At A Time When Canada Needs Serious Leadership, Justin Trudeau Provides The Opposite

If the world was peaceful and stable, our allies would be willing to overlook the naivety, the refusal to invest in our military, and the odd pro-CCP slant of the Liberal government. But in a world in which the challenges to liberal democracy are escalating, there is little willingness to indulge a Canada that refuses to take things seriously.

When people talk about ‘serious leadership,’ they usually mean one of two things.

There is ‘seriousness’ as a cover for unprincipled cowardice – those who would advocate for submission to China & Russia’s attempts to overturn the current world order.

Alternatively, there is seriousness in the sense of understanding what it takes to stand up for liberal democracy (not to be confused with partisan ‘liberalism’ in Canada, but meant as the advocacy for free elections, individual rights and freedoms, and democratic capitalism).

When I talk about seriousness, I’m obviously talking about the latter. History has shown that the former – giving in to whichever dictatorships are most aggressive – is not only deeply unprincipled but is also strategically disastrous, since it further emboldens hostile regimes and leads to wider conflict in the long-run.

The state of the world

With this in mind, what is the current state of the world, and what about it necessitates serious leadership?

Well, we are witnessing a massive challenge to the world order established following World War Two. Though it is in vogue to criticize it, this world order has been massively beneficial to most of humanity. Following WW2, the United States guaranteed the safety of the world’s shipping lanes, enabling a massive expansion of global trade and a massive surge in worldwide economic prosperity (this obviously had some specific downsides, including many countries going way too far in offshoring manufacturing to China).

Two countries that had once launched genocidal wars of conquest (Japan and Germany) became democracies and focused their substantial manufacturing and technological prowess on selling consumer products rather than fighting wars.

Colonialism proved to be unsustainable, for both economic and moral reasons. Morally, the norms established following WW2 made it far more difficult to defend the idea of launching wars of conquest to control people and resources in other countries rather than trading with them on a mutually beneficial basis.

Economically, the cost of maintaining colonies largely outweighed the benefit.

The Soviet Union slowly collapsed under the incoherence of their economic system and the fact that the ‘Warsaw Pact’ wasn’t a real alliance, but rather a vast prison for subjugated nations.

China experienced a dramatic economic rise, a rise ironically made possible by the U.S. Navy guaranteeing the security of ships transiting the world’s oceans and massive economic integration with the U.S. and Western capitalist nations allowing China to become an export powerhouse on the basis of their massive population and the one-time dividend of the ‘One-Child-Policy’ – a policy which bought them a few decades of great demographics at the cost of demographic disaster in the long-term.

India – one of the world’s great civilizations – achieved independence and has since gained significant economic and cultural influence, to the point at which it is widely seen as a burgeoning superpower.

Global life expectancy surged dramatically, the standard of living rose across the planet, child mortality declined, and whole regions of the world became more closely integrated (European Union, NATO expansion), reducing the prospect of a major land war in Europe.

The world was by no means completely peaceful, but the prospect of large scale wars between rival military superpowers largely disappeared.

Democratic nations – led by the United States – made a good faith effort to integrate all countries – including China and Russia – into the global order and further reduce the prospect of a major war.

Unfortunately, despite all the gains made during this time, it’s clear that there was something a bit artificial about it.

By ‘artificial,’ I don’t mean that it was negative, but that it was built upon factors that were difficult to maintain and subject to challenge, because while the majority of the world has moved in a more free and democratic direction over the past 80 years or so, there are some very notable exceptions.

Following World War Two, much of Europe was in ruins. Shortly after the war concluded, the United States accounted for a whopping 50% of global GDP. It was thus well-positioned to ensure that the global order was largely built upon Western ideas like an emphasis on individual freedom, democracy, capitalism, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and limits on government power. This is not to say the U.S or any other country always lived up to those ideals, but those ideals were obviously far more protected in the U.S. than in the defeated fascist regimes or the Soviet Union.

However, rather than really embrace the idea of democracy and human rights, many countries and regimes simply bided their time until they were powerful enough to make an attempt to overturn the status quo.

And by overturn the status quo, I’m not talking about countries doing so through diplomatic disputes and debates, but rather doing so through war and through a concerted effort to sow division in Western nations.

