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Martin Forced to Take Middle Ground on Defence Issues

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Section: Canadian News Geography: Canada Topics: Canadian Foreign Policy

August 25, 2004

Martin Forced to Take Middle Ground on Defence Issues

The new Liberal government's minority status is resulting in it having to tread carefully within its Department of Defence. The hawkish David Pratt is out, and Bill Graham is in as the department's minister, and many former policies and spending plans are now in doubt. Graham will now have to carefully work with the NDP and the Bloc Quebecois, and both parties oppose more military spending and Canada's involvement in Bush's missile defence system.
The good news for Prime Minister Martin is that there seems to be not much difference, in terms of defence policies, between the Liberals and the Conservatives, with apparent agreement on most of the main issues. Both Martin and Harper seem quite ready to trade policies and military spending for improved relations with the US. Both are certainly not ready to downsize the military to what our "peacekeeping" role calls for.

Martin will soon need to make a decision on missile defence, with considerable pressure from the US. Martin does not have to put this issue to a vote, as he could simply amend NORAD. However, he cannot politically afford to totally go against the public consensus, which polls state to be against the project. Also, it may be too soon after the election in order to work closely with Harper on the issue (which would have to mathematically happen in order to sign up to the deal) and since Layton and Duceppe, as well as many within the Liberal party, are against the deal, Martin may be effectively handcuffed on the issue, regardless of his intentions.

Martin, aside from replacing the Sea Kings, may be forced to act like a dove for a while. This is good news for the average Canadian, who does not want a US-style military, and does not want billions of dollars wasted on new equipment, weapons, and programs.

(source: Polaris Institute)

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The Dominion is a monthly paper published by an incipient network of independent journalists in Canada. It aims to provide accurate, critical coverage that is accountable to its readers and the subjects it tackles. Taking its name from Canada's official status as both a colony and a colonial force, the Dominion examines politics, culture and daily life with a view to understanding the exercise of power.

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