The trouble with Canada’s approach on maternal health

By Valerie Percival

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is proud of Canada’s engagement on maternal health. The Muskoka Initiative, launched during Canada’s G8 presidency in 2010, has committed US$7.3 billion (with $2.85 billion from Canada) to address maternal mortality and child health. During the current election campaign, the Prime Minister refers to it as an example of Canada’s leadership on the world stage. Supporters include Melinda Gates and Ban Ki-moon. The money has undoubtedly shone a light on a key global health issue and saved lives.

What’s the problem?

The problem is that we don’t want women and girls just to survive. We want them to thrive. Canada’s current approach to maternal health may keep girls and women alive, but it does not promote a context that improves their life chances. It’s simply not good enough. Not for a country like Canada.

A scroll through the list of projects funded by the Muskoka Initiative reveals a clear focus on the provision of health care services: Canada builds delivery rooms, provides equipment, and trains health care workers.

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Election 2015: Devising new defence platforms (Part 3)

By Steve Saideman

A couple of weeks ago, I was frustrated that the major parties had not articulated Defence platforms so I wrote one for the Liberals and then one for the NDP, and then the Liberals came out with their statement.

I left the Conservative platform for last.  Why?  Because it is the hardest to write.  Why?  Because it could simply be “more of the same” but the government has been beaten up many times over the past nine years for procurement problems and for never developing a significant defence review despite changing world circumstances.

The (imagined) Conservative defence platform:

Under the Conservatives, Canada has acted to defend itself and support its interests in a very dangerous world.  Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, the spread of ISIS in Syria and Iraq, Iran, and other threats to Canada’s security means that Canadians should continue to support the experienced team that we have put together.  Keeping the proven team in place will also help us build upon the Canada First Defence Strategy.

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The Syrian Crisis: A three-pronged strategy for Canada

By Valerie Percival

The Syrian crisis is no longer contained. Millions of refugees have fled into neighbouring countries. Tens of thousands are walking miles across Europe in search of safety and compassion.   Yet the world seems paralyzed – incapable of a coordinated response.

Canada shares in that paralysis. The recent announcement from the government recognizing Syrians as “prima facie” refugees, appointing a senior coordinator and scaling up immigration staff is welcome. Yet the government changed its policies begrudgingly, with a cap of just 10,000 refugees by the end of the year and 46,000 by 2019. Their talking points remain constant, reminding Canadians that an influx of tens of thousands of refugees from Syria could undermine Canada’s security and way of life.

Such a parochial approach is inconsistent with the facts. Canada is a rich country. We are also a nation of migrants. Refugees fleeing war and oppression have long contributed to Canada’s material wealth, social capital and promise. And Canada’s security has always been best served by extending a hand to those in need.

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Election 2015: Devising new defence platforms (Part 2)

By Steve Saideman

Last week I proposed a Liberal Defence Party Platform since the Liberal Defence Critic had posted one that was pretty thin.  I promised to write platforms for the other two major parties (even I would not want to inflict my French on the Bloc Quebecois and the Greens can just shut down DND and the CAF, I suppose), so today I am self-tasted to write an NDP defence platform.

The good news for me and the bad news for the electorate is that there is no defence section on the NDP website and Jack Harris, the NDP Defence Critic, posted a platform that is also quite vague on most matters, focusing mostly on the quality of life of those in the Canadian Forces and not so much what they are supposed to be doing and with what.  Which means I have something to write!

Again, my take on this is driven by my view of the party’s values and constraints as determined by past decisions.  In practice, that means not undoing the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy ESPECIALLY in the case of the NDP, given that it is likely to win seats in the areas where the ships are to be built.

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Leadership labels: No, Harper is not a neo-con

By Stephanie Carvin

A recent piece by Matthew Bondy in Foreign Policy argues that Stephen Harper is “the Last Neocon” and “Bush-era Hawk.” Bondy largely supports this view by pointing to Harper’s support for the 2003 Iraq War, Afghanistan and his support for “advancing freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law.”

Let’s get this straight — Stephen Harper is many things to many people, but he is not a neo-conservative.

In his 2002 essay, “What the heck is a neo-con?” Max Boot (taking inspiration from Irving Krisol) succinctly but usefully describes a neo-conservative as a “liberal mugged by reality.” Essentially, both liberals and neo-conservatives believe that democratic (specifically American values) can and should be spread abroad — a belief that is often described as “Wilsonianism.” However what differentiates the neo-conservative “hard Wilsonians” from the liberal “soft Wilsonians” is the former’s willingness to use force in order to achieve these aims. However, crucially, what underpins both is a shared internationalism.

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Election 2015: Devising new defence platforms (Part 1)

By Steve Saideman

I read what passes for a Liberal defence platform with a great deal of frustration because it mostly criticized the Conservatives (which have earned such criticism) with few suggestions of what the Liberals would actually do if they had the chance to run the government. 

Journalists David Pugliese, Lee Berthiaume, and Ian MacLeod have a nice piece in the Ottawa Citizen that takes the Liberal Defence critic’s platform and other promises to come up with a list of what the Liberals would do on defence:

  • Amend C-51.
  • “Create an all-party national security oversight committee to oversee the 17 government departments and agencies with national security responsibilities.”
  • Reopen the regional Vet Affairs offices that the Conservatives closed.

Except for the middle one, of which I am most curious (since it relates to an on-going project I am doing with Phil Lagassé and Dave Auerswald), there is nothing here that in fact relates to the Department of National Defence or the Canadian Armed Forces.

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Venezuela’s unlikely rescuers: the US and Cuba?

By Jean Daudelin

Given the scale of its problems and the “quality” of its government, Venezuela could have collapsed into a civil war years ago. It did not. The restraint shown by the opposition and especially the fact that most weapons were on the Chavista side kept the lid on the pot.

The crisis is now deeper than ever, with deadly department stores’ looting now joining crippling shortages of basic necessities, increasing unemployment, the world’s highest inflation rate, stratospheric levels of corruption, disintegrating public services, crumbling infrastructure and terrifying levels of criminal violence.

At the same time, the government’s quasi-monopoly of violence is breaking down. President Nicolás Maduro’s control over the military and party militias has always been partial with National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello, in particular, keeping a much-purged and corrupt military for himself. There are rumbles, however, both on the party militia side and within the military. Without surprise, the regimes’ much used but long unruly street gangs’ loyalty is less assured than ever. When it comes, in other words, the violence will start from within Chavista ranks.

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