Sand
Imagine standing alone on sinking sand. What a horrible fate that would be. A slow death, one that slowly squeezes the life out of you as you helplessly sink lower and lower, until finally you breathe your last breath.

Day after day, as I read the morning paper it slowly becomes clear to me that we as a country are standing on shifting sand of the worst political kind. Saying one thing and doing another the Conservatives continue to break ground when it comes to a failed approach to foreign policy.

It’s foreign all right – foreign to everyone in desperate need.  We still give multi-laterally, Mr. Harper will say. As though that’s the right answer with regard to long-term sustainable development. About all that will do is secure us a position at the next high level meeting of the IMF or World Bank or the OECD and the opportunity for fiscal conservatives to sleep well. In politics money follows the winners, said the New York Times on November 30th. Still standing in the shadow of JFK’s death we all must believe that there is far more to foreign policy than economic gain and material growth.

The Conservatives want us to believe this is simply just a “shift” in focus. Just a shift or more of a swing to the far right? A shift in focus sounds light and airy. The implications however are of a different matter. It’s like their attempt at “shifting” focus from poverty reduction towards poverty alleviation. It’s a subtle shift in language, but all important. Little things make a big difference. Add an “i” to the word run and you get ruin.

According to the new policy “…all diplomatic efforts of the Government of Canada will be marshalled on behalf of the private sector.” Back in 2011 it was a direct order from the PM to Ed Fast to make trade a dominant focus of foreign policy. I always thought foreign policy had to do with the other, international development and the Majority World. Sounds to me a lot like Friedman’s homage to the almighty dollar when he wrote that the sole responsibility of business had to do with increasing profits for shareholders. Perhaps the Conservatives spent a little too much time hanging out smoking cigars and sipping on imported schnapps with the Chicago five.

I think Mr. Harper should have spent a little more time in Sunday School. Whatever happened to loving your neighbour as yourself? Oh sure the Conservative’s will talk about raising all boats and making them float together and about how the world is flat and about the great opportunities for all buried in globalization.

This is where I turn to Ian Smillie, author of Freedom from Want for some perspective. As he has written, effective sustainable development is about optimism, common sense, and enterprise. It’s an equation that is married with a triple bottom line. People, planet and profit. They are inclusive. They go together. They always have. We just have forgotten that somewhere along the way.

Make the Rich Pay used to be the slogan of the Communist party. I wonder which party might align themselves with the dishonorable tagline, Make the Poor Pay. Market first. Me first. All of our diplomatic efforts are to be “harnessed” to pursue commercial success for Canadian companies and investors. And that will take precedence over the other. It’s an angle that Friedman would support. The bottom line includes us and not the other. They just sink slowly into the quick sand.

Now that’s a shift in focus. It’s also clearly a foundation built on sand.

11-2013