Voters should not ignore foreign policy

With the Federal elections just four days away, it would have been nice to say that the people are champing at the bit to exercise their franchise. Given the low turnouts that became the habit of so many previous elections, it would be a stretch to think that the population is any more engaged than before.

No doubt the COVID pandemic and the sheer effort it takes to make ends meet will account for a certain degree of electoral indifference, but it’s hard to believe that having an election at this time was necessary – the people gave the ruling Liberals a minority government less than two years ago. The reason as one columnist put is that they got greedy.

He pointed out that the Liberal government was doing fine, and voters were satisfied. He added that the last time they could well have lost after the blackface photos, but “they got a strong minority and had no trouble passing their agenda with NDP support.” Yet in the midst of a health scare and the resulting economic stress we have an election. The folk are not enthused.

But like it or not, decisions will be made for you in this election, vote or no vote; so it would be worth the trouble to consider what the parties are offering in their platforms.

On housing affordability the Liberals say they will build 1.4 million homes by 2026; the Conservatives will build 1 million homes in 3 years; NDP: 500,000 affordable units in 10 years; Greens: 350000 houses in 10 years and raise taxes on those who park their money in unused home.

On child care, the Liberals promise $30 billion over 5 years for $10 a day care; Conservative will discard the Liberal plan and  replace it with tax credits of up to 75% for child care expenses tied to income; NDP: same as  Liberals $10 a day care; Greens will increase federal funding and implement a universal child care policy.

On climate: Liberals say they will improve emissions targets to 40% below 2005 levels by 2030 and impose binding caps to decline to “net zero” by 2050; Conservatives: 30% by 2030; NDP: 50% below 2005 levels by 2030; Greens: 60% below 2005 by 2030;

On Indigenous issues: Liberals will speed up the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC) call to action, $75 million to build a permanent for Northern Centre for TRC, fix the water problem in First Nations communities; Conservatives will implement the   action plan on all 94 TRC calls for action and fix the water problem; NDP will implement all 94 TRC calls, implement Human Rights Tribunal rulings on child welfare, end ongoing government, implement calls for justice for murdered Indigenous girls and women, funding for burial sites, end water problems, fully fund search for graves; Greens: implement all 94 TRC calls to action and stop fighting HR Tribunal orders.

There are many more bread and butter promises on the menus on offer and on which the leaders are often questioned, but foreign policy is seldom a topic.

Now, it’s true that local issues are the ones that are of the most interest to voters; and rightly so. But we would be mistaken in the belief that what is happening over there is separate from what happens over here. Right now Canada is in the process of rescuing and settling refugees from the war in Afghanistan. A war in which we were an active participant has now become a financial and social issue in Canada.

The arrest – at the request of the US – of Chinese Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou in Canada resulted in the retaliatory arrest of two Canadians in China. We had hitched our foreign policy wagon to the US thereby damaging our trade relations with China which has in turn damaged our economy.

These are but two examples of how our behaviour abroad affects what happens at home. As proof, all you need to do is to ask workers who are employed in sectors of the economy that depend on trading with China, about job security and their grim job prospects.  As for the Afghan refugees, they will have to be housed, employed and adjust to living among us; some will not adjust very well as will some of us to them. And that will be the beginning of a new “we – they” story.

Yes, foreign policy matters because what happens over there usually finds its way over here.