Thank you for your invitation and for this opportunity to address this prestigious forum.
For almost 35 years, the Montreal Council for International Relations has been helping to showcase the unique character of this world-class city and our great nation all over the world.
For those of us interested in the great movements that have shaped our world over the course of history, it is an invaluable source of information, conversation, reflection, and analysis.
Again, my warmest thanks to the organizers for providing me with the opportunity to articulate the foreign policy that will guide the party and the country I lead in the coming years.
Ladies and gentlemen,
In a relatively short period of time, the world has become a very different place.
Shortly after Justin Trudeau became Prime Minister in 2015, he proclaimed quote, “Canada is back.” This was widely and rightly criticized at the time. Our Armed Forces had just spent a decade in Afghanistan and we were – at the moment he spoke those words – fighting against genocidal terrorists in Iraq and Syria.
Canada had carved out a reputation as a principled and consistent defender of humanity, boldly confronting injustice and tyranny – and promoting human rights, democracy, freedom, and the rule of law.
Canada had, in fact, not gone anywhere.
And the profound arrogance of Mr. Trudeau’s words foreshadowed how the new Prime Minister would conduct Canada’s foreign affairs: with style over substance.
And they demonstrated a fundamental unseriousness and misunderstanding of the importance of the office he had reached.
Being a good ally and contributor on the world stage requires more than just talk. Both our allies and adversaries respect strength and confidence.
We have seen serious mistakes over and over again from this government, and they are almost always attributable to Mr. Trudeau’s poor judgement.
During the negotiations on the Trans Pacific Partnership, he was a complete no-show for a very important meeting. Observers said at the time that “The Japanese were seething… about what they perceived as a last-minute betrayal by Prime Minister Trudeau.”
But that was just the preliminary event to what is now known as the most disastrous foreign trip by any Canadian Prime Minister.
We all know the details of his trip to India, so I will not go into them here, but what’s perhaps less known is just how seriously it hurt Canadians. Bilateral trade with India totals about $9 billion annually and Trudeau’s India trip seriously set us back in terms of helping Canadians benefit from increased trade.
As former Liberal cabinet minister Ujjal Dosanjh stated: “It’s disappointing that the Canada-India relationship could have gone to the next level, but we’ve bungled it.”
More recently, we have witnessed total disarray in how this government has handled China’s completely unwarranted and arbitrary detention of two Canadians, and China’s totally unjustified trade actions directed against Canadian farmers.
As a candidate, Justin Trudeau declared his “admiration” for “China’s basic dictatorship.” With that, he set Canada on a course away from our traditional, democratic allies, with the naïve hope that a communist country with incompatible values would suddenly become a close ally. It has not worked.
He continues to foolishly appease China and ignore the threat it poses to Canadian security.
Today, Canada has no ambassador in Beijing – after the previous ambassador, a partisan Liberal appointee – had to be fired for gross misconduct. And the government still has no plan to bring these Canadians home or otherwise stand up to China’s bully tactics.
And closer to home, Canadians had to accept a worse deal on NAFTA after this government’s negotiating team turned critical trade negotiations into a parade of photo-ops, sound bites, and in some cases, orchestrated media leaks.
For him, all the world’s a stage, and the rest of us are merely players in his act.
Mr. Trudeau’s approach to both the United States and China is perfectly symbolic of the government’s entire foreign policy. It is one of symbolism rather than substance.
It is not about standing up for Canadian interests or values. It is about using foreign policy as a personal prop, without actually delivering results. Canada, and Canadians, are suffering as a result. Canadians are paying for the Prime Minister’s mistakes and his lack of judgement.
Canada must find new ways to reinvent the ties that have bound us to our like-minded allies for decades.
We must do so to confidently name and confront the threats to our national interest and values.
And we must claim ownership of our sovereignty, relying on our own strength and not merely on traditional alliances forged in past eras.
