Single Largest Threat to Modern Civilizations is Climate Crisis

Canada’s current place in the world is shrinking. The United Nations General Assembly vote to deny Canada its traditional rotation on the Security Council should be a wake-up call that we are losing our reputation in the world.

The Green Party is the only truly global party, with Greens in 70 countries and elected Members of Parliament in Europe, Latin America, Australia, and New Zealand. Together we work to press the nuclear super-powers to meet their obligations for disarmament, to reduce and eliminate the nuclear threat. We work to shift military budgets to peacekeeping and peace-building. We work to ensure the education, health protection and economic autonomy of women and girls around the world to address poverty and over-population.

Greens see the world as a planetary whole. We believe the essence of a strong security policy starts with addressing the single largest security threat to modern civilizations the climate crisis. As Gwynne Dyer pointed out in his book, Climate Wars, military establishments around the world are aware that the threat of increased political destabilization due to increased severity and frequency of severe climatic events warrants treating climate as a security threat. The spectre of millions of environmental refugees is a real and near-term reality, if we do not move aggressively to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Honouring binding multilateral treaties, such as the Kyoto Protocol, is a measure of a nation’s reliability and integrity in the world. As the only nation to have ratified and then repudiated Kyoto, we have blotted our copy book in the community of nations. Our domestic fossil-fuel expansionist policies put us at odds with the International Energy Agency, the European Union, and more.

Meanwhile, addressing global disparities, working together as nation-states to improve the standard of living for all, is more than a free market issue. It requires equity, the rule of law, and enhanced global governance.

Defence policy needs to be nested in the context of how we see our role in the world. Increasingly, Prime Minister Stephen Harper appears to defining our role in two ways trade and military hardware.

We are entering into cookie-cutter trade agreements with small (and in some cases corrupt) economies. Jordan, Panama, Colombia, with China yet to come. Our international posture is one of unquestioning support for Israel (I support the existence of the state of Israel, but think unquestioning cheer-leading is a disservice to peace in the region), and joining NATO missions with zeal.

Meanwhile, we are sending the signal that diplomacy is a dwindling concern. For some time, the Harper Conservatives have been shrinking our embassy presence so that a Canadian in trouble in Nicaragua, for example, is told the closest Canadian presence is in Guatemala and in any event, your phone call is directed to a 1-800 emergency line in Ottawa. With the 2012 budget, we are selling off diplomatic residences a decision surely to be rated penny wise and pound foolish by successor governments.

The most high-profile domestic defence question is clearly the botched procurement process for the F-35s. In many ways the F-35 fighter jet is the perfect object lesson from former U.S. President and former General Dwight Eisenhower’s warning to beware of the “military-industrial complex.” Canada’s rationale for joining in the process in 1997 had little, if anything, to do with domestic security and everything to do with hoped-for aerospace contracts.

Under Liberal prime ministers Chrétien and Martin, Canada put up initial funds to participate (first $10-million in 1997 and then a further $150-million in 2001). Up until this point, the auditor general found no fault with the process and accountability of decision-making. It was beyond the scope of the auditor general’s report to investigate whether Canada needed the F35s. Just as it was beyond the auditor general’s responsibility to find out which of the political masters were aware of the various and repeated acts of incompetence and failures of due diligence he went on to report.

The auditor general recounted such a trail of violations in the fundamentals of normal procurement process that even seasoned Ottawa-watchers are stunned. The decisions were generally taken in reverse order. First came the decision, followed by inventing criteria to justify the decisions, and then, lastly the rationale. Not one, but two, departments were found to have failed in the exercise of basic due diligence. Both the Department of National Defence (DND) and the Department of Public Works and Government Services Canada (Public Works) were found to have fallen below the standard of due diligence. 

The essence of the AG report is not, as Defence Minister Peter MacKay now claims, that the AG found a novel way to add up the costs of the jets. The essence of the report is that Canadians were lied tofor years. Parliament was misled for years. And the whole F-35 project, from 2006 onwards, was typified by a litany of rogue decision-making. What we need to know is how it happened that two departments suspended judgment, cut corners, and violated process. One theory is that Public Works and DND were independently willing to abandon normal procurement rules. More likely, the orders came from the one in control of all departments the Prime Minister who wants to remake us as a warrior nation.

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May represents Saanich-Gulf Islands, B.C.
Originally printed in the Hill Times.