Rarely is Canada's external policy the subject of controversy. The country occupies a relatively modest station in the world and exerts its influence through quiet diplomacy, usually coordinated with its allies, and particularly with its major partner, the United States. Canada's foreign policy reflects the nature of the polity itself: it is marked by stability, a penchant for compromise, and a distinct disinclination for rapid political change. Over the last 40 years, there has been a fundamental continuity in Canada's strategic policies, but there has also been a fundamental tension in Canada's position toward the two superpowers.

This tension has resurfaced in the last two years, again prompting political debate over Canada's international position. Not since 1963 has foreign policy been a major political issue in Canadian politics. The breakdown of détente by 1980 alerted the Canadian public to the continuing dangers of East-West rivalries. The advent of the cruise missile has once again enhanced the strategic importance of the Canadian north, and rekindled the uneasiness with which Canadians have viewed their country's minor role in maintaining the balance of terror. Now, as the Trudeau era appears to be approaching its end, foreign policy looks like being a major issue in the general elections which will be held in the summer or fall of 1984.

As the elections come closer, various options in external relations available to Canada are being debated; the positions taken by political parties and other groups are gradually crystallizing. What should Canada's role in NATO be? Should the country give priority in its defense policy to North American continentalism by cultivating a special relationship with the United States, or should it adopt a more detached stand (resembling that of the Scandinavian countries), particularly by having nothing to do with nuclear weapons? A corollary question is: should Canada move toward closer economic integration with the United States, or should it try to emphasize its independence in the economic sphere? And, finally, should Ottawa take a more activist stand in East-West relations and possibly even try to mediate between Washington and Moscow? These questions are being asked publicly, with an intensity and persistence unknown for decades.


Since the Second World War, Canada's foreign policy has enjoyed a remarkable consistency. A coherent intellectual framework defining Canada's place in the world, which has proved exceedingly durable, evolved in the early postwar years. The key problem for Canadian policymakers, then as now, was the rivalry between East and West, and Canada's role in Soviet-American relations. Canadian diplomats in the immediate postwar period were keenly aware not only of the dangers of escalating superpower tensions but also of the limited opportunities for a small power like Canada to affect politics at the apex of the system.

Canadian foreign policymakers recognized that both the United States and the Soviet Union were "living in dread" of one another, as one Canadian diplomat, Dana Wilgress, put it in 1945. "If we could succeed in removing these two obsessions co-operation between the Soviet Union and the Western world would become operative without the friction now so obvious." To achieve this, Wilgress advocated for the West neither appeasement nor aggravation of conflict. Rather, he pressed for a middle course that anticipated by 20 years NATO's official "two-track" doctrine-a firm, but flexible stance vis-à-vis the U.S.S.R.1

By 1947, another Canadian diplomat, Escott M. Reid, was arguing that Canada's effectiveness in seeking its goals would depend on the intensity of East-West confrontation. The more intense the conflict, the greater would be Ottawa's dependence on Washington; conversely, Canada's international role would be enhanced with any reduction of East-West tensions. In essence, Reid suggested that Canada's main goal should be to moderate U.S. policy toward the Soviet Union. "If we play our cards right," he wrote, "we can exert an influence in Washington out of proportion to the relative importance of our strength. . . . The game would be difficult, the issues would be delicate, but with skill we can play it successfully."2

Entry into the Atlantic Alliance followed naturally, for it fitted the ideological preferences of an overwhelming majority of Canadians. Indeed, the Liberal government of Louis St. Laurent was one of the main proponents of a transatlantic treaty. NATO not only provided an effective defensive shield for North America and Western Europe. Just as important, it provided a multilateral anchor for the smaller member of the North American partnership. A special relationship developed between Canada and the United States in the 1940s and early 1950s as the multiple contacts between Ottawa and Washington that had developed during the war were expanded and strengthened by a common concern over the defense of North America. In this period, Canada's actual influence on its southern neighbor often exceeded the country's strength.

During the height of the cold war there were few opportunities for Canada to pursue the other foreign policy goal of moderating East-West tensions. Little room for middle-power diplomacy existed in a world tightly polarized between two antagonistic blocs. Ottawa's 1952 attempt to mediate the prisoners-of-war issue in the Korean negotiations, for instance, was decisively repudiated by Washington.

Stalin's death, which eased tensions, opened new avenues for Canada in this realm. After the Geneva Summit in the summer of 1955, the Department of External Affairs assessed Canada's position: the line of reasoning in the department's position paper echoed that laid out a decade earlier:

. . .if the Americans believe a real danger of attack (from the U.S.S.R.) across Canada remains, there will be pressure upon us to accept the United States bases and troops in the North and ipso facto pressure on our sovereignty. If, therefore, one of our aims is to retain and strengthen our independence of the United States, it follows that we can best accomplish this in a world where the danger of war is diminished. Thus the two basic Canadian aims-security vis-à-vis the U.S.S.R., and the maintenance of our national independence coincide at the present time in a policy to exploit the present Soviet willingness to establish more peaceful and normal relations between the two power blocs.3

Canadian policy toward the East-West conflict in the mid-1950s followed what in essence was a two-track approach. On the one hand, modest approaches were made to the Soviet leadership; in October 1955, for example, Lester B. Pearson, the Secretary of State for External Affairs, visited the Soviet Union, the first NATO foreign minister to do so. But at the same time, Canadian-American negotiations for a continentalized air-defense command-aimed explicitly at the Soviet Union-continued. In 1957, the two countries signed the North American Air Defense Command (NORAD) agreement, complementing the Distant Early Warning (DEW) line which became operational that summer.

