Conservative Leader Says Ties With India Should Be Priority; Wants Canada To Play Bigger World Role
By Bala Menon
TORONTO: Conservative Party Leader Erin O’Toole has called for a Canadian foreign policy pivot towards the Indo-Pacific region, considering the importance it has for Canada. ‘My vision is that of a Canada as a country deeply involved in the Indo-Pacific, with more trade, diplomatic and military ties with (countries in the region).
In response to a question from the Weekly Voice at a Conservative Party Ethno-Cultural Press Conference on Tuesday, O’Toole said he had received great feedback from the diplomatic community ‘after my first speech in Parliament where I spoke about how Canada ought to be more involved in the region.’
On India-Canada ties, O’Toole hit out at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, whom he blamed for the dip in relations.
“There is tremendous potential to restore Canada-India trade ties and the close relationship we used to enjoy during the Conservative time in government. We literally doubled trade during that period and we all saw how Mr. Trudeau’s disastrous State Visit to India was a setback to our relationship.” There was a weakening of strong person to person relationships and in other areas like exports of lentils, he said.
“We need to do more with India, which is the world’s largest democracy, a Commonwealth ally and we have this huge Indo-Canadian diaspora that will help us leverage our relationship with that country.”
O’Toole noted how security issues have spilled over between India and China during the past few months, with regard to Chinese territorial aggression in India’s Union Territory of Ladakh.
He said Canadian focus now needs to reorient towards India – particularly as ‘we are rebalancing some of our reliance on China.’ In reply to a question from another media house, O’Toole said he had often raised the issue of having a principled position in Canada’s relationship with the Communist Party in Beijing. “We have no issue with China or the Chinese people, whether in mainland China or anywhere in the world but we have issues with an ideology that suppresses liberty, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, one which does not respect the rule of law, WTA regulations and on trade issues, the perpetration of internment and oppression of minorities in western China, its actions in the South China Sea, these are all offshoots of the Communist ideology.”
He spoke out against anti-East Asian racism saying Chinese-Canadians have come to Canada to flee the oppression in their country. “Our issue should be with Communism as an ideology.”
O’Toole also said he wanted Canada to play a larger role in world affairs. “We have failed in our bid to get a seat on the UN Security Council, our ties have deteriorated with many countries, we have angered Japan, Australia, New Zealand and we are having disputes with the United Kingdom and the United States. Trudeau has been a failure on the world stage. We have our two Michaels in Chinese prisons.”
“We have to strengthen NATO, call for free movement of capital and people among the Commonwealth countries, we have to push on Hong Kong…we are not the biggest country in the world, we are not an aggressive country, but we are part of NATO, of NORAD, of G7, of the Five Eyes and we are in a good position to play a global role,” he said.
O’Toole said over the coming days, the Conservative Party will show Canadians its vision and would work hard to win the trust and confidence of Canadians for the next election. He pointed out that “After high school, I joined the military and that deepened my love for Canada. I served as a navigator on Sea King helicopters and sailed with the Canadian Navy out of Halifax, but I trained and lived across this great country. We have to get Canada on track again. We need a leader who will not be afraid to take tough decisions and who will not be caring for his personal image or for his friends.”
He said the Conservatives are inclusive and everyone has a home in the Conservative Party. “I want more new first and second generation Canadians to see a Conservative staring back at them in the mirror each morning.
“We will be reaching out for more engagement. It’s 2020 and I want our party to field candidates that will make it look like it’s the Canada of 2020,” he added.