In the 20th century, Canada was part of a global alliance of like-minded nations, which defeated fascism and communism. Now some at the time wanted Canada to be part of the non-alignment movement – to not side with tyranny, but also to not side unequivocally with the forces of freedom. Some Canadian leaders harboured secret admiration for authoritarian figures like Fidel Castro or Mao Zedong. Thank goodness that, for the most part, Canada remained on the side of freedom.
The threats we face in the 21st century may have different names, but we are having similar debates about how we engage with them. Some would continue to prefer to see Canada take a non-alignment posture, treating democracies and dictatorships in equal and similar fashion.
But as Prime Minister, I will firmly reject that pretension that Canada could or should be neutral on the big questions of our time or fail to work strategically with our allies to advance the space for freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law.
The threats we face today are different from those we faced in the 20th century. And in some ways, they are more complex. But the solution still involves meeting them with strong partnerships of like-minded and confident nations, devoted to the protection and advancement of our values.
These partnerships must expand, to involve more and closer cooperation with like-minded nations in Asia, Africa, and South America. Canada’s participation in this vital work of expanding the sphere of democracy and expanding cooperation among democracies is indispensable. We are a diverse country, with strong people-to-people ties all over the world. We have historically been respected and trusted – seen as a nation which engages in order to advance principles, not out of narrow self-interest, but for a desire to make the world a better place for everyone. We lack the baggage inevitably associated with super power status, we do not have a colonial history beyond our own borders, and we are a member of all of the most important international organizations. We can play a vital leadership role building the new international political infrastructure for the advancement of freedom in the 21st century.
In the 21st century, some politicians want Canada to be the referee. I want Canada to be on the starting line.
A new era of great power rivalry is upon us.
There are orbits based on fundamental values.
On one side are the free democracies. Free-speaking, free-market nations, law-abiding at home and abroad. And on the other, the imperialist, despotic, and corrupt regimes that seek to destabilize the rules-based international order.
Canada must always side with those who value freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law.
Russia under Vladimir Putin is looking more and more like the old imperialist Russia with each passing year.
And China, under President Xi Jinping, is aggressively asserting its newfound economic and geopolitical influence and hardening its resolve to dominate the 21st century.
In the midst of the threats that we face, we must call on our allies to remain confident in our shared values.
The United States is increasingly re-examining its traditional alliances and seeking some degree of disengagement from the world. But while isolationist arguments have gained ground in the US, similar inclinations do not restrain the global engagement of China and Russia. We must encourage all of our allies to remain resolute and continue to work together – division and disengagement leaves all of us more vulnerable.
But if we are calling on our partners to remain resolute in their global commitments, we must also pull our weight, in every respect. Many Liberals would prefer that we reduce our support for our military, and instead rely on others for our security.
But this has never been the Canadian way – for over 100 years, Canada has been willing to take on the hard and heavy lifting in defence of our values. We did it at Vimy Ridge, we did it in Afghanistan, and we must do it still.
At this point, I’d like to drill down a bit further on some of the threats we face.
Obviously, there are many issues facing the world that Canada needs to approach with global cooperation. Issues such as climate change cannot be tackled by one country acting alone. Canada must continue to work with international allies across the world - those that are willing to take up the heavy responsibility of ensuring we pass on a planet cleaner and greener than the one we inherited. Those are things I will address in my upcoming speeches on our environmental plan. I look forward more to expanding on that. But I wanted to address it today in the context of foreign affairs because it is an issue that does truly needs global cooperation. In today’s geopolitical climate, there are some clear threats to Canada’s place in the world. The rise of China, the re-emergence of Russia’s Cold War mentality, and states who export terrorism and extremism are just some of the foreign threats to Canadian security, and prosperity in the 21st century.
With respect to China, first and foremost, Conservatives celebrate the contributions of Chinese Canadians – many of whom came here precisely to leave behind the political system they face at home. We recognize that the government of China does not represent its people – that is, in fact, the precise problem.