The victory of John Diefenbaker and the Progressive Conservative Party in the general elections of 1957 did not lead to a break with the fundamentals of the St. Laurent-Pearson era. To be sure, Diefenbaker was more stridently anti-communist than his predecessors, given to stinging denunciations of human rights violations in the U.S.S.R. and virulent attacks against the Soviet domination of Eastern Europe. Such strong rhetoric, designed primarily for domestic consumption, did not prevent Soviet-Canadian relations from expanding. Trade, especially in grain, increased considerably and cultural exchanges between the two countries were initiated.

It was not until the 1960s that Canadians confronted the question of nuclear weapons. Canadian participation in NATO and NORAD had been strictly conventional. However, the Diefenbaker government had purchased a number of weapons systems-F-104 Starfighters, BOMARC B and Honest John missiles-which required nuclear warheads to be functional. The reaction from the Canadian public, heralding its aversion to stationing nuclear weapons in the country, was exceedingly critical. The division over this question was acute within the Conservative Party. For his part, Diefenbaker refused to come to a decision. In early 1963, the U.S. Department of State issued a press release criticizing Diefenbaker's reluctance to admit nuclear warheads and reminding Canada of its obligations. This intervention sharpened the debate within the government's ranks; the minister of national defense resigned; and the government was defeated in a vote of confidence in the House of Commons.

The nuclear question figured prominently in the ensuing elections. The Liberals, promising to accept nuclear warheads for the weapons systems, were returned with a minority government under Pearson's leadership. During this period, Canadian efforts to mitigate East-West tensions continued, although Canadian-American relations were badly soured by the Vietnam War. Pearson and his External Affairs minister, Paul Martin, sought without much success to moderate American policies in Vietnam, and in NATO circles urged Canada's allies to avoid confrontationist policies. In his first speech to NATO as prime minister, Pearson pressed his allies to try "to solve political problems, one by one, stage by stage, if not on the basis of confidence and co-operation, at least that of mutual toleration based on a common interest in survival."4 It was a theme that was to be reiterated throughout his tenure as prime minister. But relations with the Soviet Union continued to make slow improvements: in 1966, for example, Martin visited the U.S.S.R. and Canada welcomed the Harmel Report, which committed NATO to a "two track" course of preserving the strength of the Alliance and seeking reduced tensions with the communist bloc.


Pierre Elliott Trudeau replaced Pearson in 1968. The new leader, a relative newcomer to the Liberal Party and without ties to the foreign affairs establishment, believed that Canada's role in the changing postwar world should be more modest. On coming to power, he ordered a comprehensive review of foreign policy, which took two years to complete. In the meantime, the government halved Canada's troop levels in Europe and slashed the defense budget.5 Importantly, Trudeau moved to reduce Canada's nuclear role by phasing out the BOMARC and Honest John missiles, and by replacing the Starfighter's armaments with conventional weapons systems. By the early 1970s, only the Voodoo CF-101 interceptors attached to NORAD were armed with nuclear weapons; when these are replaced by new F-18s in the next two years, Canada will have no nuclear arsenal.

When the White Paper on foreign policy was finally issued in 1970, it marked a substantial departure from the internationalism of the St. Laurent-Pearson years. It rejected a middle-power role and called for a reduction of Canada's commitments abroad; instead, it urged greater attention to those aspects of external relations, such as trade, which directly benefited the country.

In the early Trudeau years, the Soviet-Canadian relationship flowered with the growth of détente. Trudeau visited the Soviet Union in 1971, the year before Nixon's much-vaunted trip. On his return, the prime minister outlined his awareness of the distance separating Ottawa from Moscow. "I harbour no naïve belief," he declared, "that our two countries will find themselves in a relationship which will reflect nothing but sweetness and tender feelings. . . . There remain many fundamental differences between us. . . . But surely, the only way to resolve these differences is by increased contact and effort at understanding."6 While in many respects his foreign policy marked new departures, Trudeau upheld the traditional Canadian "two track" doctrine.

As long as the United States adhered to the Nixon-Kissinger version of East-West détente, there was little difference between Ottawa and Washington over broader international issues. Canadian and American diplomats cooperated closely at the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe and the mutual and balanced force reduction negotiations. When in June 1979 the SALT II (Strategic Arms Limitation Talks) treaty was signed, following the victory of the Progressive Conservatives in Canada in May, the new Prime Minister, Joe Clark, sent congratulatory messages to Presidents Carter and Brezhnev; and his Secretary of State for External Affairs, Flora MacDonald, planned to visit Moscow early in 1980.

