One day after two top UCP cabinet ministers announced they would not seek re-election in May there were still few answers to be had.
Bill Graham was old school. The former Liberal cabinet minister loved politics, loved the Toronto riding he represented through five elections, loved being out and about in the world, loved gossip and good stories, which he could tell better than just about anyone.
“He was a gentleman,” said Adrienne Clarkson, the former governor-general and close friend, “in a time when many people no longer understand the meaning of the word.”
He was also Canada’s foreign affairs and then defence minister in the critical early years of the century, contributing heavily to keeping Canada out of the war in Iraq and in the war in Afghanistan.
As interim leader of the Liberal Party in 2006, he held a fractious caucus together – at least most of the time – as a defeated party sought to regroup.
He was, above all, a beacon of civility in the bearpit of federal politics, which made him respected on both sides of the aisle.
“I don’t think I’ve ever heard somebody speak ill of Bill,” said Scott Brison, who sat in opposition to him as a Progressive Conservative MP, and then with him as a Liberal in former prime minister Paul Martin’s cabinet. “And to be honest, I almost never heard Bill speak ill of anybody else.”
A son of privilege, he championed the rights of minorities. He owned a place in Corsica, but some of the strongest support in his inner-Toronto riding came from the poorest neighbourhoods.
He lived life large but with grace, and never too seriously, no matter how serious things became.
Or as Bob Rae, Canada’s permanent representative at the United Nations, put it, “he was just a wonderful guy.”
Mr. Graham died from cancer, Sunday, at the age of 83. He leaves his wife Catherine, daughter Katy and son Patrick.
He moved in all the right circles from birth, though family life could be tempestuous. (On the day of his stepfather’s funeral, he wrote in his memoir, his mother tearfully confessed that he had actually been his biological father.) He attended Upper Canada College and the University of Toronto’s Trinity College, U of T’s law school and the University of Paris.
It seemed perfectly natural, while he was at Trinity, to buy a Land Rover with a friend and attempt to drive it from Europe to India. (They made it as far as Afghanistan.) He also joined the naval reserves, becoming a sub-lieutenant. As defence minister, “whenever I boarded a ship, they would say, ‘the minister is one of ours, you know,’ ” he recalled years later.
He married Catherine Curry on June 9, 1962, and settled into a life of law at the Toronto firm of Fasken, quickly establishing a reputation in international trade law. In 1980, he joined the University of Toronto’s law faculty. He was highly popular with his students, but with two careers already under his belt, he decided in midlife that it was time to tackle politics.
He ran twice in the downtown Toronto riding of Rosedale (later Toronto Centre-Rosedale, then Toronto Centre), failing both times, but learning about its different communities, from the swells north of Bloor Street – his people – to the public housing projects to the gay village.
In the 1988 campaign, a young man came up to him and said: “I want to help you get elected, though I’m dying of AIDS, and don’t have a long time to live.” Mr. Graham became a passionate supporter of the LGBTQ community, defender of the same-sex marriage act of 2005 and supporter of the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives, known today as The ArQuives.
The support was financial, but he also showed up and pitched in as an organizer and volunteer. The queer experience in the generations before the LGBTQ rights movement “had not been documented by the community,” said Raegan Swanson, the archives’ executive director, “and here was a chance to make sure that history was preserved, essentially for the first time.”
In 1993, Mr. Graham took Rosedale as part of Jean Chrétien’s Liberal sweep of Ontario. Mr. Chrétien put him on the foreign-affairs committee, which he eventually chaired.
“He came in with a belief in the House of Commons,” said the writer and philosopher John Ralston Saul. (Catherine Graham introduced Mr. Saul to Ms. Clarkson in 1976; they were married in 1999.) A more ambitious politician might have seen committee work as, at best, a stepping stone to cabinet. “But he really loved the House,” said Mr. Saul. Mr. Graham often lamented the decline in the quality of debate in the Commons.
The committee produced major reports on the Arctic, nuclear disarmament and other issues. The historian and former MP John English said that Lloyd Axworthy, who was foreign minister at the time, told him, “Bill made that committee into something it never was before.”
In 2002, in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, Mr. Chrétien made Mr. Graham minister of foreign affairs. This surprised many observers, since Mr. Graham had been friends since university days with Paul Martin, who was challenging Mr. Chrétien for the Liberal leadership.
But he was a loyal and effective minister, supporting Mr. Chrétien in his decision not to involve Canada in the American-led war in Iraq. Mr. Graham did not believe the evidence supported American arguments that the Saddam Hussein regime possessed weapons of mass destruction.
