In first major foreign policy speech, Scheer takes aim at ‘disastrous’ Trudeau

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In first major foreign policy speech, Scheer takes aim at ‘disastrous’ Trudeau

by - 4 min read

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Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer delivered a hard-hitting speech Tuesday that sought to outline his foreign policy priorities while laying Canada’s perceived failures on the file squarely at the prime minister’s feet.

Scheer said Justin Trudeau has demonstrated “a fundamental unseriousness and misunderstanding” of global issues during his time in power. He also attacked the government’s “Canada is back” sloganeering as meaningless.

“Being a good ally and contributor on the world stage requires more than just talk. Both our allies and adversaries respect strength and confidence. The current government demonstrates neither,” Scheer said during a luncheon address to the Le Conseil des relations internationales de Montréal.

“We have seen serious mistakes like this over and over again from this government, and they are almost always attributable to Mr. Trudeau’s thirst for the limelight.”

The speech repeated many of the attack lines the Conservative Party has directed against Trudeau and the governing Liberals in question period in recent months, while adding some new details (with few specifics) about what a Tory government would do differently.

Scheer cited the prime minister’s Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiating tactics, his much-maligned trip to India — “the most disastrous foreign trip by any Canadian prime minister ever,” Scheer said — and mounting tensions with China as evidence that the federal Liberal government has conducted foreign affairs with a focus on “style over substance and ego over achievements.”

In the 21st century, some politicians want Canada to be the referee. I want Canada to be on the starting line.– Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer

Scheer said Canada should take on a more active role in some of the world’s diplomatic hotspots by standing closer to Israel — he reiterated his support for U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as that country’s capital — and advocating for greater freedom for the Iranian people. He also said Canada should treat China more as an economic partner than a strategic ally.

‘Total reset’ on China

“In the 21st century, some politicians want Canada to be the referee,” Scheer said. “I want Canada to be on the starting line.”

To that end, Scheer branded China — not Russia — as the world’s “strongest propagator of authoritarian values,” while citing the Asian country’s posturing in the Arctic as a threat to Canada’s national security.

“I will deal with China with eyes wide open. I will look for ways to strengthen our relationship and open new markets, but with the understanding that at this critical juncture we need to show strength and resolve above all else,” he said.

“If this government isn’t willing to stand up to China when two Canadians are unlawfully imprisoned and billions of dollars in trade is under attack, it never will. My goal is better relations. My goal is more economic opportunity. But that can only come after we make a stand. And I will.”

While strong in tone, Scheer’s speech mentioned only three potential policy options to pursue as he looks to challenge China: ending a funding agreement with the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank that bankrolls projects in the Asia-Pacific region; launching a formal complaint at the World Trade Organization against China over its blockade of Canadian canola products; and placing more restraints on investments by Chinese state-owned enterprises.

He said Canada has known that China is a bad actor for years, but has too eagerly pursued partnerships with the economic powerhouse without expecting meaningful trade-offs on issues that matter most to Canada, such as the protection of human rights and free and fairer trade.

“We looked the other way as the allure of China’s market was too powerful to ignore. However, so long as China is willing to hold our exports hostage, all while committing human rights violations, we have no choice as Canadians but to consider other trade partners,” he said.

“At any rate, Canada’s relationship with China needs a total reset. Nothing can happen until such time.”

Against the threat of further incursions into the Arctic by China and Russia, Scheer said a Tory government under his leadership would upgrade the Royal Canadian Navy’s submarine capability to better protect our national waters.

“Above all, we must establish, without a doubt, everywhere in the world, that our sovereignty over the North is non-negotiable. The Arctic does not only belong to us. It is us,” he said.

On Israel and Iran, Scheer said Canada has distanced itself from its greatest partner, the United States.

“The Canada-United States relationship transcends the personalities of those who occupy each respective office. And its longevity is crucial to our respective peace and prosperity. It must be strengthened,” he said, vowing to start talks with the U.S. to join the ballistic missile defence program and modernize the NORAD alliance.

Scheer accused the Liberal government of abandoning “Canada’s principled support” for Israel when it abstained on a vote at the United Nations that condemned the United States for recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and by sending Canadian funds to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, or UNRWA, a group he called “highly flawed.”

A Palestinian women walks with her children near an entrance of the UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency) health center in the Shuafat refugee camp in East Jerusalem October 10, 2018. (Ammar Awad/Reuters)

As the U.S. takes a harder line against Iran by tightening sanctions that have severely damaged that country’s economy, Scheer said Canada too must “do all we can to ensure that the people of Iran enjoy the freedoms that we enjoy.”

He criticized Canada for repealing its sanctions against the country as part of a peace deal brokered by the administration of former U.S. president Barack Obama.

“I will immediately act to list Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist entity, as well as make full use of the Magnitsky Law to punish Iran’s worst human rights offenders,” Scheer said.

While critical of the Liberal government’s successful re-negotiation of NAFTA — he said Canada was forced to accept a “worse deal” because Trudeau was too focused on “photo-ops, sound bites and orchestrated media leaks” — he did not suggest in the speech what exactly the Conservatives would do to change the terms of the trilateral trade deal.

This story originally appeared on CBC

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