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Canada's reputation suffered under Justin Trudeau, says Marc Garneau

Photo: Justin Tang The Canadian Press Former minister Marc Garneau in Ottawa in March 2023.

Mia Rabson – The Canadian Press

Posted at 9:34 a.m. Updated at 9:41 a.m.

  • Canada

Former Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau says Canada lost its standing in the world under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, whom he criticizes as an ill-prepared leader who prioritizes politics and makes big statements without any follow-up.

“I believe Justin Trudeau has overestimated Canada's impact abroad,” Mr. Garneau wrote in his autobiography, due to be published in October by Penguin Random House.

< p>While much of the book is a trip down memory lane to Mr. Garneau's pre-political career in the military and as an astronaut, the final third is devoted to his time as an MP.

Mr. Garneau, now 75, was first elected in 2008 as a Liberal MP for the Montreal riding of Westmount–Ville-Marie, a riding that later became Notre-Dame-de-Grâce–Westmount after a redrawing of the electoral map in 2015.

He ran an unsuccessful leadership campaign in 2013, eventually withdrawing from the race and supporting Mr. Trudeau, who would go on to win a landslide victory.

After the Liberals came to power in 2015, Marc Garneau served in Mr. Trudeau's cabinet for six years, including more than five as Minister of Transport. He spent the last nine months as foreign affairs minister, until Prime Minister Trudeau removed him from cabinet entirely after the 2021 election.

In his book, Garneau acknowledges that he was blindsided by the decision – which he says the prime minister never explained to him.

He makes it clear that he and Trudeau had little in common beyond their “liberal values” and that the two were not close.

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The undervalued Minister of Foreign Affairs

Another thing he says clearly: Mr. Garneau thinks that Prime Minister Trudeau did not value the importance of a Minister of Foreign Affairs and is not very good at international relations.

“Unfortunately, the Canada's position in the world has declined, in part because our statements are not always accompanied by capacity to act or actions that clearly demonstrate that we mean what we say,” he noted.

“We are losing credibility. »

He describes Mr. Trudeau's trips to China in 2016 and 2017, as well as to India in 2018, before his tenure as foreign minister, as “unsuccessful.”

The two trips to China failed to revive free trade negotiations with Beijing, and Mr. Trudeau was criticized at the time for trying to put non-trade issues on the table during negotiations with the Chinese government. This involved lobbying for human rights, which was not well received in Beijing.

The failures of the India trip have been well documented , including his decision to inadvertently invite to a reception a man convicted of attempting to assassinate an Indian minister in Canada in 1986.

“We weren't well prepared,” Mr. Garneau said of the three foreign visits.

“Basically, we didn't understand who we were meeting . We thought we could seduce and we were surprised that it didn't happen that way. Gone is the lucid approach of a prime minister like Jean Chrétien, who always knew who he was facing and who forged pragmatic alliances with world powers. »

Delayed strategies

Marc Garneau also criticizes Mr. Trudeau for having delayed the release of new national strategies for dealing with China and expanding Canada's relations in the Indo-Pacific region.

The China strategy was delayed largely because Justin Trudeau and his “entourage” were reluctant to disclose anything about it while Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor were still detained in China, he writes.

“I think that was an outright mistake. »

Similarly, he says he was unable to present a new Indo-Pacific strategy to the cabinet, and that it was only released in November 2022 – when she had been ready for a year and he was no longer a minister.

Marc Garneau refused an interview request about the book .

Justin Trudeau's office did not respond to a request for comment on its contents.

The ex-astronaut is not the first former minister of Justin Trudeau to write a memoir castigating the prime minister. In 2023, former Finance Minister Bill Morneau released his own memoir, in which he criticized Mr. Trudeau for making mostly unilateral decisions and putting politics ahead of public policy.

Both describe a concentration of power within the Prime Minister's Office that has not improved despite Mr. Trudeau's promises of decentralization when he came to power in 2015.

M. Garneau writes that when he was responsible for transportation, Mr. Trudeau did not seem at all interested in the issue. When he moved to foreign affairs, he hoped that the prime minister would be more interested in seeking his advice on certain issues.

But he did not, according to him.

He writes that Mr. Trudeau only called on him once to give him advice, during a meeting with the then ambassador to China, Dominic Barton, on the current fate of the two Michaels.

“The Prime Minister's distant attitude led me to conclude that he did not consider my advice useful enough to want to hear from me directly, relying instead on his staff,” Mr. Garneau said.< /p>

“I found this disappointing to say the least. Communication between him and I was expected to be through the (Prime Minister's Office), and therefore I never knew what information, if any, was reaching him. »

The Trudeau government, asserts Mr. Garneau, is overall too reactive and poorly prepared.

« “it is not enough to pay attention only when a concern arises, which this government has become accustomed to,” he argued.

Too much turnover

Garneau said that the fact that Canada has used so many different foreign ministers has undermined the credibility of the role and left the impression that Trudeau and Canada do not value or prioritize the file.

Marc Garneau was the fourth of five people to lead Canadian foreign policy during Trudeau’s eight and a half years as prime minister.

“Our allies could reasonably question whether Canada valued this file enough, and they did,” he wrote.

In each of his introductory calls with his counterparts, he said, he was told that they hoped he would outlast his predecessors, which he described as “a not-so-subtle message.”

That didn't happen.

Marc Garneau only stayed for nine months, the shortest term of the five.

Chrystia Freeland, the second to be appointed, held the position for almost three years, and Mélanie Joly, the current Minister of Foreign Affairs, is closing in on 33 months in this role.

Stéphane Dion was the first, retaining the title for 18 month, and François-Philippe Champagne, who was the third Minister of Foreign Affairs, was in office for 14 months.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116