Liberals at the Border: We Stand on Guard for Whom?
Paul Dickson is a strategic analyst at the Directorate of Air Strategic
Plans, National Defence Headquarters, Ottawa.
In March 2002, Lloyd Axworthy delivered the sixth annual Senator Keith
Davey Lecture at Victoria University (part of the University of
Toronto). Liberals at the Border is the published version of that
Axworthy addresses Canadian values, Canada’s role in the world, and
what he sees as the primary foreign and defence issue: Canada–U.S.
relations. He argues that Canada is in danger of allowing the terrorist
attacks of September 11 and the U.S. response to them to dictate our
defence policy. In reality, he argues, Canada needs to continue to
engage the world in much the same manner as it did prior to 9/11. In
short, Canada should not obsess about North American security, but
rather view “border security” as a global issue. Axworthy calls for
the Liberal Party to lead the country into a debate regarding its future
role in the world.
Because the book’s format does not allow any substantive analysis of
what is meant by Canadian values and interests, beyond a support for the
process of multilateralism and an undercurrent of anti-Americanism, we
are treated to the same vague platitudes that characterize much of the
foreign policy debate in this country. As expected—and noted by
Axworthy—the lecture has a partisan aim: to engage the Liberal Party
as the logical choice to promote Canada as a model for the world. It
would be amusing, if it wasn’t tragic, to note the partisan pride he
takes in the Liberals’ initiation of a long-overdue foreign and
defence policy review; three years after the speech, we are still
waiting for its release. The publication of this lecture would serve a
useful purpose were it to help reinvigorate the international policy