This is the state of the world today. The Western democracies are increasingly lacking confidence in our own values, while the world’s most powerful authoritarian regimes are seeking to reshape the configuration of power on this planet.

China, Russia, North Korea, and Iran

All together, China, Russia, North Korea and Iran account for about 18-20% of global GDP, with a total population of about 1.65 billion.

Militarily, those countries likely punch well above their weight. All four have a large domestic military industrial base, and access to significant natural resources. They also often share resources and knowledge with each other.

This ‘new Axis’ is not completely coherent ideologically. After all, China is a Communist totalitarian state, Russia is a weird mix of fascist imperialism and Soviet-revanchism, North Korea is a Communist personality cult centered around one family, and Iran is an Islamist theocracy.

What they all share in common is a sense that they have a window of opportunity to overturn the status quo if they act together.

It’s no coincidence that Russia wants to take Ukraine and China wants to take Taiwan. Ukraine and Taiwan both represent alternative visions of what life could be like for citizens of Russia and China respectively that deviate completely from what the dictators want.

If Ukraine were to join NATO and the European Union and experience the kind of economic and cultural flourishing as Poland has, it would completely destroy Putin’s propaganda about liberal democracy being ‘incompatible’ with the Slavic world or the Russian world.

Taiwan’s ongoing success – the country has a per capita GDP about three times higher than China – has been achieved through the increasing embrace of democratic capitalism. The Chinese Communist Party – especially under Xi Jinping – argues that democratic capitalism is incompatible with the Chinese People. Taiwan puts the lie to that propaganda on a daily basis.

By a similar token, North Korea is a massive prison camp masquerading as a country, right next door to the most stark example of the difference between freedom and autocracy. North Koreans live a hellish existence, while South Korea – a democratic capitalist nation – is among the wealthier countries on the planet.

In Iran’s case, the Ayatollahs recognize that young Iranians are absolutely fed up with being ruled by an unelected and repressive clique more focused on threatening Israel and the West than building up the prosperity of the country. Were the repression to ease, the regime would almost certainly fall apart and a more open and democratic government would take its place.

So, what all four of these ‘new Axis’ countries have in common is that they face internal pressure from their own populations – why else would they need so much repression? – and external pressure from the norms established post-WW2 (genocide is bad, wars of aggression are bad, free elections are good, etc).

And so, Russia invaded Ukraine, China threatens to invade Taiwan, China buys energy from Iran and Russia, China helps Russia evade sanctions, Iran sells drones to Russia, and North Korea gives artillery shells to Russia, while both Russia and China seek to keep the West divided and distracted.

The response

Of course, the world’s democracies aren’t just doing nothing in response.

While the global status quo is deeply imperfect and has many opponents within the West itself, it is still on balance far more popular than whatever ‘alternative’ China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea can offer.

After all, Russian propagandists are currently telling their population that they can learn from the willingness of North Koreans to endure ‘hardships.’ With a choice between a European standard of living or a North Korean standard of living, is it any wonder Ukrainians are fighting so hard to stop their country from being taken over?

Yet, while the Western world still has far more to offer, it is in the midst of a crisis of confidence.

Internal divisions – much of it stoked by propaganda from China and Russia that takes advantage of our openness to freedom of speech and the pluralistic nature of our societies – has made it difficult for the West to maintain support for our core values.

Huge swathes of right-wing parties in many Western countries now regurgitate Kremlin propaganda, slowing any attempt to counter Russia’s aggression, while large swathes of left-wing parties in the West are co-opted by Communist China, stifling any attempt to confront China’s malign influence.

Russia and China don’t need to ‘win’ political arguments in the West, they just need to keep everyone confused and keep everything muddled enough to dissuade any coherent action.

Going too far?

Of course, dictatorships and authoritarian states often overplay their hand, and that’s what both Russia and China have done.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was such a shock that it reminded many in the West of the importance of the post-WW2 norms.

China’s genocide of the Uyghurs, betrayal of the One Country, Two Systems model in Hong Kong, and bullying of its neighbours has pushed many countries closer into the orbit of the United States, as they remember that there are things far worse than being influenced by the good ole USA.