Canada should engage with the Chinese government but engage in a way that seeks to advance our values and our interests. We should engage in a way that recognizes how our values and our interests are in many respects incompatible with those of the Chinese government.
For decades now, many in Canada have looked to China as a way of diversifying our export markets. But in recent years it has become clear that China’s adversarial approach to Canada and the western, democratic world has changed those expectations. This is deeply disappointing, especially when you consider how just 20 years ago there was great hope and optimism that China was ready to join the international, rules-based order.
But in the past year, Canadians in particular have learned first-hand how justice in China works. The Meng Wanzhou extradition case has caused much grief in many ways but has been illuminating in others. After the arbitrary detention of Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor we should no longer harbour any illusions about China’s attitude towards the rule of law.
Now we have known all of this for some time yet for many years 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 trading partners.
And fortunately, we have alternatives. Like-minded democracies in the Indo- Pacific region, for example, some of which desperately need more secure access to energy, are ideal economic and political partners for Canada.
A community of free democracies all over the world – in Europe, in the Indo-Pacific, and everywhere in between, united to resist the forces of authoritarianism, built through Canadian leadership. That should be our goal. That will have a deeply consequential impact on global history.
At any rate, Canada’s relationship with China needs a total reset. And nothing can happen until such time.
Although China is a primary, and certainly the strongest, propagator of authoritarian values, Russia remains a very serious threat.
Vladimir Putin cannot be allowed to act with impunity when it comes to his military adventurism. While today he is occupying Ukraine, tomorrow it could be Canada’s Arctic waters.
But it isn’t just in Ukraine where Vladimir Putin has re-asserted Russia’s Cold War posture. Russia has supported Iran and together they have been the main sources of disruption and despair in the Middle East. Putin has been forthright when it comes to propping up Bashar al-Assad in Syria. And along with Putin, the Iranian regime must be held accountable for its state-sanctioned sponsorship of terror and the constant threat it poses to its own people, its neighbours, and to Israel, Canada’s foremost friend in the Middle East.
I have been so inspired by the courage of the Iranian people, who have continuously shown a willingness to stand up to their own government. Canada must do all we can to ensure that the people of Iran soon enjoy the same freedoms that we enjoy – that they are successful in ridding the world of the evil that their government represents.
To stand up for pluralism and democracy Canada must renew our support for Israel and its inherent right to defend itself. Terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah have absolutely no interest in peace. Since their inception, the leaders of Hamas have been trying to destroy Israel. When Israel gives them the concrete they need to build hospitals and schools, Hamas instead builds tunnels to kill civilians. When the world gives Hamas money to feed the Palestinian people, Hamas buys rockets to indiscriminately target Israelis. The reality of the Middle East is this: if Israel’s enemies were to lay down their arms tomorrow, there would be peace. If Israel were to lay down its arms, there would be no more Israel.
And this is why it is so disappointing to me that the current government has abandoned Canada’s principled support for Israel in abstaining in key votes in the United Nations.
When Israel’s borders came under attack from Hamas terrorists, as they have in recent days, Canada must support Israel’s right to defend itself and recognize Hamas’ direct responsibility in inciting violence and the loss of life. Canada must be ready and reliable when Israel needs to count on their democratic friend and ally.
I want to be very clear as well that under my leadership extending a hand of friendship to the Palestinian people will be a priority. The Palestinian people want the same things that all people want – freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. This will come, not through incitement to violence, but through the peaceful negotiations. I do not believe that giving money to highly flawed organizations like UNRWA, as the Liberals have done, advances the cause of peace or partnership. And the Palestinian people are denied democracy, not by Israel, but by their own government.
If the values of pluralism, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law are to prevail, it is time, once again, for the free speaking and democratic peoples of the world to reinvigorate old alliances and build new ones – alliances with other free democracies and with peoples who are seeking free democracy. Canada can, and we will find common cause, and ensure that freedom prevails in this century, just as it did in the past.
