Does politics stop at the water's edge in Canada? Party and partisanship in Canadian foreign policy by ProQuest


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									Brian Bow & David Black

Does politics stop at
the water’s edge in
Party and partisanship in Canadian foreign policy

Do political parties matter when it comes to Canadian foreign policy?
Conventional wisdom says they do. We often hear the argument that some
past decision would not have been made if only another party had been in
power, or that some current policy is likely to be overturned as soon as
another party comes into power. The parties themselves have worked hard to
encourage this way of thinking, playing up the coherence and continuity of
foreign policy priorities within parties and the supposedly stark differences
between them. Yet there are some enduring patterns in Canadian foreign
policy that seem to over-ride party differences. Governing parties sometimes
pursue policies that seem starkly at odds with what they have told us about
their purposes and priorities. And while Canadians seem to have strong
feelings about parties’ foreign policy choices, opinion polls suggest that
foreign policy issues usually have little to do with most Canadians’ voting
decisions. In fact there are a number of reasons why we might expect political
parties to matter very little in Canada, perhaps even less than in other

Brian Bow is assistant professor of political science and faculty fellow at the Centre for
Foreign Policy Studies at Dalhousie University. David Black is professor of political science
and director of the Centre for Foreign Policy Studies at Dalhousie University.

                                            | International Journal | Winter 2008-09 | 7 |
| Brian Bow & David Black |

comparable countries. How do we reconcile these apparent discrepancies?
When and how does party make a difference?
     Much has been written about the question of parties and foreign policy
in Canada, but most of it takes the form of a passing reference here or there,
never really explained or supported. We still do not yet have any sustained
efforts to think about the question theoretically, or to try to answer the
question systematically (as opposed to anecdotally). This is particularly
striking in the textbooks on Canadian foreign policy. Most of them have paid
at least some attention to the role of parliament—or, in most accounts, the
non-role of parliament—in foreign policymaking. But their concern is with
the relationship between the prime minister and parliament as an institution,
or between the cabinet and parliament in general terms, and they refer to
parties and partisanship only incidentally.1 Kim Richard Nossal’s landmark
The Politics of Canadian Forei
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