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Parliamentary Bookshelf: ReviewsParliamentary Bookshelf: Reviews
Rosette Gagnon-Bélanger

Brave New Canada: Meeting the Challenge of a Changing World, by Derek H. Burney and Fen Osler Hampson, McGill-Queen’s University Press, Canada, 2014, 218pp.

Participating in international events, ratifying multilateral treaties, working on economic development, and responding to global issues and crises – all of these elements are included in a country’s foreign policy. It is not an easy task to balance positive and negative outcomes of each initiative and it is even more difficult to clearly take into account some of the benefits of diplomacy. As the world becomes more intertwined, it is harder to fully comprehend the extent to which an action or a partnership can help a country’s economic growth and stability in the long-term. As a medium-sized country, Canada used to rely on its presence in international organizations as a means to actively influence international affairs. Nevertheless, since the election of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservatives, the government has been less oriented towards a liberal and multilateral approach and more towards a case-by-case approach influenced by Canada’s values and interests.

Brave New Canada: Meeting the Challenge of a Changing World is inspired by the assertive and economically-driven position of Harper’s foreign policy. Like the current government, the authors of the book stress the need to link economic agreements with security concerns. The merging of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) with the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) in 2013 demonstrates this change in mentality. Targeting a non-expert audience interested in international politics, each chapter of the book provides an overview of the theme discussed before moving into in-depth analysis. The book is designed to produce reactions and not to indicate in detail what changes have to be implemented in our foreign policy. The book supports the transition from liberal institutionalism to economic diplomacy, in which Canada establishes relations with countries that can best serve its economic interests. Hence, as power is gradually shifting towards Asia, Canada must shape its political and economic policy in order to gain from the continent’s economic development.

Both authors are very knowledgeable about Canada’s international interests. Burney is a former Canadian ambassador to Washington and a former chief of staff to Brian Mulroney. Additionally, he handled the transition of governments for Stephen Harper in 2006. Hampson teaches international affairs at Carleton University and is the director of Global Security for the Centre for International Governance Innovation in Waterloo. Moreover, he is an expert on Canadian foreign policy. In 2012, they co-wrote the report Winning in a Changing World, which was later delivered to the prime minister. Brave New Canada: Meeting the Challenge of a Changing Worldseems to be the continuation of this report, as it further addresses the challenges faced by Canada to safeguard its international position as a competitive and wealthy country.

Drawing on a comprehensive examination of recent political events and an exploration of the country’s memberships in international organizations, the authors brilliantly build up their argument. In addition to analyzing how the contemporary role of international organizations and the private sector will figure into Canada’s future, the text also examines current economic relations between Canada and the rest of the world, predominantly the United States. It offers a critical assessment of the need to establish stronger relationships with other, sometimes less conventional, countries. One chapter of the book is dedicated to summarizing the current relationships that Canada has with some of these countries and the ways that Canada could further develop its economic relationship with each country. Nevertheless, the authors could have pointed out more precisely initiatives or policies which would allow Canada to build comprehensive economic and diplomatic partnerships. For example, many foreign affairs experts argue that even after signing the Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA) with China in September 2014, Canada still needs to focus more on bilateral diplomatic relations which have become strained or deteriorated in the past decade.

When Burney and Hampson mention that “the government will have to decide whether it wants to ‘walk the talk’ on diversification and whether it seriously intends to broaden economic ties beyond traditional but sagging markets like the US and the EU” (p.49), the tone is confident, bold and compelling. The authors contend that Canada has to engage more eagerly with emerging markets, mainly Asia, but also Latin America and Europe. The arguments brought forward by the authors are based on a careful evaluation of multidimensional aspects of complex international dynamics. Furthermore, the authors suggest that the only way to remain influential through participation in international organizations is by carefully choosing which ones best align with the country’s interests. In brief, the analysis results in the recommendation of the “Third Option with Legs.” It is a combination of the first option, a closer relationship with the United States, and the second option, a diversification of our economy away from the United States to better suit Canadian interests. The “Third Option with Legs” means staying close to our southern neighbor while reaching out to new economies and increasing our participation in international initiatives which reflect Canada’s interests and values.

Brave New Canada: Meeting the Challenge of a Changing World presents well-written analysis and thoughtful examination of the key factors which influence the foreign policy of Canada. The book distinguishes itself by providing information on various aspects of the socioeconomic reality of Canada and its position internationally. Nonetheless, this book is written to support the point of view of the current government. Although the authors’ recommendations were reached after a careful review of Canada’s political standing on topics such as international trade, security, human rights and development, the book’s purpose is primarily to produce reactions among the readers and to defend the new strategic position of Canadian foreign policy to efficiently support our economic growth and development.

Rosette Gagnon-Bélanger
MA Candidate (Public and International Affairs), University of Ottawa

Canadian Parliamentary Review Cover
Vol 38 no 1

Last Updated: 2020-09-14