In order to play the role that we need to play in this new world, we must start by repairing the Canada-US relationship.
Without a doubt, relations with the current administration have been challenging for all world leaders. The current president has reversed decades of established American foreign policy, particularly when it comes to America’s alliances.
Regardless, the Canada-US relationship will endure. We cannot allow personality to “trump” the bond between our two countries. Justin Trudeau has on too many occasions put his partisan political goals ahead of managing this relationship upon which so many Canadian jobs depend.
On NAFTA, President Trump’s obsession with getting the best deal for Americans was not met with similar strength and resolve from Canada. Instead, the current government lectured the American president on any number of issues that have little to do with trade. They did this not to benefit Canada or Canadians – but to pad their image and score points at home.
Between NAFTA, withdrawing from the ISIS campaign, purchasing used jets rather than new jets, refusing to join the ballistic missile defence program, abstaining on key votes at the UN, repealing Iran sanctions, and closer alignment with China, the current government has fostered tension and mistrust between what should be the world’s two greatest allies.
Our posture in relation to the Americans must be to seriously and strongly defend our interests, and to make the case for strengthened partnership among free democracies.
I am very proud of the role Canadian Conservative Prime Ministers have played in the development of the international Francophonie.
Brian Mulroney, in particular, made it possible, with President François Mitterrand, for Francophone countries to meet every two years.
Our participation in La Francophonie, as well as in the Commonwealth, allows us to express our commitment to peace, democracy, equality and human rights.
The Mulroney government also strengthened Canada’s relations with France, one of our mother countries. Our government has recognized that Quebeckers form a nation within Canada. We have also brought this principle to life, including on the international scene. Under Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Canada enabled Quebec to participate fully in the work of UNESCO.
In turn, I will affirm our country’s commitment to the world’s Francophonie.
As Prime Minister, I will work to improve the lack of economic coordination amongst the member countries in the global Francophonie. Francophone countries offer incredible wealth potential, thanks to the human and natural resources they have. It is therefore necessary for these countries to refocus on one of the historic flagship objectives of the global Francophonie initiated several decades: the economic development and the commercial exchanges amongst members.
When we talk about uniting the world’s democracies, when we talk about trade, particularly free trade, has to be at the centre of our approach. No other party in Canada has as strong a record on the protection and promotion of free trade than Canada’s Conservatives. It was Prime Minister Brian Mulroney who initiated free trade with the United States and initiated NAFTA and delivered the incredible prosperity that followed. Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper initiated and concluded free trade negotiations with over 50 countries.
Economic freedom – the freedom to choose, to buy and sell freely, and the freedom to succeed or fail based on those choices – has been essential to our national success and prosperity and to the success of like-minded partners. The benefits of free trade are obvious. Aside from the economic prosperity that follows when people are allowed to exchange freely, it is a simple fact that free-trading nations don’t go to war with each other.
But free trade cannot come without trust.
Free trade with China will only be possible when China embraces a functioning rule of law system, when judicial processes which are supposed to guarantee equal market access are no longer subject to control by the government.
It’s critical to note that we bled and died alongside Americans during two world wars and in Korea and stood shoulder to shoulder with them against the Soviet Union during the Cold War. And it still took decades before a trade agreement was ever signed.
First comes trust. Then comes trade. We may yet get there with China. But given the events of the last few months it’s clear that we’re a long ways off.
If Canada is going to truly make a difference, we have to bring more to the table. Having a principled foreign policy is meaningless if you don’t have a strong and agile defence policy to back it up. To that end, we must renew our support for the Canadian Armed Forces.
As Prime Minister, I will never forget that ours is the nation that bravely conquered Vimy Ridge; that made the ultimate sacrifice on Juno beach; that held the line at the Battle of Kapyong in Korea; and helped deliver the people of Afghanistan from the Taliban. The sacrifices made then by so many Canadians and our allies gifted us the modern world we all too often take for granted. That is why I believe those who seek to lead this great nation need to be frank and open about the threats we face and the challenges we must overcome and articulate a plan on how to do that.