The Carter Administration's tougher stance toward the U.S.S.R., in reprisal for the invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979, met with the approval of the Progressive Conservative government. Canadian-Soviet cultural exchanges and trade, including grain sales, were sharply curtailed; a boycott of the Olympic Games in Moscow was threatened; and Ms. MacDonald's trip to the U.S.S.R. was cancelled. However, the tone softened once the Liberals returned to power in February 1980. Canada went ahead with the Olympic boycott, but the grain embargo was lifted. Similarly, the Canadian government shared calmer, West European perspectives on the growing crisis in Poland. The Canadians were clearly sympathetic toward "Solidarity," but Mr. Trudeau did not want the Polish events to erupt into another East-West confrontation.

With the election of Ronald Reagan, and especially in the wake of his denunciation of martial law in Poland, the gap between Canada and the United States widened even more. Ottawa became increasingly apprehensive over Washington's drift away from its traditional moderate and predictable course in East-West relations, and its more openly confrontationist stance toward Moscow.


The initiative to take a more decisive stand vis-à-vis the United States came as much from the Canadian public as from the government. Many Canadians were concerned about the Reagan Administration's emotional and bellicose attitudes toward the Soviet Union. Loose talk from the President and his senior advisers (accessible in its full rhetoric to a Canadian audience via U.S. television networks)-of escalating the arms race, of limited nuclear conflict, of "star wars," and of a struggle between good and evil-have frightened many of those in Canada who had been used to the quiet management of the balance of terror by the superpowers. There has been as a result a marked shift in the attitudes of the Canadian public toward its southern neighbor. In a poll conducted by the Canadian Institute of International Affairs in mid-1983, 51 percent of the respondents named the Soviet Union as the main threat to world peace; but 21 percent felt that the United States posed the greater danger.

This trend in Canadian opinion acquired a specific target when the U.S. and Canadian governments agreed to test air-launched cruise missiles in northern Canada. The request to conduct the tests had been made originally by the Carter Administration. The U.S. Air Force was eager to test the inertial guidance system of the missile in terrain and climatic conditions similar to that of the northern Soviet Union. Since Canada is the only country with such attributes, Ottawa was asked to allow the USAF to test missiles from the Arctic to the Canadian Armed Forces testing base at Cold Lake, Alberta. When an agreement in principle was reached early in 1982 between the Reagan Administration and the Canadian government, Ottawa found itself with a determined and articulate opposition at home. By January 1983, a Gallup poll indicated that 52 percent of those Canadians who were aware of the cruise missile issue were opposed to testing.

A wave of public protests against cruise-missile testing was organized by numerous peace groups. In November 1982, 15,000 people demonstrated in Ottawa; other rallies were held across the country. These protests were followed in April 1983 by even larger demonstrations: in Vancouver alone, 65,000 people joined the mayor in a march through the streets of the city. Between November 1982 and May 1983, the prime minister's office received 6,570 telegrams and letters and 20,000 write-in forms and petitions on the cruise missile issue. A great deal of attention focused on Litton Systems of Toronto, which manufactures the guidance system for the cruise missile. Litton was also the target of a bomb attack in October 1982, the only incident of serious violence thus far associated with the cruise missile protests.

The cause of the peace movement gained the support of scientists, church leaders, politicians, labor leaders, and literary and academic figures. The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops called the delivery in the spring of 1983 of 3,500 letters of protest to Prime Minister Trudeau "a symbol of whether we opt for life or commit ourselves to a path that may lead to the ultimate death and destruction of all humanity." A number of unions, including the United Auto Workers of Canada and the Canadian Union of Public Employees, have expressed their disapproval of cruise-missile testing. Writing in the prestigious Toronto Globe and Mail in March 1983, a spokesman for the Canadian Medical Coalition for the Prevention of Nuclear War argued that if because of NATO and NORAD Canadians are obliged to prepare for their own demise, "perhaps it would be best to call into question Canada's association with these alliances."

Opposition to cruise-missile testing is reflected in the House of Commons, albeit unevenly. The small but articulate New Democratic Party has firmly lined up against the cruise missile. While the front benches of both the Liberals and Conservatives are committed to testing, a number of the backbenchers of both major parties have voiced their reservations.

The strength of popular opposition to cruise-missile testing has put the Trudeau government on the spot. There is little doubt that the Liberal leadership shares many of the public's apprehensions about the bellicose course of the Reagan Administration. As the prime minister himself put it in May 1983, Canadians "are demonstrating against what they see as the policy of the American president who has, rightly or wrongly, been perceived as warlike or so hostile against the Soviet Union that he can't be trusted. President Reagan and some around him have given some justification for those fears."


