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Canada’s election and its meaning for Ukraine

Published 09:56 September 24, 2021

Though it is hard to say, the recent election in Canada was a waste of money. After the expenditure of over $600 million (CDN), the end result was virtually the same as it was when parliament was dissolved.

The Liberal party won most of the seats, but not enough for a majority that would have propelled Trudeau to a further guaranteed five years in power. Over 70% of voters believed the election should not have been called, a belief that remained throughout the election period.

Though statistically the ruling Liberals and the opposition Conservatives remained statistically tied till election day according to the polls, Erin O’Toole, the leader of the opposition Conservatives who was running for the first time as leader, was not able to gain the electorate’s confidence. Though he showed his ability to present a centrist line, an effort that challenged his fealty to uncompromising conservative values within his party, he did escape Justin Trudeau’s attempt to demonize him. He should be better positioned for the next election, though this cannot be said of Trudeau.

The only purpose for Trudeau to call an early election was to take advantage of his public image and to obtain a majority before his photogenic facade began to wilt and the electorate’s patience with him ended as his leadership continued.

Though the election accomplished little in terms of providing a fresh governing mandate, the process did reveal two surprises, the first being a growing division within the electorate; a number of campaign events had to be cancelled because protesters threw gravel at the prime minister. The second being that, usually in Canadian politics when a leader exhibits such political opportunism, both he and his party are electorally punished for their arrogance. Canadians can be a weary lot when politicians take them for granted and they are not above punishing them.

Patience with Trudeau, especially his “style”, is dissipating. That said, there was virtually no mention of foreign policy during the election. The issue of climate change has been strenuously debated in Canada. On another front, the relationship with the United States, which is always at the forefront in Canadian minds, is stable despite the vast disparity between the Trump administration in style and ideological approach. The steadfast nature of the relationship between the two countries remains and good relations are assumed, despite the differing roles that each country plays in the world.

Canada’s commitment to key organizations such as the G7 and NATO remains steadfast and undoubted. However, under Trudeau, Canada’s place and example in the world as a soft power player has diminished. For many, this is very disappointing because Canada is respected and looked upon both as an example of a just and tolerant society and whose values are deemed to be emulated. There is no question that Canada’s largest city, Toronto, is the greatest example of how people of various races, religions, and cultures can live in peace and harmony.

That is why Canada’s reduced place in the mindset of the world is troubling. By not actively “exporting” its experiences and expertise to others, such as institution building, its example of political stability, the sovereignty of law, the commitment to a just and fair society, an example of tolerance and the independence of courts, amongst others, the world is made less safe.

Despite its flaws, Canada’s example and its motto of, “peace, order and good government” are worthy to be emulated. The democratic world is being challenged by authoritarian rulers in Russia and China. But rather than passively accept this challenge, the world’s leading democracies must aggressively take on both Moscow and Beijing in providing a rules-based world order.

This is not just a role to be dominated by the United States. The world’s democracies must not only take note of the deliberate strategic steps that both Russia and China are trying to institute on world institutions, and on those countries attempting to become democratic, but must act pro-actively in advocating for democratic principles and confidently recalibrate both their rhetorical strengths and practical actions in promoting the development of democratic institutions based on the dignity of human individuals.

A democratic rules-based order, accompanied by the expansion of free markets unstained by corruptive influence, are proven ingredients and frameworks for economic expansion. Russian gas transits and loans to fledging and financially starved governments by the Chinese are roads to serfdom.

The relationship between Canada and Ukraine is “special”, and for many Ukrainians, the former is seen as a promised land. In Ukraine, Canada is a place that is normal, law-abiding, peaceful, and a place where those who want can fulfill their economic ambitions for their families.

Throughout Canada, there are many regions where Ukrainians were the first settlers and who worked hard to build farmsteads, to develop communities, and social institutions. Inspired by this historic fact, it’s time that Canada takes on this perspective in regards to Ukraine.

But as Ukraine is attempting to build a rules-based society, Canada has not contributed as much as it is capable of doing in its support of Ukraine’s institution or even nation-building.

In Ukraine, this means that Canada must use its established and credible voice to provide encouragement for a fledgling democratic society in its quest for the establishment and development in the building of strong and stable governing institutions.

Canada has to be more aggressive in influencing the actions of the Ukrainian government towards fulfilling these goals. It must not only encourage these efforts, but must also use its credibility to scold when needed. It must pressure high-level politicians to act towards the furtherance of democratic society building without compromise.

It must not only present suggestions at building rule of law institutions, which it does, but also apply more vociferous criticisms when these efforts move at a snail’s pace. Canada must more actively participate within Ukraine’s body politic.

It must vehemently apply more pressure on Ukraine to transform and not reform its governing institutions. It must provide and demand that leading experts be embedded in ministries to help in their establishment along the lines of democratic principles. It must contribute and provide examples of how to implement “transparency” measures in the daily operations of government. Focusing on e-government.

Ottawa must also send politicians and political experts, in addition to funding political party-building efforts. Ukraine still does not have ideologically-based parties. Ukrainians need expertise as to how to build a culture of democratic, ideologically-based political parties.

Canada must help Ukraine to develop a fair, transparent, and lawful form of political funding of these parties. Canadians have the expertise to help develop this type of political rules making. Such efforts would show the populace that there is an alternative form of practicing politics, but most importantly, that politics need not be corrupt.

Though Ukraine is not Canada, Ukraine is yearning for “peace, order and good government”. If Canada implemented some of these approaches, it would not be considered a form of colonialism, but a goodwill effort by one of its closest friends. And in another way, it would export the best of Canada, reigniting the notion of the efficacy of a “soft power” approach to a fledgling democracy.

Source: New Europe


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