But Mr. Graham was also a political realist. As he wrote in his memoir, both he and Mr. Chrétien well knew that “most of the country, most of the cabinet, most of the Liberal caucus, most of the Commons, and a vast majority in the politically key provinces of Quebec and British Columbia were against sending Canadian troops into Iraq.”
Mr. Graham was a political rarity in that he served in the cabinets of both Mr. Chrétien and Mr. Martin. Though he wrote that he was disappointed when, in 2004, Mr. Martin shuffled him into defence, he served the department well.
Mr. Graham successfully pitched to have General Rick Hillier made chief of the defence staff, supported the military’s push for a greater combat role in Afghanistan, and persuaded Mr. Martin and Finance Minister Ralph Goodale to increase defence spending.
For Mr. Graham, the Afghanistan mission differed from Iraq in that it had greater international legitimacy. But in hindsight, he had regrets.
“We knew much less about Afghanistan and the politics of the region than we should have,” he wrote. “… It was unrealistic of us to expect that we could construct a truly effective government and civil society in the midst of the ongoing carnage.”
When Mr. Martin stepped down after Stephen Harper’s Conservative victory in January, 2006, caucus voted to make Mr. Graham interim leader. He successfully persuaded Liberal MPs to support a Conservative resolution recognizing the Québécois as a nation within a united Canada – opposing the resolution would mean the death of the Liberal Party in Quebec, he argued. But he could not bring the caucus with him when the Harper government sought parliamentary support to extend the mission in Afghanistan.
“You don’t understand anything about politics, Bill,” one MP told him. Maybe not, Mr. Graham replied, but “I do understand one thing: if we vote against this motion, Canadians are going to look at us and wonder what kind of chumps would flip-flop on such an important issue, involving the lives of our troops, just because we don’t happen to be sitting in the same seats as we were a few months ago.”
Nonetheless, a majority of caucus opposed the motion, which barely scraped through with the help of Mr. Graham and a rump of Liberal MPs, revealing the depths of divisions within the party in the wake of its defeat.
His friend and cabinet colleague Carolyn Bennett said Mr. Graham’s approach during policy debates was to talk quietly and to genuinely listen to people’s concerns.
“He used his knowledge and his leadership to be persuasive in a way that was kind and gentle,” she said. “I think Bill taught us all how you can be persuasive on progressive matters. … He made politics slightly less of a swear word.”
When Mr. Rae, who had been Ontario’s NDP premier, was looking for a riding to run in as a Liberal, Mr. Graham offered him his. He had decided it was time to step down and let a new crew take charge. Mr. Rae would himself one day serve as interim leader.
After his retirement from politics, Mr. Graham returned to Trinity College, this time as chancellor. He served on various boards, councils and commissions. He endowed the Bill Graham Centre for Contemporary International History (Mr. English was its first director), which promotes the study of contemporary events from a historical perspective.
When the Liberals returned to power under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, he served as an adviser for the defence review that was published as Strong, Secure, Engaged. His memoir, which appeared in 2016, received praise for its candour, especially in his writings on Iraq and Afghanistan.
But it was his personal qualities that set Bill Graham apart as a politician. He was respected and admired by all sides, in part because he never let politics become personal.
Chris Tindal tweeted about the time in 2006, when he was running as the Green candidate in Toronto Centre. “One morning, I was canvassing at a subway stop when he pulled up. ‘You were here first,’ he said. ‘We’ll go somewhere else.’ But he stayed and chatted with me for a while. Whenever people recognized him, he redirected. “This is Chris, the Green Party candidate! Good guy!”
The Twittersphere was full of such stories this week, as friends and political opponents praised Mr. Graham’s courtesy, friendliness, lack of pretension, grace.
“Even while a determined opponent, Bill was always a gentleman, and he always kept the best interests of the country in mind,” tweeted Mr. Harper.
“He represented a certain tradition in Canadian political life,” said Mr. English. “It is the passing of a generation, and he was an exceptional representative of that generation.”
Scott Brison just misses his friend. “He was one of the kindest, smartest, wisest, funniest and best people I’ve known. And he embodied public service at its best.”
One day after two top UCP cabinet ministers announced they would not seek re-election in May there were still few answers to be had.
On Friday afternoon, both Finance Minister Travis Toews and Environment Minister Sonya Savage announced they were opting to spend more time with family instead of running again in the next provincial election.
Premier Danielle Smith on her Saturday radio show on QR770 noted Toews’ ability to manage through the pandemic and deliver two consecutive balanced budgets. She called Savage her “point person in dealing with Ottawa.”
“I’m grateful to both of them,” said the premier. “I’m looking forward to finding out how we might be able to continue to use their incredible talents post-election in an advisory role, because I think that they’ve done so much for our province and I want to continue to see them have an opportunity to contribute.”