The Canadian government's predicament has not been all of American making, however. The Liberals themselves have generously contributed to their own problems in foreign policy. In the latter half of the 1970s and in the early 1980s, Mr. Trudeau's attention was firmly fixed on domestic problems: defusing Quebeçois nationalism, patriating the constitution from Britain, coping with recession, and, last but not least, fending off political challenges from the Progressive Conservatives.

Foreign policy, as a consequence, paled into insignificance in the Liberal government's eyes. Since 1970, there has not been a comprehensive reexamination of external policy (one was started by the Conservative government in 1979, but it never got beyond the blueprint stage). Mr. Trudeau, openly skeptical about the relevance of diplomats, surrounded himself with advisers who have been mostly economists, lawyers or experts in administrative theory, but who lacked any broader conception of Canada's role in the world or an appreciation of the continuing importance of diplomacy in the 1970s.

Certainly there was no clear-cut set of priorities-in sharp contrast to the Pearson period. As a result, Canadian statecraft fast became a patchwork of old initiatives and ad hoc responses to new exigencies. The thrust of Canadian foreign policy has been dissipated on issues of secondary importance. The prime minister and his secretary of the cabinet, Michael Pitfield, have expended a great deal of energy on "reforming" the foreign policy bureaucracy in an attempt to make it more "rational." Despite three reorganizations since 1980, however, little attention appears to have been paid to the question of what purposes this refined administrative structure is going to serve. Mr. Trudeau's initial attention after the 1980 elections seemed to focus on North-South problems; and although by the end of the 1970s he was the doyen of Alliance statesmen, Canada took a back seat in NATO, leaving the management of East-West relations to the two superpowers.

There have been rare flashes when the prime minister signaled that he is cognizant of the need for a more activist Canadian foreign policy. In an address to the United Nations in 1978, he advocated a "strategy of suffocation" of nuclear weapons; in a victory speech after the elections in February 1980, he presented a comprehensive agenda for improving East-West relations. But there has been no consistent follow-through. The Canadian government avoided taking a public stance on the strategic issues that divided NATO; nor did it offer any advice, in public at least, to the United States on arms control negotiations with the U.S.S.R. In 1979, when all major European leaders openly urged the U.S. Senate to ratify the SALT II treaty, Mr. Trudeau did not join them, either as prime minister or opposition leader. And for the first two years after Ronald Reagan's election, despite the increased militancy of statements from Washington about the Soviet threat and what is needed to counter it, the silence from Ottawa continued.

The government's initial nonchalant position over cruise-missile testing stemmed from not having thought through the strategic implications of this new weapon. Since the NATO decision in 1979, Ottawa comforted itself with the erroneous view that Canada could support the deployment of Pershing II and ground-launched cruise missiles in Europe without actually having more to do with it than accepting Litton's defense contract for the cruise missile's inertial guidance system. Soon, however, the Canadian government found itself caught at the very center of the strategic implications of this weapon.

The system that Washington has asked Ottawa to test is a second-generation cruise missile: this air-launched version is clearly not a theater, but a strategic, weapon. In the event of East-West conflict, these cruise missiles would be launched against the U.S.S.R. by American bombers flying over Canada's polar regions. And once the Soviets deploy their own version of air-launched cruise missiles (which they appear to have already tested), they will be using the same route. Defense against this generation of weapons may require a resurrection of the electronic screens of the 1950s. The new DEW line of the 1980s would be in the form of mid-course barriers in northern Canada which would detect incoming Soviet bombers and even destroy them (preferably before they had an opportunity to launch their missiles). The strategic significance of the Canadian north could once again become as important to the United States as it was in the pre-intercontinental ballistic missile era. A new strategy to fit these changed circumstances would have to be evolved jointly by Washington and Ottawa. But initially the Canadian government had little understanding of what it was getting into; it still does not seem to grasp fully the consequences of this new situation.

The Canadian government's reluctance to take a public stand on foreign policy issues may also have been due to force of habit. With but one short interlude, the Liberals have been in power for two decades; they have become used to taking the public for granted. Foreign policy has been very much the private domain of the prime minister and his closest advisers. Neither Mr. Trudeau nor his fast-changing External Affairs ministers have been inclined to elucidate the complexities of East-West relations for the benefit of the public. Thus, they have only succeeded in aggravating the bewilderment and apprehension over cruise-missile testing. Ironically, it was the Canadian External Affairs minister, Mark MacGuigan, who, at a NATO meeting in December 1981, lectured his West European colleagues on their peace movements: noting that such popular movements are "more a product of fear than logic," he urged his counterparts to do a better job in public relations. Little did he know of the gathering storm at home.

