Canada’s ranking on the international stage

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Pontiac Perspectives by Peter Gauthier


Pontiac Perspectives by Peter Gauthier

On June 6, Global Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland addressed the House of Commons with a speech on Canada’s foreign policy. The next day, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan presented a paper outlining Canada’s defence policy. Both contain an implicit disagreement with the policies and actions of U.S. President Trump. Between the two presentations, Canadians were given a good indication of where the government would like to be in ten years. We are to take our place on the world’s stage as a model middle power demonstrating an alternative to Trump’s closed America. But where is Canada now? How do we compare with other
countries? Are there important issues not addressed by the ministers?
First, in basic comparison with other countries, Canada does well. The Institute
for Economics and Peace produces a global index of peace, ranking 163 countries according to their levels of peace. In their latest report, Canada is in 8th place (very high), while the USA is 114th (medium). A second index of Canada’s positionin the world is given by Reporters Without Borders, who in their World Press Freedom Index, put Canada at 22.  This is a drop of four places from the previous listing and puts Canada below the top 20, indicating some problem areas with press freedom in Canada. For comparison, the USA placed 43 – significantly below Canada. A third indicator of Canada’s position on the international stage is that of taxation. Of the 35 OECD countries, 24 have higher tax rates than Canada. But Canada’s
environmental record is not good. Of the 17 most industrialized countries, Canada ranks 15 on per capita greenhouse gas emissions.   (Australia and USA rank poorer.)
These numbers show that Canada seems to have a notable international presence, but we are not without our problems. Our emergency medical services
fall short of international standards – in an OECD comparison, Canada placed dead last! In terms of foreign aid, Canada also hits a low mark; approximately 0.3% of GDP, well below the UN recommendation of 0.7%.
Further, a country is known for how it treats its own citizens, especially minorities and the disadvantaged. Here there are some significant issues. Canada is one of the very few democracies that does not use some form of proportional system for elections, and recent actions by the Liberal government in Ottawa ensure the system will not change in the near future. Also, our failure to act on identified issues of our First Nations is a serious mark against our concept of a just society.
The list of pluses and minuses could continue. However, what becomes
evident is that Canada can have a role in the international sphere; to be truly
significant however, our government must address some major issues, both internal and external.