Canada’s elections: Who will benefit Jordan?

From left to right ( Justin Trudeau, Jagmeet Singh and Erin O'Toole)
Our country is one with excellent relations with a plethora of states and entities throughout the international community. Countries on every continent and rival players in different conflicts all confide in Jordan — a legacy built by the pursuant diplomacy of the late King Hussein and His Majesty King Abdullah. At the same time, Jordan’s small size, lack of resources, and its location in such a volatile region put it in a precarious position, one in which forging ties across the oceans is necessary for the Kingdom’s peace and prosperity. Thus, the internal affairs of faraway nations could affect Jordan. Of course, when we think of national elections with global ramifications, our thoughts bring us to the United States, yet its larger and more even-handed northern neighbor also has a role to play in Jordan.اضافة اعلان

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

On Monday, Canadians will make their way to the polls in a snap election called after Liberal Party Prime Minister Justin Trudeau could not form a coalition government. Amidst the pandemic, Canadians lack confidence in their leaders, stuck between the Liberals consistently reneged promises and the Conservative Party’s debilitating lack of new ideas. Because of Canada’s reputation as a country with far-reaching diplomatic ties, foreign policy analysts in government and Jordanian-Canadians such as myself eagerly await the results of the election. While Canadians have many issues on their mind when casting their ballot, three will affect Jordan in some manner, foreign aid, refugees and the Palestinian case. In this article, the records of the three biggest parties in Canada (the Conservatives, Liberals, and the New Democratic Party), regarding these issues will be analyzed.

The Palestinian Cause

As the country with the highest number of Palestinians living outside of their homeland in the world, and the longest border with the Holy Land, Jordan’s history and future are deeply intertwined with that of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a sentiment constantly expressed over the years by Jordan’s leaders and diplomats. While the Zionist lobby does not have Ottawa in a chokehold (unlike the situation in Washington, DC), the stances of the three parties can vary wildly.

Leader of the Conservative Party of Canada Erin O'Toole. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

During the rule of the last Conservative prime minister (2006–2015), Stephen Harper, Canada was one of the most pro-Israel states in the world. It was the first country to cut off aid to the Palestinian Authority after Hamas’ election win in 2006, openly supported Israel in every military conflict it fought, and was one of only nine countries to vote against Palestine’s observer status at the UN. Even after his departure from office, he has continued his pro-Israel advocacy, going as far as making a video for the US conservative “think tank” Prager University, wherein he made the case for supporting Israel. Nowadays, the Conservative Party is still unwavering in their backing of the Zionist project. Conservative politicians in every province wish Israel a happy independence day. Their current candidate, Erin O’Toole, has also promised to move Canada’s embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. In regards to Israel’s illegal colonies in the West Bank, often called “settlements”, the Conservative Party never speaks out against them, despite universal condemnation. Clearly, a conservative government in Canada would be an obstacle to the peace process.

The Liberal Party represents a moderate stance that some may consider wishy-washy. The Liberals have criticized acts of Israeli aggression ever so rarely, and when this does happen, it is typically followed by reminding the public of Israel’s “right to defend itself” and the need to expand bilateral ties. In 2019, when Israel proposed annexing parts of the West Bank, even the European Union made a firm condemnation, but under the Liberal government, not much is said. However, in the last couple of years, Canada has become more outspoken. Canada voted to affirm Palestinian sovereignty at the UN for the first time in 2019, and repeated the vote in 2020. Furthermore, when tensions arose in East Jerusalem last May, Canada’s foreign minister posted a tweet denouncing the evictions in Sheikh Jarrah. Still, when addressing the recent developments in parliament, Prime Minister Trudeau took a “both sides'' approach, which, while not as painful to hear as the unquestioned obedience to Israel of many North American politicians, still does not adequately describe or improve the nature of the situation.