Only in 1982 did things begin to change in Ottawa. Allan MacEachen, who had been foreign minister from 1974 to 1976, and who had grown to be one of Mr. Trudeau's closest colleagues in the cabinet, was returned to that post. Canada has also adopted a more distinct profile in East-West relations. In the fall of 1982, the prime minister personally attended Brezhnev's funeral; he was soon followed to Moscow by a high-level External Affairs delegation to undertake a comprehensive review of Canada-U.S.S.R. relations-the first since the invasion of Afghanistan. In March 1983, on the eve of Vice President Bush's visit to Ottawa, Mr. Trudeau became more voluble on the issue of arms control. In the House of Commons, he urged the Americans to be more flexible in the Geneva negotiations. And after a meeting with Mr. Reagan in Washington in April, Mr. Trudeau revealed that he had pleaded with the President to hold a summit meeting with Mr. Andropov.

At the same time, the Liberal government launched a vigorous public campaign in defense of cruise-missile testing. On May 9, newspapers across the country received an unprecedented open letter from the prime minister presenting the government's view on the issue. Mr. Trudeau defended the preparations to deploy cruise missiles in Europe as a means of pressuring the Soviet Union to remove their SS-20s. "Having declared our support for the two track strategy," he wrote, "Canada should bear its fair share of the burden which that policy imposes upon the NATO alliance." Two months later, he would even argue that refusing to test the cruise missile would be tantamount to a Canadian withdrawal from NATO. The prime minister's personal campaign had little effect. In many editorials and letters to the editor, Mr. Trudeau's argument that refusing to test the cruise missile would entail withdrawing from NATO was dismissed as totally disingenuous, for cruise-missile testing does not stem from specific intra-alliance obligations; it is exclusively a Canada-United States bilateral matter.

The announcement in July that an agreement had been signed authorizing the commencement of testing in early 1984 prompted another round of coast-to-coast demonstrations. Yet, in the face of continued opposition, the government stood firm. At a Liberal Party think-tank on foreign policy held at Val Morin, Quebec, in August, Mr. MacEachen reasserted that the decision to test the cruise missile was irrevocable. For 30 years, he declared, Canada's security has been ensured by nuclear deterrence provided by the Western Alliance; the ability to preserve Canada's democratic way of life was inseparable from the security of the United States. He balanced this view, however, by stressing that the East-West dialogue must not be left exclusively to the United States and the Soviet Union. "The other countries, including Canada, ought to be there influencing one and influencing the other in directions which are useful and productive."

When the Korean Airlines 747 was shot down in September, the chill on Canadian-Soviet relations was immediate and pervasive, and not only because there were ten Canadians among the 269 civilian dead; there was widespread revulsion at this merciless act. It was unanimously condemned in the House of Commons and Aeroflot flights to Montreal were suspended for 60 days. But the incident had no mitigating effect on the cruise missile controversy: advocates of testing used it as evidence of the need for Western strength in armaments; opponents came to the opposite conclusion, that it demonstrated the urgent need for arms control.

The peace movement also tried to stall the testing through the judicial system. In an unprecedented move, a coalition of 26 anti-cruise-missile groups sought to have the government's decision declared unconstitutional on the grounds that the testing violated the guarantees of life set out in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms enshrined in the new 1982 Constitution. They scored an important victory when a Federal Court judge agreed to hear their case against the government. While it is unlikely that the peace movement will succeed in blocking the tests through the courts, the testimony that will be presented will undoubtedly receive widespread public attention.

By the fall of 1983, the government's efforts to elucidate the cruise missile issue had borne some fruit: polls indicated that only 38.5 percent of Canadians were opposed to testing, although only 41 percent supported it. On October 22, there were more "refuse the cruise" demonstrations throughout the country, with 17,000 people taking to the streets in Toronto alone. Even more significant, 57 percent of Canadians believed that over the last five years the danger of nuclear war has increased; two-thirds supported the government's efforts to lean on both superpowers to bring about nuclear disarmament. Clearly the public debate has moved beyond the cruise-missile testing issue to embrace broader foreign policy considerations.


The strong stand over the cruise missile was also motivated by Ottawa's desire not to complicate further the already strained Canada-United States relationship. For by 1982, relations between the two countries on a number of bilateral issues had reached an unpleasant nadir-the result of a decade of competing nationalisms.

Mr. Trudeau returned to office in 1980 at a time when Canadian economic nationalism was at a peak. A more strident nationalism was also evident in the United States: the Nixon Administration's ten-percent import surcharge of August 1971 was the most telling manifestation of this. The Nixon "shocks" hit Canada particularly hard, and not only because of the country's dependence on the United States (more than half of Canada's gross national product is generated by foreign trade; 70 percent of Canadian exports go to the United States). More importantly, Washington refused to grant Canada the kind of exemption that had so readily been given in the past under the special relationship that had flowered since the days of Franklin Roosevelt and Mackenzie King in the late 1930s and 1940s. While the specialness of the relationship had been in slow decline over the 1960s as a new generation succeeded the wartime and postwar group of officials in Ottawa and Washington, the events of 1971 signaled that that period of a privileged position had drawn to a close.

