NATO Association of Canada 2017 Summer Soiree

This speech was delivered July 31, 2017.

I am sure it is not news to all of you that we currently find ourselves in an unprecedented time of global instability. The value of international alliances is being questioned, long standing trade agreements are being challenged, and we are seeing what John Manley coined a “tectonic shift” in power dynamics on the global stage.

Some would go as far to say that the world is the most unstable it has been, both from an economic and defence and security perspective, since the end of the Second World War.

And yet the question of whether or not NATO is still relevant is surfacing with increasing frequency. I am often asked “Why does Canada need to be part of NATO – we should leave Europe to the Europeans” And “we spend too much money on NATO and get nothing in return – its money that would be better spent elsewhere”.

I am confident that in this room I am not alone in being radically shaken by those perspectives. My Dad was a MGen in the Canadian Air Force where he was posted to NATO several times; first when NATO was still in France, then in AFCENT (where I was born), and later in Brussels. For my whole life very few things have been more constant than the importance of NATO as a central pillar to Global Peace and security.

But often when things are “intuitively obvious” – they become less so over time  – because we forget the reasons why. WWII was multiple generations ago, the cold war is now almost a generation ago – we have cashed in on the “peace dividend” and we have a great many people whose focus is elsewhere and believe that all of ours should be as well.

So today, in a way – I would like to “sound the alarm”. I would like to implore all of you to join me in having the conversation and clearly articulating

Why Does NATO Matter to Canada?

And Why Does Canada Matter to NATO?

In short, in a world of 10 second soundbites, we must respond to a subtle but growing undercurrent questioning Canada’s NATO participation. We need to be able to state not only that NATO is important, but we need to also effectively argue the “why”.

WHY NATO is relevant and WHY NATO matters to Canada.

One answer might be that Canada is a trading nation with over 70% of our GDP coming from trade. With pressure on NAFTA and the new opportunities that CETA could offer, trade with Europe could be a key element to Canada’s future prosperity. So without defence security through NATO, our economic security could be threatened.

Or perhaps the answer is that warfare is changing, and it is now our intellectual capital that is being threatened. With our relatively small population we will always be a high value, low volume economic model which places intellectual property and the protection of intellectual capital as a high priority. In today’s world of cyber threats, with record numbers of illegal hacking, it is clear that we will never be able to fight on our own. Perhaps this asymmetric warfare is why NATO is needed now more than ever.

Whatever the answers are, we must ensure continued and strengthened membership in the alliance by bringing the conversation to the forefront.

In addition to my role as Chair of the NATO PA, I also sit on the Parliamentary Committee for National Defence. In the fall we will conduct a study on NATO, to answer this question of why NATO matters to Canada, and why Canada matters to NATO.

Additionally, Canada is playing a big role in the larger NATO Parliamentary Assembly as we will be hosting two major events in the near future:

THE FIRST –  A  NATO Arctic Study – NATO parliamentarians will be visiting Canada this September to study our Arctic. The committees will look at the role of NATO in the Arctic, especially in light of Canada’s new defence which includes a commitment to “conduct joint exercises with Arctic allies and partners and support the strengthening of situational awareness and information sharing in the Arctic, including with NATO.”

THE SECOND –  In Nov 2018 in Halifax for the first time since 2006, Canada will be hosting the Annual Session of the NATO PA, where approximately 800 parliamentarians from 29 NATO member nations and many more partner nations will attend to discuss NATO political, economic, science and technology,  as well as defence and security matters.

This is a time for Canada to demonstrate the value of the contributions we can, do and will make to NATO, and to emphasize to Canadians why we cannot take NATO for granted.

I want to thank the NATO Association and Mr. Baines for inviting me here today, and to also thank each and every one of you who are here for your commitment to ensuring that Canada’s role in NATO remains a central pillar in Canada’s defence and security framework.

Thank you.

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