And this is where the issue of serious vs unserious leadership comes in.

It’s not 2015 anymore

As I’ve noted before, in the 2015 election the biggest issues being debated in Canada were whether to legalize marijuana and whether to run a small deficit or keep the budget balanced.

At the time, Justin Trudeau’s charisma compared to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Tom Mulcair, along with his energetic/naive lack of substance and promise of more spending with ‘no cost’ was appealing to many Canadians. The stakes were also pretty low, low enough that many just overlooked his remarks on admiring ‘China’s basic dictatorship’ as an odd gaffe.

But it’s not 2015 anymore.

And Justin Trudeau’s odd alignment with the Chinese Communist Party, his naive approach to foreign policy, his unwillingness to spend on the military, and his elevation of diaspora politics above the broader Canadian national interest isn’t just a curiosity, it’s a strategic liability both to ourselves and our allies.

And so, it was unsurprising to see that two of Canada’s closes allies appear to have rebuffed our country when we asked them to back up accusations against India.

Here’s what the Washington Post reported:

“Weeks before Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau aired an explosive accusation that Indian officials may have been behind the slaying of a Sikh separatist leader in British Columbia, Ottawa asked its closest allies, including Washington, to publicly condemn the murder. But the overtures were rebuffed, underscoring the diplomatic balancing act facing the Biden administration and its allies as they work to court an Asian power seen as a crucial counterweight to China.

Ultimately, the alleged assassination on June 18 of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Canadian citizen, was privately raised by several senior officials of the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing countries in the weeks before September’s Group of 20 summit in New Delhi. But it was not mentioned publicly ahead of the meeting Western leaders viewed as an important coming-out party for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, said a Western official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of diplomatic sensitivities.

Trudeau’s announcement about “credible allegations,” made alone and in dramatic fashion before Parliament on Monday, caused a seismic fissure in India-Canada relations that led to the expulsion of an Indian diplomat in Ottawa, who Canadian officials disclosed was the station chief for the external Indian intelligence service. New Delhi responded by kicking out a Canadian diplomat, who was identified by the Hindustan Times newspaper as the top Canadian spy in India.”

Both the United States and the United Kingdom issued statements on the matter, but notably avoided going as far as Trudeau has.

Here’s what the U.K. said:

“All countries should respect sovereignty and the rule of law.

We are in regular contact with our Canadian partners about serious allegations raised in the Canadian Parliament.

Important that Canada’s investigation runs its course and the perpetrators brought to justice.”

And here’s what the U.S. said:

“White House statement: We are deeply concerned about allegations referenced by Prime Minister Trudeau. We remain in regular contact with our Canadian partners. It is critical that Canada’s investigation proceed and the perpetrators be brought to justice”

You will of course note that neither statement actually mentions India.

And while Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly’s staff is denying the Washington Post report that Canada was rebuffed, the response by both of our closest allies certainly gives that impression:

“Mélanie Joly’s director of communications Emily Williams denies Canada was rebuffed by allies.

“The claim reported in the Washington Post that Canada asked allies to publicly condemn the murder of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, and were subsequently rebuffed, are false. We will continue to keep our allies, including at the officials level, apprised of relevant information while Canadian security agencies work fast to get to the bottom of the matter.””

After all, this is the same government that has repeatedly claimed bombshell news stories are false when they don’t serve their political interests.

Trudeau softens the rhetoric?

Also notable has been the contrast between Trudeau’s very dramatic tone when initially announcing the allegations against India, and his remarks a day later where he said Canada was not looking to “provoke or escalate”:

““We are not looking to provoke or escalate. We are simply laying out the facts as we understand them,” says PM Trudeau when asked about the Indian govt’s response to allegations that it was involved in in the killing of B.C. Sikh leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar.”

Why would Trudeau be softening the rhetoric now?

Pierre Poilievre has questions

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre has made clear that Trudeau provided no extra information to him than was presented to the public, and the Leader of the Official Opposition is asking some important questions – including why Justin Trudeau was so quick to make allegations against India public while slow-walking everything related to Communist China’s interference in our democracy:

“.@PierrePoilievre says PM Trudeau needs to provide more facts after the government expelled an Indian diplomat and accused India of being behind the murder of a Khalistani activist in B.C.