The import surcharge, and Washington's negative response to Canadian requests for an exemption, galvanized Ottawa to reexamine the Canadian-American relationship. In a study completed in 1972, three options for Canadian-American economic relations were explored: maintaining the status quo; seeking further economic integration with the United States; or developing a long-term economic strategy to reduce Canada's vulnerability. Two of the options were but straw men: the status quo was obviously unsatisfactory, and no party has supported closer economic ties with the United States since the Liberals under Sir Wilfrid Laurier were defeated in 1911 on the issue of reciprocity. The so-called Third Option, which was adopted as policy in the fall of 1972, was an admixture of economic measures to diversify trade and to pursue a domestic industrial restructuring. Under this strategy, the Canadian government created the Foreign Investment Review Agency (FIRA) in 1972 to monitor and regulate foreign investment; and in 1976, Ottawa signed economic agreements with the European Communities and with Japan. After the 1980 elections, in a continuation of the Third Option policy, Mr. Trudeau introduced the National Energy Program (NEP), a wide-ranging scheme to "Canadianize" the oil and gas industry, and promised to strengthen FIRA.

These measures highlighted basic ideological differences between the two countries' approaches to the proper role of the state in the economy. Traditionally, Canadians have been used to a greater degree of government intervention in the economic sphere than Americans. The shift to the right in the United States under the Republicans exacerbated these differences. While the Carter Administration greeted the economic measures adopted after Mr. Trudeau's return to power in 1980 with initial protests, these were continued, fortissimo, by the Reagan Administration, which immediately set about to protect American interests in Canada by reversing Canadian policy. Throughout 1981, Canadians were subjected to what they perceived almost as a coordinated campaign of sharp criticism from American business circles and business-related publications.7

The acrimony over economic policy, especially NEP and FIRA, was reflected in a number of other disputes between the two countries. Mr. Reagan inherited two longstanding problems. The first was a fisheries treaty which had been negotiated and signed by the Carter Administration, but which the Senate refused to ratify. The second was the question of acid rain, in which the Reagan Administration initially showed little interest. Other "low" policy squabbles included the Garrison Diversion project in North Dakota; the Alaska gas pipeline; national gas prices; import restriction legislation over lumber; and trucking and overland transport regulations. Despite regular negotiations on these issues, little progress was made while the atmosphere continued to be clouded by the economic question.

By mid-1982, the American efforts to reverse Mr. Trudeau's 1980 policies, marked at times by blunt reminders about Canada's economic vulnerability, proved effective. The Trudeau government for all intents and purposes backed away from its economic platform, managing to salvage only some parts of its National Energy Program (some other aspects of this policy were in ruins anyway, since it was predicated on the erroneous assumption that world oil prices would continue to rise rapidly).

Moreover, the advent of George Shultz in June 1982 brought to the State Department a leader thoroughly familiar with Canadian-American issues and their past history. Mr. Shultz adopted a calmer attitude toward economic disputes and evidently established a good personal rapport with Mr. MacEachen. The two ministers developed a pattern of periodic meetings that served to ease tensions substantially even where the issues could not immediately be resolved.

Partly in response to this more relaxed atmosphere, the Trudeau government moved in mid-1983 to open abandonment of the Third Option policy. A Cabinet position paper issued in August accepted Canada's heavy reliance on the U.S. market, and urged new efforts to expand trade between the two countries.

On the American side, the State Department in September 1983 took a step small in American terms but widely noted in Canada, announcing that its Bureau of European Affairs-which handles relations with Canada-was being renamed the Bureau of European and Canadian Affairs, with the Canadian section headed by a new deputy assistant secretary of state. With the appointment of William Ruckelshaus as the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency in May 1983, the Reagan Administration has shown somewhat greater sensitivity to the problem of acid rain. Yet, at another meeting of the two foreign ministers in Halifax in mid-October, nothing much was accomplished. Mr. Shultz praised Canada as a staunch ally of the United States in agreeing to test the cruise missile, but Mr. Ruckelshaus made no concrete promises to reduce acid rain, stating that this was a complex domestic American problem.

On the strategic issues, the Reagan Administration was slow to respond. When in early 1983 Vice President Bush was sent around NATO capitals to explain U.S. policy on arms control, Ottawa was not included on his itinerary. The U.S. Ambassador in Ottawa-not known for diplomatic finesse-advised the Canadian government to ignore the peace movement. Eventually, however, the political significance of the peace movement seems to have filtered into Washington. In March, Vice President Bush made a special trip to Ottawa, and in April the two foreign ministers met to review both multilateral and bilateral relations.

With the avowed fiasco of both the domestic and international components of the Third Option policy, Canada's economic relations have indeed acquired new importance. Basically there are two choices. The first would be to embrace Mr. Reagan's early proposal for a "North American accord," and move deliberately toward closer economic integration with the United States. This path would, however, be fraught with electoral problems for any Canadian political party rash enough to take it. It is thus likelier that the government will choose, as it has in the past, to pursue the other alternative: negotiating piecemeal agreements over specific issues, arguing periodically for special treatment of Canada. This would mean an attempt to return to the special relationship between the two countries which existed at mid-century. The success of this policy, however, depends on a continued positive response from Washington and perhaps on a continuation of Liberal rule.


