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John Ibbitson's Blog

Does Germany's history hold lessons for China's future?

Tuesday, 30 December 2014
The best kind of book asks a big question, tries to answer it (without being foolish) and leaves you with another question. For me, the best book of 2014 was Reluctant Meister, Stephen Green’s superb analysis of German history and culture.

Admission is a privilege not a right for the new Canadian immigrant

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
It has been more than four years since the MV Sun Sea arrived in Esquimalt, bearing 492 Tamil passengers claiming to be refugees. Many people feared that more ships would come to our shores, bearing thousands of claimants. But that didn’t happen, because of root-and-branch reforms to Canada’s immigration system brought in by the Harper government.

A deep freeze in Canada–U.S. relations

Friday, 21 November 2014
Every decade or so, Canada-U.S. relations reach such a parlous state that nothing good can happen until someone pushes the reset button. We’re at that state. Within a year or two, a new prime minister and/or a new president will sweep away the irritants that are gumming up the works between the two countries. Until that happens, things will remain seriously gummed. This rhythm of irritation, freeze and renewal is cyclical. We happen to be at the low ebb of the cycle.

A Bleak Global Economic Outlook?

Sunday, 9 November 2014
Once a year the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) polls its own ranks — distinguished, senior, visiting and research fellows associated with the think tank based in Waterloo, Ontario — on the state of the global economy, the banking system, trade and global warming. The 2014 results were released today as a CIGI policy brief and interactive website.

It's Time to Treat Climate Change as an Economic Issue

Monday, 27 October 2014
So here’s how things are supposed to go: Representatives of nearly 200 governments will meet in Lima, Peru in December, where they will write the first draft of a new global agreement to fight climate change. Then world leaders will gather in Paris in December 2015 to turn that draft into a new, binding accord.

A bleak future and population crisis for South Korea

Thursday, 23 October 2014
In 1980, there were 5.7 million students in elementary schools in South Korea. Today there are three million. That’s not population decline. That’s population collapse. South Korea is about to get much, much smaller, posing huge challenges for its economy and aging population. All because one of the most tightly knit cultures in the world simply can’t tolerate the thought of letting in foreigners.

The End of Cultural Protectionism

Wednesday, 24 September 2014
I am listening to Szymanowski’s Second Violin Concerto and thinking about Netflix and the end of Canadian culture as I used to know it. And not just Canada’s. Any government that seeks to protect its national culture from the forces of globalization will fail. The digital universe is too powerful.

Federalism and the Importance of Goodwill

Monday, 15 September 2014
The Scots are about to hold a referendum on independence. The Ukrainian government faces secessionist movements in its eastern regions. Iraqis and Syrians confront deep and murderous internal divisions. All share in common a future of fragmentation or federalism. Federalism is better.

How will Harper’s majority overcome its greatest failure?

Friday, 29 August 2014
Stephen Harper will almost certainly continue to ignore the growing calls for a public inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women. He has no intention of launching an expensive investigation that will lead to new demands for increased government funding. But beyond the roundtable meeting proposed by the premiers this week, there is another practical step that might yield dividends: a comparative study of how other countries grapple with aboriginal education.

Will global issues take center stage in Canada's next election?

Monday, 11 August 2014
In 2015 we may witness something almost never seen in Canada: an election with foreign policy as a major issue. Both trade and geo-politics are going to be on the agenda. Dealing with Vladimir Putin will be as important as dealing with the premiers. Stephen Harper, Thomas Mulcair and Justin Trudeau will be judged on how they would represent our country in the world.

Canada-EU Free Trade Deal: What's at Stake?

Monday, 28 July 2014
Forget the Senate scandal: the Conservatives are on the brink of an even greater fiasco, one that could tarnish Stephen Harper’s legacy and brand this Conservative majority government a failure. Worse, far worse, it puts APTA at risk.

Liberals Follow the Conservative Line on Foreign Politics

Tuesday, 22 July 2014
Our turbulent times reveal how emphatically, and how permanently, the Harper government has transformed Canada’s foreign policy. Though Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau has called for a ratcheting-down of hardline Conservative rhetoric and a return to Canada’s role as an honest broker in the world, when push comes to shove, Liberals and Conservatives are shoving together.

Celebrating Canada's Culture of Accommodation

Wednesday, 2 July 2014
Is Canada the most tolerant place in the world because Canadians are more enlightened than others? The answer is no. Accidents of geography and history account for our blessings.

The Politics of Polarization

Wednesday, 18 June 2014
Canada has a new politics, the politics of polarization. This is why Canadian foreign policy has become polarized as well. Many people have difficulty accepting this. Following on the publication of his new book, How We Lead, former prime minister Joe Clark is once again criticizing what he calls the “megaphone diplomacy” of the Conservative government.

Today's Canada in Today's World

Thursday, 22 May 2014
Justin Trudeau wants to undo a decade of Conservative foreign policy and return Canada to its Pearsonian tradition of being a helpful fixer in the world. The problem is that the country has changed and the world has changed. If Mr. Trudeau simply wants to turn the clock back, he will fail. The question is whether he has the insight to adapt past Liberal principles to current reality. Those closest to him insist the answer is yes.

Justin Trudeau's School of International Relations

Wednesday, 21 May 2014
Everything that is attractive about the prospect of Justin Trudeau leading this country, and everything about that prospect that is worrying, can be found in the Liberal leader’s nostalgic approach to Canada in the world. Until recently, we had little idea of how Mr. Trudeau planned to manage foreign affairs should he win the next election.

Pacific Trade and Canadian Elections

Monday, 21 April 2014
If Barack Obama and Shinzo Abe can hammer out a deal on agriculture subsidies this week, then next year’s Canadian election could be the first in a generation in which trade is a key issue, with Stephen Harper favouring the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and Thomas Mulcair and (possibly) Justin Trudeau opposing it.

As with pipelines, so with trade

Tuesday, 1 April 2014
Once again, Stephen Harper’s political fortunes are being held hostage by American domestic politics. First it was the Keystone XL pipeline. Now it’s the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). The Prime Minister may soon have to choose whether or not to champion a TPP agreement that could end protection for dairy and poultry farmers — a very risky move politically -- even though the United States might never ratify the treaty.

Farewell, Mr Flaherty

Thursday, 20 March 2014
Brand Canada today stands for a well ordered financial sector, prudent fiscal and monetary policy, skilled management of the recent financial crisis, and a rigourous approach to restoring balanced budgets. As Finance Minister from February 2006 until last Tuesday, Jim Flaherty played a starring role in that story, though he was by no means the only star. Whatever Canadians might think about Mr. Flaherty’s legacy, the world will remember him as the man who sat in Canada’s chair when Canada set an example for the world.

Harper's foreign policy: Ukraine and the Diaspora vote

Wednesday, 19 March 2014
The crisis in Ukraine has, once again, divided the Canadian foreign-policy establishment, with some veteran observers harshly criticizing the Harper government’s gung-ho approach, while others rally to its defence. But Ukraine is in some ways a proxy in this debate. The real, raw wound is Israel.
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