Last week’s budget spells disaster for what little remains of Canadian internationalism.
After almost a month away, I must say that, in relation to the relative absence of similar possibilities in Ottawa, there is a lot of interesting stuff to be done here in the world city. The energy, dynamism, and cosmopolitan buzz are absolutely invigorating.
But what was on my mind this past weekend was last week’s federal budget, and especially the latest round of slashing and burning of Canada’s once robust and engaged global presence.
From what I have been able to glean from an online review of media coverage in Canada, much has been made of the $1.1-billion cut to the Department of National Defence (DND). Yet, Canadian military spending has been ramped up substantially in recent years – by 54 per cent 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-per-cent 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.
Photo courtesy of Reuters.