The present position of Pierre Elliott Trudeau resembles that of Chancellor Helmut Schmidt in 1982 in West Germany-the two leaders, having shared overall East-West perspectives in the past, may still meet the same end in their careers. The political fortunes of the Liberals, like those of the Social Democrats in Germany from 1980 to the fall of 1982, have been steadily sagging. The Liberals continue to trail the Progressive Conservatives in popular support: the polls in September 1983 showed Tory support at 55 percent, compared to 27 percent for the Liberals.8 The present House of Commons expires in 1985; elections in 1984 are therefore a certainty. And, as in West Germany, the two most important issues in that election will be the state of the economy and foreign policy.

The Conservative Party is confident of victory. Its growing popularity has been linked to the party's new leader, Brian Mulroney, a young, articulate and thoroughly bilingual lawyer from Montreal. Mr. Mulroney and his external affairs spokesman, Sinclair Stevens, have taken foreign policy positions well to the right of the earlier Clark government. In their anti-communist rhetoric, they come close, if not to the Reagan Administration, at least to the Thatcher government in Britain. They advocate closer military and economic ties with the United States. Yet, the actual changes carried out by a Conservative government may prove to be more of style than substance. For the Conservatives have little experience in foreign affairs and no distinct strategic doctrine of their own. In the last analysis-as the example of the Diefenbaker government demonstrated-they are likely to fall back on the familiar "two track" policy.

The New Democrats oppose both cruise-missile testing and economic integration with the United States. They are unlikely to fare well in the next election, since their popular support has been dropping. However, they remain well-entrenched in the western provinces, so that they may hold the balance of power in the next House of Commons if a minority government is returned. And the NDP is a committed and articulate party which, regardless of its representation, will press hard for its goals both inside and outside parliament.

Between these two extremes, the Liberals-and especially Mr. Trudeau-are engaged in some fancy footwork. By strongly supporting cruise-missile testing, they avoid the trap into which the West German Social Democrats fell-being tainted with anti-Americanism. At the same time, however, they carefully distance themselves from the positions taken by the Reagan Administration over broader East-West issues. Indeed, they try to draw out the Conservatives-as they did effectively in the Commons debate over the Korean airliner tragedy-to take bellicose positions vis-à-vis the U.S.S.R. in order to discredit them in the eyes of Canadians who are apprehensive about American bellicosity. This tactic was used during Margaret Thatcher's visit to Canada in early October 1983. In a speech to parliament, she engaged in strong anti-communist rhetoric (sounding much like Mr. Stevens, though more clever); Mr. Trudeau then subtly but unmistakably distanced himself from her.

By the fall, the prime minister had donned the garb of senior statesman in an effort to bridge the present chasm between Moscow and Washington. He established a special task force of government officials to look for ways to reduce tensions between the two superpowers. At the same time, it was disclosed that he plans to visit several West European capitals, probably to be followed by trips to Moscow and Washington to promote his ideas.

In a much-heralded speech at the University of Guelph on October 26, Mr. Trudeau warned about the "ominous rhythm of crisis" in East-West relations. He emphasized that he harbors no illusions about détente from the 1970s, but that he is not ready to write it off as a complete failure either. He called for stabilizing both nuclear and conventional armaments at a lower level. To overcome the present stalemate between the two blocs he advocated that the two-track approach be supplemented by a "third rail" of "high level political energy to speed the course of agreements."

The prime minister's initiative met with a generally favorable public response. Even The Globe and Mail, a paper not known for warmth toward the Liberal government, stressed the need for nonpartisan support for his efforts. In trying to defuse the East-West tensions, it observed, Mr. Trudeau was expressing "the authentic voice of the Canadian people" and the hopes "for a peaceful world" which they all share.

These initial steps to have Canada play a more prominent role must be taken with a grain of salt, however. Lester Pearson's experience a generation ago suggests that it is doubtful whether Canadian attempts to mediate between the U.S.S.R. and the United States would have any effect. Mr. Trudeau's enthusiasm to play such a role may also be short-lived-if his past international initiatives are any indication. Indeed, a good many Canadians view his new interest in foreign policy as little more than an election gimmick, aimed at bolstering sagging political fortunes. And there is the risk that if the prime minister's initiative evokes a warmer response from Moscow than from Washington, the Conservatives could turn the tables on him and charge the Liberal leader with undermining the unity of the Western Alliance.

