Elizabeth Thompson (iPolitics):
Canada can help Israel more by returning to its honest broker role and improving its relations with other Middle East nations than continuing the policies of former Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government, says new Liberal Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion.
“The main difference is that we will stop making it a partisan issue,” said Dion, adding that Harper damaged the strength of the relationship between Canada and Israel.
“Israel is a friend, it is an ally but for us to be an effective ally we need also to strengthen our relationship with the other legitimate partners in the region.
For example, we need to strengthen our relationship with Lebanon and this will help Lebanon but also Israel. To be helpful, you need to strengthen your relationship with the other legitimate partners and that is what we will do.”
Dion, who was speaking after the Trudeau government’s first cabinet meeting Wednesday night, predicted that Israel will understand Canada strengthening its relationship with other players in the region.
“Israel understands that for Canada to be helpful, we need to strengthen our links with countries that are around Israel and should be part of the solution and not becoming completely dysfunctional as, unfortunately, Syria became.”
Dion said that the message to other countries is, as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the day after the Oct. 19 election, “Canada is back.”
“The Canada that helped the world to build its multilateral institutions is back,” Dion said.
Dion said he wants to see Canada return to a “Pearsonian” foreign affairs policy, pointing out that former Conservative Prime Ministers Brian Mulroney and Joe Clark were critical of the Harper government’s approach to foreign affairs.
“We can have a foreign affairs policy which unites the immense majority of Canadians. I am convinced of that.”
One of Dion’s first challenges will take advantage of his past as environment minister, helping prepare Canada’s position heading into the upcoming COP21 climate change conference in Paris.
“We can help the French to have a conference that functions well,” he said. “It won’t solve all the problems but it will be a step in the right direction.”