The Conservative's planned strategy for economic diplomacy called the Global Markets Action Plan states "All diplomatic assets of the Government of Canada will be marshalled on behalf of the private sector."Â
Job-one for Canada's foreign diplomats is to "open doors, generate leads and to solve problems," for Canadians companies.
The narrative in Canada's diplomacy, Pearsonian foreign policy that was based on the notion that rising tides lifts all boats: that multi-lateralism and building international order and development would help both global growth and Canada's economy, is out.
Harper's foreign policy is now explicitly based on lifting Canada's boat first and foremost.
There is of course some undeniable virtue in recognizing where Canada's economic interest lies. Canada's political interests, broadly speaking travel with our economic interests; but what of global citizenship?
The plan was stiffly resisted by many senior officials within the Department of Foreign Affairs. The flaw lies in the assertion that all Canada's foreign policy tools will be used to make deals for the private sector.
A literal reading of the report suggests a subjugation of other international interests. Former prime minister Joe Clark asked "does that mean we don't do peace and security any more, or are we just in it for what we can get?"
International Trade Minister Mr. Fast quipped to the press that may foreshadow what's to come, "The message to Canadians diplomats is take off your tweed jackets and buy a business suit and land us deals."
The reality is Canadian diplomats have for years under heavy pressure from the Harper government have been focusing on business and trade. Now it's official Conservative policy.
Canadian mining companies are large investors in autocratic African countries such as Eritrea, Mauritania and Zimbabwe.
Canadian diplomats now are required to support these mining projects above all else. Canadians are right to ask will Ottawa be propping up authoritarian regimes for the sake of private profits. Will Canadian citizens suffer future blowback?
In Madagascar, for example where Canadian diplomats biggest priority has been to protect a mammoth $5.5 billion nickel-cobalt mine, 40 per cent owned by Sherritt International of Toronto.
Diplomats from other countries have been fighting to help restore democracy in that country, while Canadian diplomats since the coup in 2009 have spent most of their time lobbying the new government making sure Sherritt secures an operating licence.
Reporter Mark MacKinnon recalled on Harper's first trip to Asia in 2006, the prime minister was refused a meeting with China's President Hu Jintao because Harper would not only talk trade and avoid human rights. Harper's retorted to Canadians reporters at the time, "Our foreign policy wouldn't sell out to the almighty dollar."
But it looks like the Conservatives have sold out. Many Canadians are more circumspect about our approach to the world.
There are different ways we can achieve economic growth without abandoning the good work Canada does around the world promoting peace and security as well as helping the needy.
Still others may view this new diplomatic strategy and ask if private business gets preferential use of Canadian foreign diplomatic assets to further private interests that do little to provide jobs for Canadians here at home.
Will the Harper Conservatives raise the tax rate on these companies to compensate Canadians for what is a direct business subsidy?
Jon Peter Christoff,