A leader who is on the verge of being removed from power at home is also not likely to carry much weight in international affairs. And the fact remains that the Trudeaumania of 1968 has degenerated into Trudeauphobia in 1983, particularly in the western provinces. In the summer, when he was on vacation, there were calls from Liberal backbenchers for his resignation. His critics were silenced on his return, but rebellion may again surface in the party-particularly in view of later polls confirming a sharp downward trend in Liberal popularity. Should he resign before the next elections, the leading candidate to replace him would be John Turner, a former finance minister who resigned in 1975 and who in the meantime has safely distanced himself from Mr. Trudeau.9 Under a new leader, it is still possible that the Liberals could stage a comeback, particularly if the economy, so tightly bound to economic fortunes in the United States, continues to improve during a presidential election year. It should also be easier for a new leader to return to a more active Pearsonian tradition in foreign policy.


Whatever the outcome of the political process, Washington will likely find a new aggressiveness in its relations with Ottawa. Canada's foreign policy is unlikely to be marked by the inertia that characterized it before 1982. A new government will be prodded in this direction by a public more alert to international issues, and more concerned about security policy and their government's role in the uneasy balance between East and West.

The cruise missile issue has proved an important catalyst. The debate has acquired broader, often symbolic dimensions: it now concerns Canada's foreign policy as a whole. This is reflected in greater attention being paid to international issues by the mass media and the public at large. A telling measure of this was Mr. MacEachen's admission in August 1983 that there should be a better dialogue with the public over foreign policy issues. Whether there is a Liberal or Conservative government in 1984, it is likely that a long-overdue comprehensive review of external relations-with considerable public input-will be undertaken.

A new government, then, will likely insist that its views on strategic matters be taken into account in the determination of American nuclear strategy. Canada's very existence is at stake, and the government in Ottawa will want to be kept closely informed about nuclear weapons developments and the progress of arms control negotiations with the Soviet Union. The least the Canadians will demand, as a popular slogan has it, is that there be "no annihilation without consultation."

And, despite its modest station in the world, Canada has sufficient leverage over the United States to press for these objectives. It controls territory crucial to the Western Alliance; its security is inexorably linked to that of the United States-all the more with the advent of a new generation of strategic weaponry. In the economic sphere, Canada's bargaining position has improved too. Dependence on the U.S. economy has been offset somewhat by increased Canadian investment in the United States. Similarly, Canada's natural resources continue to be vital to the United States. Increased trade works to mutual advantage-and mutual dependence.

Greater activism and concern about broader international issues does not, however, mean that a new government in Ottawa in 1984 will take a sharply different course in its foreign policy. For there is a self-sustaining consensus in Canada about the fundamental givens of Canada's foreign policy. Such consensus falls well short of bipartisanship, but it is reflected in the stands on external relations taken by both the Liberal and Conservative parties.

That key fundamental given is the recognition that Canada's location between the United States and the Soviet Union has not changed since the days of Wilgress and Reid. Governments in Ottawa can try to ignore that geopolitical reality, as Mr. Trudeau was inclined to do. But before long, its centrality to Canadian foreign relations is bound to be thrust back upon policymakers in Ottawa.

2 Escott Reid, "The United States and the Soviet Union: A Study of the Probability of War and Some Implications for Canadian Policy," August 20, 1947, quoted in Balmawyder, op. cit., p. 46.

4 L. B. Pearson, "A Step Nearer An Atlantic Community," Department of External Affairs, Statements and Speeches, 63/8.

5 The Canadian military budget was increased slightly in the mid-1970s to modernize equipment and later to meet the 1977 NATO pledge of a three percent real annual increase. However, at its current 1.8 percent of GNP, it remains comparatively next to the lowest in the Alliance.

6 "A Canadian Leader Looks at the Soviet Union," statement by Prime Minister Trudeau to the House of Commons, May 28, 1971.

8 These figures, when translated into numbers of seats in the House of Commons are, however, somewhat misleading. The Conservatives continue to have little firm support in Quebec; the Liberals are thus assured of substantial representation from this populous province in the next parliament.

9 Mr. Turner, who was born in the west, is bilingual and since 1975 has been a prominent lawyer in Toronto. He has the best chance of winning broad support throughout the country, but it is by no means certain that he can be lured from his present comfortable position to become what might turn out to be just the leader of the opposition. Another potential contender is Donald MacDonald, also a former finance minister, who was poised for a leadership race in 1979 when it appeared that Mr. Trudeau would retire. When the latter changed his mind, Mr. MacDonald was left dangling. His subsequent acceptance of the chairmanship of a commission on the national economy from Prime Minister Trudeau has not enhanced his prestige. Among the present cabinet ministers, the most qualified and appealing candidate would be the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, Jean Chrétien. However, as a Quebecker succeeding another French-Canadian, he would be unlikely to capture English Canada. Moreover, the strong, century-old tradition in the Liberal Party of alternating anglophone and francophone leaders suggests that he would have difficulty securing support in a leadership convention.


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  • Adam Bromke is Professor of Political Science at McMaster University, in Hamilton. He is an occasional consultant to the Department of External Affairs, the co-author of The Communist States and the West and the author of several other works. Kim Richard Nossal is Associate Professor of Political Science at McMaster. He is the author of a forthcoming book, The Determinants of Canadian Foreign Policy.
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