Smith, in a press release on Friday, said she will appoint replacement UCP candidates for Toews’ riding in Grande Prairie-Wapiti as well as for Savage in Calgary-North West.
The two are the latest cabinet ministers who have withdrawn from the coming spring election. They join former Jobs, Innovation and Economy Minister Doug Schweitzer, who stepped down before the UCP leadership race last summer, and Minister of Trade, Immigration and Multiculturalism Rajan Sawhney and party whip Brad Rutherford who have withdrawn since Smith took office in October.
Mount Royal University political science professor Duane Bratt said it is not uncommon to have a 25 per cent turnover in MLAs. What is different is to have so many cabinet ministers — especially single-term politicians — decide not to run again.
Adding to the intrigue is both were at one point prepared to run again. Toews was the first runner-up to Smith in the leadership race, while Savage had already secured the nomination for her riding.
He called the reasoning to spend more time with family a mere cliché but said it is difficult to know their full reasons for not running again.
He also does not expect this to be the end of the withdrawal of cabinet ministers, pointing to the potential of two more members of former premier Jason Kenney’s inner circle — Health Minister Jason Copping and Justice Minister Tyler Shandro — stepping away before May.
“You wonder how united the party is as Smith was able to rally them,” said Bratt.
Smith said Toews promised to stay on to at least deliver his fifth budget, which he did on Feb. 28. The implementation bill was passed on Thursday and he then informed the premier he was not going to run again.
Bratt said the deal could potentially have been that Toews was to stay on to get the budget passed before stepping away all along, while Savage was just “hedging her bets and keeping her options open” until the legislative session was over.
“I don’t know how you could ignore the shift in leader and the role that that plays,” he said.
Melanee Thomas, a political science professor at the University of Calgary, said it is curious what changed for the finance minister. If he didn’t share the premier’s vision, he likely would not have been given the power to put the budget together.
The question is, how this will play out come election time, especially with Calgary considered to be a key battleground with both the UCP and the NDP needing to win the city to win the election.
While Calgary-North West has been a long-time conservative stronghold, Thomas said Savage stepping down could mean the riding is up for grabs.
“The NDP vote is inefficient in Edmonton. The UCP is inefficient in rural areas, which means that it comes down to who wins all the seats in Calgary,” she said.
Bratt said the fact two more high-profile ministers have decided not to run again, regardless of the publicly stated reasons, will play on the minds of the undecided electorate when it comes to the UCP leader.
“You know, people do have questions and wonder, ‘if I have doubts about Smith, well, maybe Toews and Savage and Schweitzer and Sawhney have doubts about her as well,’” he said.
Sanctions have become all the rage in international politics. The United States and its allies are imposing them on rivals with increasing frequency and severity. And those rivals are reciprocating where they can.
Now, American states, too, are increasingly getting in on the act. And that’s bad news — for the world, and for US foreign policy. A much-publicised episode of a Chinese balloon entering US airspace seems to have created new energy for such restrictions and has led to legislation being proposed in at least 11 states.
On Wednesday, the South Carolina State Senate passed a bill barring ownership of land in the state by citizens of US geopolitical adversaries Russia, China, North Korea, Iran and Cuba. The bill’s top sponsor even compared a planned purchase of South Carolina land by a Chinese biomedical firm with the Trojan Horse plot of Greek mythology.
Meanwhile, Texas State Senator Lois Kolkhorst has proposed a similar law that has drawn strong condemnation on human rights grounds but has been defended by Greg Abbott, the state’s Republican governor. A simple reading of the original version of this bill would lead one to conclude that any individual who holds citizenship from any of the mentioned countries, or any firms which they own, would be barred from owning property. This would have included American citizens who hold dual citizenship. Since then, the language has been softened to protect dual citizens and permanent residents but not citizens of those countries residing in Texas on a visa.
Implementation of such language would impose new and unusual due diligence requirements on common land transactions. Meanwhile, creating special restrictions on various immigrant communities to own property poses human rights concerns.
Existing sanctions laws and Treasury Department designations already block leaders from those American adversaries from transferring money into the US or owning property in the country. Meanwhile, recently introduced federal legislation aims to ban US adversaries from purchasing large swaths of farmland in the US.
So why would a state engage in what is essentially a foreign policy and national security matter?
On the one hand, some scholars see sanctions as often being a product of domestic politics, aimed at portraying muscle to the electorate, at times influenced by pressure groups such as “ethnic lobbies”. Those in this camp of scholars are more inclined to believe that sanctions are not particularly effective. If sanctions are for the satisfaction of domestic onlookers, they will not be designed and implemented with an eye towards efficacy and the security context.