The serving men and women in the Canadian Armed Forces are the best in the world at what they do. But they are often underserved. While successive governments have promised improvements, sometimes domestic politics and the political cycle get in the way of delivering for our troops. As a country we must acquire the capabilities that are needed to protect Canada, while contributing to global peace and security in the decades ahead.
Military procurement in Canada is hyper-politicized to our detriment. In the United States and Australia, as just two examples, there is greater consensus when it comes to the national defence and at the end of the day, projects are allowed to move forward. This is not the case in Canada.
By playing politics with these matters, political parties have diminished the important responsibility to adequately and expediently equip the Armed Forces.
Further, to address the increasing threat to our Arctic sovereignty posed by Russia, China, and others, we must reinforce Canada’s standing as a maritime nation.
Given the state and needs of Canada’s Navy and Coast Guard, there is no reason for any shipyard in Canada to be sitting idle. I will not cancel previously awarded contracts. But I do believe improvements need to be made, particularly in Ottawa, when it comes to managing these projects. Jobs in our shipyards are depending on us.
When talking about the threats to Canada, we also cannot ignore cyberspace. The threats of tomorrow are far more likely to come through our electronic devices than by land, sea, or air. Canada must be ready to counter these threats.
We must increase our cyber warfare capacity. The hacking and jamming capabilities of our adversaries can easily wipe out our communications networks and render command and control nearly impossible. While an all-out attack of this magnitude is the worst-case scenario, we must be ready for all possibilities.
The Canadian Armed Forces must adapt to the changing realities of cyber warfare, particularly in terms of its personnel and organization.
Canada already has a world class tech sector, especially when it comes to cyber security. But it is often untapped. Canada must act to get industry and government on the same page when it comes to protecting Canada’s information technology infrastructure. We must modernize cyber procurement in Canada, and better align the capabilities of our industry to meet global demand.
As Prime Minister, I intend to be forthright with Canadians about the threats we face. I will reinvigorate Canada’s role in the alliances we share with our democratic allies. This includes existing alliances like NORAD, NATO, the Commonwealth, La Francophonie, and the Five Eyes, but it will also include greater overtures to India and Japan. I will find a way for Canada to be a relevant factor in the domestic affairs of our allies in a world where the sentiments of self-interest are on the rise.
We see this happening in many, many countries where domestic political movements force a change in that country’s foreign policy, with a greater focus on that country’s own self-interest. So, Canada must do everything we can to factor in even more in that domestic calculation. We have to be as important as ever before to ensure that our allies are with us when we face challenges around the world. We also have to fight against the growing sentiment of protectionism that comes along with some of these movements. And I will reject that sense of putting up trade barriers and relentlessly pursue new efforts to increase trade and find new markets for Canadian goods in fast-growing economies like those found in Asia. I have already begun this important work with trade missions to India and the United Kingdom in the last 18 months.
And I will also work with all parties in Parliament to depoliticize the military procurement process so that Canada isn’t empty-handed when called upon.
My vision for military procurement in Canada is to depoliticize it in such a way that all parties in the House of Commons have greater say on the front end of the decision-making process so that there can be greater ownership of the final result. That way big ticket items that our Armed Forces genuinely need aren’t subject to some of the political football games that happen during election times.
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.
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.
As Prime Minister, I will end Canada’s $256 million investment in the Chinese-controlled Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and launch a formal complaint at the World Trade Organization if their trade blockades persist.
I will not allow Chinese state-owned enterprises, solely focused on the political interests of Beijing, unfettered access to the Canadian market.
I will also renew Canada’s historic support for Ukraine and take steps to help Ukraine secure its borders and defend its people. This will include expanding upon current missions to support Ukraine and providing Ukraine’s military with the equipment they need to defend their borders. I will also push for Canadian leadership in a United Nations peacekeeping mission to secure those borders.
