Editor’s Note: This is part three of a three-part series covering the foreign policy planks of the Conservative, NDP, and Liberal platforms for the 2021 election. This analysis is produced by iAffairs Canada’s Jenna Richmond, Mischa Longman, and Aakanksha Sharma. Click this link to browse the New Democratic platform, and here for our analysis of the Liberal’s foreign policy plan, as well as the Conservatives’ foreign policy plan.
With domestic issues taking priority in the New Democrat’s election platform, only a few pages of the plan are dedicated to foreign policy. Despite a few notable additions, the vast majority of the NDP’s plans are drawn straight from their 2019 platform.
Whether recycled stances from their 2019 platform or bold, new commitments to issues regarding China and Israel, the NDP’s foreign policy plans lack detail and clear planning to support their many platform pledges. Only a few exceptions, such as climate change efforts, exist where the NDP offer specific actions to realize their promises and goals.
Here are some of the main foreign policy-related excerpts from the New Democrat’s plan.
Defence and Security
The New Democrats’ 2021 platform contains the least detail on security and defence issues of any of the three major parties, with what is present largely recycled from their 2019 publication. However, this relative lack of space or novelty in the platform does not prevent the party from maintaining stances on issues of international security and defence which differ strongly from the Liberal and Conservative plans, as well as introducing two key updates.
The platform reiterates the NDP’s pledge to “recommit to peacekeeping” and promises to fund “a renewed priority of advancing multilateral peacekeeping initiatives around the world”, though no further details are given. Given the absence of any explicit peacekeeping commitments in the Liberal or Conservative platforms, the NDP platform is still able to stand out from the pack even if the nature of these initiatives remains vague. These promises are also a step back from the 2015 NDP platform of Tom Mulcair, where explicit reference was made to increasing Canada’s peacekeeping missions and personnel contribution each year in order to become the top peacekeeper among Western states.
Despite the general carry-over of commitments from 2019, the new platform also contains two key updates to the NDP’s vision of Canadian security and defence, namely harder stances on both Israel and China. In particular, the promise of “suspending arms sales to Israel until the end of the illegal occupation” as a means of securing peace in the Middle East is a major departure from both their own 2019 platform and those of the other parties. Despite this, the NDP ultimately maintains their 2019 support for a two-state solution, in line with the other parties.
On China, the NDP promise in particular to “provide coordinated support for those facing threats by Chinese entities here in Canada” is the second major development in the NDP’s defence and security foreign policy since 2019. Furthermore, despite significant reference to combating foreign interference in the Liberal platform, the NDP arguably goes further in actually naming Chinese state actors as a culprit, putting this particular policy much more in line with the Conservatives’ China-centric security agenda. As with other aspects of the NDP’s defence and security pledges, this bold declaration is hampered by a lack of follow-up detail as to what these enhanced measures would look like, while both the Grits and Tories provide concrete planning.
Relative to the Liberal and Conservative platforms, the NDP have placed a significant emphasis on a “Canada first” trade policy, intertwining a focus on Canadian interests into trade policy platforms. They explicitly mention “defending Canadian workers in trade negotiations”, creating greater transparency in keeping Canadians informed about trade deal processes, and ensuring trade unions have increased power to advocate on behalf of Canadian workers.
The NDP do not explicitly mention shifts in ties with international trade partners as a mechanism to protect national interests; this contrasts with the Conservative and Liberal platforms, which do point to significant changes in trade ties with partners to strengthen Canada’s position, albeit in different ways. For the Conservatives, protecting Canadian interests entails re-shifting priorities in the Eastern hemisphere: withdrawing from the Asian Infrastructure and Investment Bank and enforcing policy that makes it harder for Chinese-owned entities to “take over Canadian firms” while strengthening ties with India by resuming free trade talks. The Liberals, in comparison, are looking to strengthen their position in Asia and Africa overall, with the launch of a comprehensive Asia-Pacific strategy to “deepen diplomatic, economic, and defence partnerships in the region”, while also “developing a strategy for economic cooperation across Africa”.
The NDP are the only party to explicitly mention fighting against steel and aluminium tariffs negotiated between Canada and the US by the Liberals. Viewing the result of the negotiations as a direct harm to Canadian industry, they aim to offer direct support to steel and aluminium industries by creating a requirement for Canadian-made steel and aluminium to be used for infrastructure projects.
Climate Change and the Environment
Compared to the Liberals and Conservatives, the NDP has the highest target rate for cutting emissions, promising at least 50% by 2030. This is in comparison to the Liberal target of 40-45% (in accordance with the new Paris Agreement targets), and the relatively stringent Conservative target of 30%. The NDP and Liberals have also promised net zero emissions by 2050, and also parallel targets of protecting 30% of land and oceans by 2030; the Conservatives in contrast have committed to a 17% target alongside a vague commitment to “work towards 25 percent”.
Approaches on how to achieve these goals differ starkly across parties. The NDP are focused on leveraging the creation of green infrastructure (i.e., low carbon transit projects) to promote economic growth and sustainability while also meeting environmental targets. To accommodate job transitions for the oil and the gas sector, the NDP has pledged expanded employment insurance and investments in job retraining. In addition, the NDP has pledged to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies, and is the only party committed to redirecting funds to “low carbon initiatives.”
One notable inclusion in this effort is commitment to ensuring that marginalized communities benefit from this job creation and investments in green infrastructure. In addition, the NDP has pledged to open an Office of Environmental Justice to address the impacts of the climate crisis on marginalized communities.
The NDP aims to expand Canada’s international development aid budget “with the goal of contributing 0.7% of our Gross National Income to international aid.” This pledge, which aligns with the OECD target, has been a consistent part of the party’s platform over the past 15 years and would more than double the current level of official development assistance. They also renew their calls to support The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals for 2030, and gender equality through promoting women’s rights and access to education. The level of support for such issues remains vague, however, with no concrete details being provided.
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, a significant addition to the New Democrats platform is their support of the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights Waiver (TRIPS). Paving the way for local vaccine development through waiving intellectual property rights for COVID vaccines, this commitment contrasts the Liberals non-committal to the issue and their plans to instead donate at least 200 million vaccines doses to COVAX for vulnerable populations.
With immigration, the NDP has their sights set chiefly on reducing the backlog of immigration applications for family reunification. They also adopt a combative tone against both the Liberals and Conservatives; the platform criticizes the 2021 backlog of refugee family member applications under the former and the “dangerous statements that seek to divide our communities” from the latter.
In order to enact this proposed streamlining of the immigration system, the NDP lays out a trio of key measures to fix it – working more closely with the provinces in order to address gaps in settlement services, improve the recognition of foreign credentials in order to meet labour market needs, and regulating the immigration consultancy market to eliminate abusive practices.
It must be noted that all of these policies are included in the party’s 2019 platform as well; with minimal changes to the language used and no further specification on the material means of enacting these commitments. The unspecified “gaps in settlement services” at the provincial level are not explained, nor are the problems posed by privatized immigration consultants.
This lack of detail is particularly sharp when compared to the immigration policies in the platforms of the NDP’s competitors. For instance, the NDP platform endorses a streamlined path to citizenship for foreign workers; however, their platform lacks a concrete proposal to do so. In contrast, the Liberals endorse the use of the Express Entry Points System and the Conservatives lay out an expedited processing mechanism to clear immigration backlogs, and also propose a credential recognition task force.