By Scott Costen
STARK foreign policy differences were revealed during the September 10 Green Party of Canada leadership debate.
Co-hosted by Rabble.ca and the Canadian Foreign Policy Institute, the online debate saw the leadership race’s two self-described eco-socialists frequently at odds with the other six candidates.
Journalist and activist Dimitri Lascaris and immigration lawyer Meryam Haddad agreed on five out of six “poll” questions posed by moderator Judy Rebick.
Candidates were instructed to mute their microphones and answer the poll questions silently with thumbs either up, down, or sideways.
Lascaris and Haddad were the only two to indicate “no” when asked whether Canada should stay in NATO.
They were also the only two dissenting votes on Canada remaining in the Five Eyes intelligence alliance with Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
When candidates were asked if they had opposed Canada’s unsuccessful bid for a UN Security Council seat, Lascaris and Haddad were joined by Glen Murray, a former Ontario Liberal cabinet minister, in answering with thumbs up.
On the question of whether Canada should remain in the Lima Group, which actively seeks regime change in Venezuela, Lascaris and Haddad indicated no, along with Murray and astrophysicist and 2019 federal Green candidate Amita Kuttner.
Lawyer and international affairs professional Annamie Paul elected to pass on all six poll questions, including one about Canada signing the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
She described the non-verbal poll process as “a bit like bingo” and said the issues involved were “too important for that particular format.”
The two-hour leadership event was conducted via Zoom and livestreamed on YouTube.
The traditional question-and-answer component of the evening produced little in the way of direct debate between candidates.
But there were clear areas of demarcation — and even some outright disagreement — on a range of foreign policy topics.
David Merner, a retired dispute resolution specialist and government legal advisor, took a far more hawkish tone on China than his opponents.
He claimed Canada’s northern sovereignty is at risk because China “views the Northwest Passage and the Arctic Ocean as a passageway to Europe.”
“I see China as one of the most serious threats to Canada in the coming decades,” Merner said.
Lawyer Andrew West, widely viewed as the centre-right candidate in the race, went to bat for NATO as a vehicle for helping countries affected by climate change and the ravages of colonialism.
“We need to go to these countries to help them,” he said. “And that’s why I am suggesting we actually make more of a commitment on the international stage when it comes to peacekeeping and our NATO commitments.”
Courtney Howard, a Yellowknife-based emergency room physician, spoke in favour of welcoming to Canada those Hong Kong residents who may be at risk of political persecution.
She also expressed a willingness to impose strategic economic sanctions on Israel to prevent further annexation of the occupied Palestinian territories.
When asked about the possibility of U.S. foreign policy being dictated by Joe Biden instead of Donald Trump, all candidates except the two eco-socialists agreed it would be a clear improvement.
“During Obama’s administration, the foreign policy of the USA wasn’t that different from the current one,” Haddad said. “Canada’s foreign policy should be independent from the political interests of the USA.”
Lascaris was even less convinced things would change under Biden.
“In the foreign policy domain, there really isn’t much difference between Joe Biden and Donald Trump,” he said.
“Joe Biden was the vice-president when the United States participated in the destruction of Libya,” he said. “He was also the vice-president when the United States pursued a drone program, in the Middle East principally, which constituted a series of heinous war crimes.”
Nearly 35,000 party members are eligible to vote for Elizabeth May’s replacement as Green Party leader. The winner is expected to be announced October 3.
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