Poilievre also points out that in contrast, Trudeau was aware of China’s foreign interference but didn’t inform the public.”

Investigation is warranted, but the contrast cannot go unnoticed

As I’ve said, an investigation is certainly needed here:

“A full investigation is certainly needed. It would also be great if the government had shown even a fraction of this level of concern towards China’s ongoing efforts to interfere in our democratic institutions and intimidate countless Canadian Citizens – including Canadians MPs.”

Yet, Canadians are justified in asking why Justin Trudeau first dismissed all reports of China’s election interference, then said those reports were based on racist sentiment, and then slow-walked everything for months, and then only relented on an inquiry after massive pressure. Canadians are also justified in asking why the Trudeau government blocked Parliamentarians from accessing information about the two Chinese nationals who were removed from the Canadian Microbiology Lab, and why the government even ignored a ruling by the Liberal-appointed Speaker of the House to share that information with Canada’s elected representatives.

Why was the government so desperate to – in effect – help China (an authoritarian Communist State) save face, while being so willing to make allegations against India (the world’s largest democratic nation) public in the most dramatic setting possible?

Why would our allies rebuff us?

Now, some may still wonder why the U.S. and U.K. wouldn’t join in with Canada in regards to the allegations against India.

But the more realistic question is this:

Why would they?

At a time when the liberal democratic world order faces a massive challenge by aggressive authoritarian states, India is a country that both the United States and the United Kingdom – along with allies like Australia, Japan, and much of the European Union are seeking to court.

India – though flawed like any nation – is legitimately a democracy. While some claim India is experiencing democratic backsliding, they are far more free and democratic than countries like Russia, or China.

Freedom House Ranking

Freedom House gives Russia a 16/100 on their freedom ranking. They get 5 points out of 40 on political rights, and 11 points out of 60 on civil liberties.

China scores 9/100, with -2 out of 40 on political rights and 11 out of 60 on civil liberties.

By contrast, India scores 66/100, with 33 out of 40 on political rights, and 33 out of 6o on civil liberties.

Again, there are legitimate reasons to criticize India – and an investigation into whether they are connected to a killing in Canada is warranted – but it is patently false to lump them in with China and Russia.

This is a key reason that our allies like the United States and U.K. rightfully see India as a country that is key to helping ensure that the freedom and democracy withstands the challenge posed by the China-Russia-North Korea-Iran Axis.

Credibility requires action

So, not only would alienating India be disastrous for our allies from a strategic point of view, but Canada has also done very little to help our allies bolster our collective defense.

Most egregiously, we have completely failed to meet our NATO commitments, and our military is increasingly in a state of disrepair. Our military strength has eroded so much that the U.K. even offered to help us defend the Canadian North, given our evident lack of interest in doing so ourselves.

The U.S. also has the right to be upset about this. The U.S. has a strategic interest in defending North America against external threats, meaning they are almost forced to pick up the slack where we fall short.

But, if we truly want to show respect to the United States and show our value as an ally, we should remedy that situation rather than taking advantage of it. Imagine if Canada had a decent navy and decent airpower – at least enough to defend large swathes of North America and keep the North secure. That would free up American military manpower and assets to concentrate on other parts of the world.

If we expect the U.S. and U.K. to come to our defense, we should have ability to at the very least help them when necessary as well.

Justin Trudeau has refused to do so.

Even in the face of China’s massive military buildup and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and even as the cost of government has risen by over $150 billion per year under his watch, Trudeau has failed to meet the 2.0% NATO target.

A lack of seriousness means a lack of respect

Justin Trudeau can make all the dramatic speeches he wants. He can do all the selective picking and choosing of which CSIS intelligence he believes and which kind of foreign interference he cares about. But none of that changes the fact that his lack of seriousness, his unwillingness to consider broader strategic realities, his refusal to build up our military, and his disturbing affinity for China has left Canada increasingly isolated and disrespected on the world stage – even by countries we should be closely aligned with.

At a time when Canada is in desperate need of serious leadership, Justin Trudeau provides the exact opposite.

Spencer Fernando

Photo – YouTube


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