Louis A. Delvoie, The Kingston Whig-Standard
Image from article, with caption: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the United Nations Signing Ceremony Conference for the Paris Agreement climate change accord.
In the actual conduct of foreign policy, there have also been some not insignificant changes in the transition from Harper to Trudeau. Whereas in the interest of "controlling the message," the Prime Minister's Office under Harper effectively muzzled Canadian diplomats serving abroad, the Trudeau government has allowed them to resume their normal work in the important realm of public diplomacy. The new government also halted its predecessor's policy of selling off Canadian diplomatic assets and properties abroad. This will halt a process that contributed to a steady diminution of Canada's footprint on the world scene. Equally important, however, has been a distinct change in tone. Phrases such as "sunny ways" and "Canada is back" may strike some as being overly vapid, but they are indicative of something different. At the very least, it is worth noting that an ever-smiling Prime Minister Trudeau has attracted more positive attention in the world media in six months than his dour predecessor did in nine years. While image is not everything by any means, Canada can only benefit from such attention.
The greatest and most difficult foreign policy challenge facing the Trudeau government will be to refurbish Canada's capabilities in the realms of diplomacy, defence and development assistance. All three suffered serious budgetary cutbacks at the hands of the Harper government and all three are in need of major new investments if Canada is to once again enjoy a position of influence on the world stage. This will not be an easy task for the new government, given current domestic and international economic conditions and the budgetary constraints it is confronting.
Louis A. Delvoie is a Fellow in the Centre for International and Defence Policy at Queen's University.