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.
I will re-open the Office of Religious Freedom to stand up for religious minorities all around the world and I will recognize the fact that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.
Finally, I will make sure Canada provides a counterbalance to Russia and China’s burgeoning icebreaker fleets. While Russia and China are both developing and deploying nuclear ice breakers to patrol the Arctic, Canadian and American capacity is severely lacking.
I will do more, a lot more, to show the world that we are an Arctic power. 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. And that includes the Northwest Passage.
I will build on the Canada-US tradition of joint military partnerships by starting talks with the Americans to join the ballistic missile defence program and modernize the NORAD alliance. I will act to select a new fighter jet through an open competition and make sure the new jets are interoperable with our American allies.
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 and renewed.
I will also begin the process of upgrading the Royal Canadian Navy’s submarine capability. The Australian government has initiated a multi-year strategy to procure its future submarine capability. Canada can look to these and other international models as we seek to ensure that we also have the capabilities that are necessary to effectively protect our national waters.
In closing, let me say that we live in a turbulent world. This is a fact that we ignore at our peril. But I have no doubt that ours is a nation that is prepared to meet any challenge, as we have for over 150 years.
I know I covered a lot of topics today. I want to make clear that by no means does what I spoke about today constitute the entirety of what will become my foreign policy. I am proud of our party’s record when it comes to welcoming refugees, about standing up for the rights of LGBTQ individuals who are discriminated against by oppressive regimes, and about the accomplishments we made helping women and children through programs like Stephen Harper’s Maternal and Child Health Initiative. These efforts will continue under my government. It’s quite clear here that when Canada uses its development capabilities and its programs to assist with international development, that when we align those with our Canadian domestic values like on the subject of protecting religious minorities, ensuring the equality of women and girls, that not only do we get results for that country, but we also contribute greatly to global peace and security. And I will have more to say on how Canada, under my leadership, will confront the global complexities of climate change and human migration.
Broadly speaking, I firmly believe that when Canada exports the principles of economic freedom, free speech, and freedom of the press, we create better opportunities for all the world’s peoples. We are extraordinarily lucky as Canadians to have inherited the traditions and independent institutions that have made Canada the best country in the world. We should not be shy when it comes to standing up for, and fighting for, what we believe.
In 1943 Winston Churchill came to this very province to meet with Canada’s allies and said:
“Here at the gateway of Canada, in mighty lands which have never known the totalitarian tyrannies of Hitler and Mussolini, the spirit of freedom has found a safe and abiding home.”
I believe this spirit of freedom is inherent to all human beings. Rights are not created by government – government only recognizes rights or fails to.
When governments believe that human rights are merely political creations, the results are painful, and inevitable: the innermost wants, needs, and even thoughts of vulnerable individuals are suppressed by force. In the 20th century, liberty was confronted by the poisonous ideologies of communism and fascism. In the 21st century, while the threats to liberty may go by different names, they are no less insidious.
This is why I believe, fundamentally, that we must be honest with ourselves about the threats we face. It’s why we must unite the forces of democracy and freedom across the globe to confront threats, with greater resolve than those who pose them. And we must be ready to do our part, to back up the strength of our values with the strength of our forces.
What I’ve spoken about today is only the beginning – I will have more to reveal on Canada’s international role in the coming months – but this will be the north star of my foreign policy: ensuring a stronger Canada in a turbulent world.
For it is only when our nation is strong that our values will triumph.
We should show to the rest of the world that Canada is still a nation not only of sound principle but also of prompt action.
And that we are ready to stand every step of the way with our allies to bring to the world an even more peaceful and prosperous future than the present we have created today.
To do that, a new Conservative government will redefine our international alliances and partnerships based on the rapidly changing world order.
We will clearly and honestly identify the threats Canadians face.
And we will renew our sovereignty with a reinvigorated national defence – so Canada will be both ready when called on and able to stand alone and stand strong.