When Justin Trudeau presented his cabinet to the public, declaring the new cabinet “looks like Canada“, he promised to bring a government of change and transparency to Canadians. Holding true to his commitment of change, 18 members of his cabinet are fresh politicians, many in newly-named positions. Amidst the diverse cabinet, one prestigious position has been filled with one recognizable name: Stéphane Dion, Canada’s new Minister of Foreign Affairs.
While half the cabinet are brand new politicians, Mr. Dion has no lack of experience, to say the least. Appointed in both the Chrétien and Martin cabinets, and well-known for being an academic, Dion brings experience and knowledge to a cabinet that will likely need some guidance along the way. While foreign affairs is one of the more difficult cabinet portfolios, Dion is an excellent choice for the position. Mr. Dion has the skills to navigate the often complex world of international politics. So what can we expect from Mr. Dion?
We can expect Mr. Dion to focus strongly on climate change; the upcoming international summit on climate change is approaching, and no doubt Dion is already prepared. He’s declared climate change to be the issue of the century, committing that “…Canada will be part of the solution”. In 2005, he was Chair of the U.N. Climate Change Summit and one of his main platforms as leader of the Liberal Party was on sustainable development; his aim has always been to see economics and the environment merge, and we’ll likely see him focus on this a lot. As Foreign Minister, we can expect to see the creation and negotiation of a clean energy agreement with the US and Mexico. Domestically, it will be no surprise to see him work closely with the Minister of the Environment, Catherine McKenna.
On the campaign trail, Trudeau promised Canada would once again be a leader in humanitarian and peace-keeping missions and it will be up to Dion to follow through. We’ll see Canada participate more in the UN, a return to multilateralism, and a re-strengthening of Canada’s reputation as peacekeepers. Dion will definitely sign the Arms Trade Treaty, where Canada’s signature has been notably absent up until now. We know Dion is very cautious towards war, and he will follow through on Trudeau’s promise to withdraw from Syria.
One of the most important aspects of the Foreign Affairs position is building bilateral relationships. Historically, Canada has mainly focused on its relationship with the US, but the relationship with Russia will also prove to be a challenge. Top issues include Russia’s involvement in the Ukraine, but the Canada-Russia relationship will become essential over Arctic issues.
Relationships with super powers can be difficult to navigate, and both will present distinct problems, but if anyone is up to the task it’s Stéphane Dion. If an MP from Quebec can fight against the sovereignty movement, there’s no relationship he can’t take on. Ever-practical, he won’t be afraid to stand up to either the US or Russia.
While Stéphane Dion may have been a bit of an unexpected choice, he’s among the most qualified. As a politician, he’s been focused and practical; he’ll be one to get things done. No politician is perfect but Mr. Dion isn’t afraid of failures, and setbacks clearly don’t stop him. Losing an election didn’t end his career; it only propelled him forward. There’s no one better to do the same for Canada, and as Dion himself so eloquently put it, “the world is waiting for us.”
Michelle Adams is currently an MA student at NPSIA. She completed her undergraduate degree in Political Science at Lakehead University.