Leader of the New Democratic Party Jagmeet Singh. (Photo: Flickr)

Canada’s New Democratic Party (NDP) has been the most vocal in their opposition to the occupation, and they constantly advocate for Palestinian rights a balanced peace plan. Just this April, the NDP adopted a resolution boycotting products from Israeli settlements, as well as condemning the sale of arms to Israel. They have made promises to “change Canada's voting pattern” at the UN as well. While the NDP seems like a breath of fresh air in comparison to the ultra-Zionist stance of the Conservatives and the ineffectual stance of the Liberals, optimism might have to be cautious. For one, Canada’s foreign policy does have to align with America’s to a certain degree, given that the United States is Canada’s largest trading partner and only neighbor. Furthermore, while 22 of the 24 NDP Members of Parliament signed a pledge in favor of implementing the aforementioned sanctions, party leader Jagmeet Singh ignored calls to sign it. Still, if Jordan wants Canada to align with it and seek a just peace plan for the Palestinians, the NDP is the party that will cooperate the most.

Refugees and immigration

Although hospitality and generosity are the cornerstones of Jordanian culture, it is difficult for such a small country to host and accommodate millions of refugees. Thus, the share must be distributed evenly, with wealthier countries like Canada being obligated to do their part in particular. Canada, one of the most diverse countries in the world, has little problem accepting immigrants, but the parties differ on their refugee policy a bit.

At home and abroad, the Liberals are perceived as a staunchly pro-immigration party, and it is fair to say that they have earned this reputation. Trudeau has pledged to take in 350,000 immigrants annually by this year, and it seems that Canada is on the trajectory to making this a reality. In their first full year of power, Trudeau’s government took in 323,000 immigrants, and in 2017, 313,000 immigrants landed on Canadian soil. On the other hand, former Prime Minister Harper’s government averaged at 250,000 immigrants a year, a high number by most standards, but in a country as open to new arrivals as Canada, it is comparatively low. The support of Syrian refugees will also be a primary concern for Jordan, and it seems that Canada’s current government can provide a lot of assistance.

The Conservative Party, although not openly hostile to the concept of accepting refugees, does not exactly embrace them with open arms either. In the 2015 election, Harper had promised to bring over 10,000 Syrian refugees if elected. However, the proposed plan was going to “prioritize vulnerable minority groups”, a move that the other parties accused of discriminating against Syria’s Muslims. Aside from that, Harper’s administration cut funding to UNRWA, a policy appealed against by the NDP and repealed by the Liberals when Prime Minister Harper’s term ended. Given all of this, it is easy to conclude that if Jordan wants to stabilize the number of refugees, a Liberal or NDP government would prove to be a committed partner.

Foreign Aid

Engulfed by debt, surrounded by war, and lacking resources, Jordan requires foreign aid to make sure its state of affairs remains stable. Even though Jordan is constantly in a high-risk situation on the sheer basis of where it is located, most Western governments see providing Jordan with aid as an obligation, as it is friendly with the West whilst maintaining warm relations with its fellow Arab states. In an area of the globe scattered with failing states and repressive regimes, Jordan is a country the West can and must cooperate with.

The UN expects wealthy countries like Canada to commit 0.7 percent of their gross national income (GNI) to foreign aid, but Canada has never reached this goal. At the moment, the current Liberal government is nowhere close to reaching this goal, as a dismal 0.28 percent of Canada’s GNI goes to foreign aid. When questioned about this fact, Prime Minister Trudeau cited Canada’s increase in aiding programs for women in developing countries and other marginalized groups, but did not commit to meeting the international standard. As for their biggest contender, the Conservatives live up to their name in that they're very conservative with their spending. During the 2019 election cycle, Conservative candidate Andrew Scheer proposed cutting Canadian foreign aid by 25 percent, a move foreign policy analysts called disastrous. Scheer also proposed a cut off so that only nations in a state of abject poverty can receive aid, which would make Jordan ineligible.

The NDP has asserted in its platform that it intends to be the party to make the leap forward and finally meet the goal. However, it is difficult to verify if this will be the case, since many campaigns have proposed something along these lines, to no avail.

On a more positive note, Jordan has been a recipient of a good deal of Canadian aid under the current government. In 2019, Jordan received $73 million in grants, making it the sixth highest receiving country. Even the Conservatives pledged $100 million over three years in 2013 in order to assist with humanitarian efforts. It seems as though regardless of how often the amount of aid fluctuates, Jordan will always be a priority because of its significant role in stabilizing an otherwise chaotic region.

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