired military aggression, eradication and criminalization of factual history in Russia" was too little and too late – of course, it would take a special zeal to match Estonia's talent for "anti-Communist" memorializing.) Vindication for the marginal Communist Party of Canada, but also for both major opposition parties, the city, the local MP, the federal agency responsible for the capital, and even the Conservative rank-and-file itself. Dismay from the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, which absurdly tries to spin this embarrassing defeat as some kind of accomplishment (before lapsing into nutty sermonizing about mustachioed dictators). "A blight" to the Supreme Court precinct is avoided, and federal funding for the memorial is slashed to $1.5 million (from $5 million pledged by Harper). The shady outfit behind the project – a gaggle of Harper cronies and ex-Soviet-Bloc Russophobes, with a few token Vietnamese and Cuban exiles for decor – is failing miserably in its fundraising efforts. If even a face-saving pygmy memorial is to be erected somewhere else, the collection plates will have to circle through Uniate churches a few more times.
SAUDI VALUES®. Undeterred by the latest head-choppings, Canada will supply the repressive Saudi security apparatus with LAVs in an arms deal worth $15 billion. (May they burn brightly when showered with insurgent Molotov cocktails.) Trudeau pretends to believe these are non-lethal "jeeps"; no one's buying. Former FM defends the deal on the grounds that Canada and Saudi Arabia "share many different values" (hereditary servility to the United States?) Ottawa won't reveal its human rights assessment of Saudi Arabia, required under federal arms exports controls. While analysts everywhere predict the rise of Iran, Trudeau is advised to tie Canada's trim, seaworthy frigate to the worm-eaten Saudi galleon.
ECONOMY. A gas-station masquerading as a country. The ailing petro-loonie reaches historic lows and may plunge even further, forcing Canadian universities to cut thousands of journal subscriptions. Business as usual for Harper-appointed oil lobbyists.
ELECTORAL REFORM. Canadian democracy is broken, but Trudeau's electoral reform promise is exposed as a sham: in place of the much-demanded proportional representation, the Liberals favour a scheme that will further entrench the large, established parties.
BANDERA LOBBY. The Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC) continues to bloviate about a "Revolution of Dignity" ceaselessly aggressed by "Russian-terrorist forces," but one year after Minsk II and two years after Crimea, its credibility is waning, not waxing. The UCC emerged in the 1940s as a state-approved Galician-nationalist organization at a time when the Ukrainian community was notoriously left-leaning and progressive—having supplied the organizing thrust and backbone for Canada's most iconic labour uprising, as well as sending the nation's largest contingent of volunteers to the International Brigades. The UCC, in fact, owes its entire existence to the annihilation of progressive Ukrainian-Canadian organizations during the anti-Communist witch-hunts of the 40s, and is thus the direct beneficiary of brutal state persecution (confiscation of assets, arbitrary detentions, revocation of citizenship, etc.) more characteristic of the authoritarian regimes it professes to despise. When not spearheading the rehabilitation of the Galician Waffen SS Division, the UCC is busy protesting the amount of exhibit space devoted to the Holocaust in Canada's human rights museum. Despite these ideological blemishes, the UCC remains virtually the most powerful ethno-cultural lobby in the Canadian political landscape. Eroding its influence over Canadian policy is one of the most urgent tasks for any Russian-Canadian rapprochement; the emergence of a Russian Congress of Canada is one step in this direction.
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