Other scholars, however, argue that sanctions are indeed imposed due to a meaningful effort to address national security concerns.
Like many in the national security decision-making scholarship community, I feel both of these binary constructions frequently fail when confronted with the history of economic sanctions. The truth is that foreign policy choices are a product of complex national security matrices that accommodate both foreign policy and domestic political considerations.
Yet irrespective of one’s overall view on the efficacy of sanctions more broadly, it is hard for anyone to deny that policies against foreign nationals adopted by state governments can have little explanation other than domestic and even local politics.
In the US, the executive branch has always been best suited to make foreign policy decisions due to its clear mandate and wherewithal in this field. Congress has a constitutional role in foreign policy matters but it’s far more likely to be influenced by domestic political pressures and national anxieties.
The executive branch largely controlled sanctions policy throughout the Cold War era. But after the fall of the Soviet Union, as major threats to the homeland faded, Congressional and sub-federal forces became increasingly involved in this field.
While Congress has largely ceded its war power authority in the modern era, it has become more active in sanctioning due to an impulse of members to be seen as projecting power against American adversaries even when it interferes with the president’s efforts to engage in strategic policy.
What about state legislators and governors? They have no real national security staff nor the relevant mandate, as their elections almost always lack any meaningful foreign policy discussion and are decided based on provincial issues, whether taxes or abortion rights.
Yet their meddling in foreign policy isn’t superfluous — it can actually be reckless, for global diplomacy and for US foreign policy. Here’s how.
As written, the mentioned measures are unlikely to meaningfully interfere with the federal government’s ability to carry out its foreign policy. But one can imagine a scenario in which sanctions imposed by states do just that.
New York state and California preside over major nodes of the global banking community and the international technology supply chain. Texas itself is a major player in global energy markets. Other states can wield a more narrow version of such powers as well.
There are already examples of when New York State has targeted European firms for their perceived violation of sanctions, ignoring objections at the federal level. States can, as the federal government has often done, impose restrictions on firms operating in their jurisdiction in a way that has extraterritorial consequences.
This in turn sets up a precarious dynamic. The federal government might have to mollify or negotiate with state governments led by ambitious politicians responding to special interests or catering to local constituencies.
Equally, state governments of the party in opposition can actively undercut diplomatic efforts of the federal government using such sanctions. For example, a federal effort to ease sanctions on Cuba could create political momentum for state sanctions in Florida, where families of those who fled communist rule are a powerful lobby.
Ultimately, sanctions are a tool of foreign policy and the capacity to modulate or even repeal them is critical to accomplishing the political goals behind sanctions campaigns. For the president or Congress to have to lobby with state governments, each representing a fraction of the overall population, to alter America’s sanctions against a country would represent a bizarre new obstacle to the federal government’s ability to carry out its foreign policy obligations.
The proposed Texas and South Carolina laws are textbook examples of sanctions as political grandstanding meant for domestic consumption. They are also a reminder of the jingoistic zeal that can be nurtured and exploited by foreign policy amateurs at the state level.
As we embark upon what scholar Peter A G van Bergeijk calls the “second wave” of global sanctions, states will likely look further to getting in on the act with human rights and global affairs.
Washington’s basic ability to carry out a coherent foreign policy hangs in the balance.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.
OTTAWA — Beijing says it has nothing to say about ongoing allegations that China has meddled in Canadian affairs, including those regarding a member of Parliament who has left the Liberal caucus.
Han Dong is now sitting as an Independent as the Liberal government has a rapporteur investigate claims of Chinese interference, including allegations the Toronto MP willingly received electoral support through Chinese officials.
Dong resigned from the Liberal caucus Wednesday night after Global News, citing unnamed security sources, published a report alleging that he spoke about Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig with a Chinese diplomat in Toronto in February 2021.
The MP says he met with the diplomat but disputes any suggestion that he urged China to delay releasing the two Canadian men, who by that point had been detained for more than two years.
Dong told the House of Commons he would defend himself “against these absolutely untrue claims” and that he did nothing to cause Spavor and Kovrig any harm.
Asked about Dong’s resignation at a press conference today in Beijing, a spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry says “the Canadian side may be in a better position” to comment, and that “China opposes interference in other countries’ internal affairs.”
He adds that this applies to broader allegations about Chinese interference.
“We have no interest in and will not interfere in Canada’s internal affairs,” Wang Wenbin said in the official English transcript. “There should be no irresponsible comments on this.”
China’s detention of the men who became known around the world as the “two Michaels” occurred in apparent retaliation for the December 2018 arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver on a U.S. extradition warrant.
Beijing has insisted the cases are not linked, despite a close alignment in the timing of each being detained and then released the same day in September 2021.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 23, 2023.
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