With the notable and limited exception of the proposed F-35 purchase, the issues of war and peace have been almost entirely absent from the current federal election campaign, even though the country is now involved in two on-going wars.
The major parties have all published election platform documents, however, and these policy statements do occasionally touch on various peace-related issues.
Here is a brief guide to the party platforms on peace-related issues:
OK, they’re on this list for the sake of completeness. But they do have policies that impact on the kinds of issues we’re interested in here, just not in the ways we’d like them to be impacted.
But don’t waste your time with Here For Canada, the Conservatives’ platform document, unless you’d get some kind of perverse enjoyment out of slogging through no fewer than 40 denunciations of the wicked “Ignatieff-led coalition” that thwarted Mr. Harper’s every initiative during the last parliament and has now (31 times) forced an “unnecessary and opportunistic election”. It might be fun if you made a drinking game out of it, I suppose. Give it a rest, Steve-o.
The document also spends a lot of ink lauding past (apparently unthwarted) Conservative achievements. Unfortunately, it says very little about what the Conservatives hope to do in the future. Follow-through on the F-35 purchase, yes, and establish a new “expeditionary air wing” at CFB Bagotville. That’s about it.
For a better guide to the Conservatives’ approach to defence policy, see their 2008 Canada First Defence Strategy.
The Liberal platform document, Your Family. Your Future. Your Canada, was discussed here. A mixed bag at best. Keep recent military spending increases, but “re-evaluate” future ones. Replace the CF-18, maybe with the F-35, maybe not. Develop “a new leadership role for Canada in today’s peace operations” (meaning??). Stay in Afghanistan until 2014, or maybe indefinitely.
New Democratic Party
The NDP document, Giving Your Family a Break, contains only a short section on foreign and defence policy. Key points include promises to bring Canadian troops home from Afghanistan; to draft a new Defence White Paper; to “review” major defence projects, including the F-35; to maintain “current planned levels” of military spending; and to focus Canada’s military on three main priorities:
“defending Canada; providing support for peacemaking, peace-building and peacekeeping around the world; and assisting people facing natural catastrophes, including floods, earthquakes, forest fires and other emergencies, both at home and abroad”.
Like the other parties in the last parliament, the NDP supported Canadian participation in the intervention in Libya, a position that some peaceniks will support and others will oppose.
Key elements of the Green Party platform, Vision Green, include promises to “re-establish Canada among the global leaders in peace-building, peacekeeping, and international diplomacy”; to “re-align” military spending to increase our contributions to disaster assistance and UN peacekeeping and decrease our contributions to “NATO war efforts”; to “oppose the use of the United Nations Responsibility to Protect (R2P) doctrine as a military solution to force aid relief on countries that are rejecting it” (the Greens did come out in support the Libya intervention, however); to “support the transition from a Department of Defence into a Department of Peace and Security”; to “review Canada’s membership in military alliances including NATO and NORAD to ensure they are meeting Canada’s priorities of diplomacy, development and defence”; and to “press urgently for global nuclear disarmament and the conversion of military industries in Canada and worldwide into peaceful and restorative industries”.
A shorter platform document specifies that the Greens would like to see military spending reduced to the “2005 spending ratio” (percentage of government spending?), a cut of about $3 billion per year.
The Bloc’s document, Parlons Qc, has little specific to say on peace-related issues. It advocates a foreign policy that “favours cooperation, peaceful conflict resolution and the protection of civilians” and calls for Canadian troops to be withdrawn from Afghanistan.