The Incredible Shrinking Canada

I am now approaching the end of my sojourn in London, some comments about which were referenced here.  While away I have even managed to get a bit of Canadian press.

After almost a month away, I must say that in relation to the relative absence of similar possibilities in Ottawa, there is lots of interesting stuff to be done here in the world city. The energy, dynamism and cosmopolitan buzz attributable to this place are absolutely invigorating.

But what is on my mind this Sunday morning is last week`s federal budget, and especially the latest round slashing and burning of Canada`s once robust and engaged global presence.

From what I have been able to glean from an on-line review of media coverage in Canada, much has been made  of the $1.1 billion  cut to the Department of National Defense. Yet Canadian military spending has been ramped up substantially in recent years – 54% in the past decade –  and the reductions announced in the recent budget must be evaluated in that context.  Moreover, DND is a program-rich department, and as a result these cuts can be absorbed relatively easily, for example  by trimming or extending procurement projects such as the (dubiously chosen)  F-35 fighter aircraft.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, by way of comparison, has been suffering budgetary shrinkage for years, and the additional $314.5 million to be cut by 2014-15 announced in the budget will hurt. In a department already slashed to the bone, this enormous 8.9% reduction will come mainly out of operating funds and will mean amputating body parts – missions abroad, properties, membership in international organizations, travel and representation.

Details have yet to be released, but jobs will be lost, and Canada`s diplomatic footprint reduced significantly.

For a foreign ministry intent on providing a credible alternative to the use of armed force as an international policy instrument, this amounts to a further diminished capacity to advance Canadian policies and interests.

Especially when considered in tandem with the reductions of $377 million being imposed upon the Canadian International Development Agency, these Draconian measures represent a disaster for what little remains of Canadian internationalism.

In all, this amounts to false economy, ideologically driven, and is more very bad news for a country whose role and place in the world is already in precipitous decline.