Promises Made, Promises Kept? A Mid-term Trudeau Foreign Policy Report Card

  • Kim Richard Nossal
Part of the Canada and International Affairs book series (CIAF)


Parties and candidates seeking office invariably try to attract votes by making promises that they believe will resonate with the electorate. Frequently, however, those promises are embraced without a careful consideration of what would happen if the candidate making the promises actually won the election and took power. The purpose of this chapter is to provide a mid-term assessment of the Trudeau government’s international policy based on the promises that the Liberals made while in opposition or during the election campaign. The chapter argues that the Trudeau government was able to forge a different path, but it is a difference primarily of tone. Taken as a whole, the specific international policy promises made by the Liberals during the 2015 campaign do not cast a negative shadow. However, the promises that the Liberals made during the 2015 election have been almost entirely eclipsed by the election of Donald J. Trump as president of the United States. At mid-term, the defining feature of the Trudeau government’s foreign policy has been its management of the challenges posed by Trump.


  1. Akin, David. 2013. Trudeau admires China’s ‘basic dictatorship.’ Toronto Sun, November 8.Google Scholar
  2. Akin, David (@davidakin). 2016. Trudeau gives Zakaria same logic-free answer on CF-18s he’s given journos and Parliament for weeks. @WEF. Twitter, January 20, 9:48 a.m. Accessed 24 Aug 2017.
  3. Andrew-Gee, Eric. 2015. Conservatives vow to establish ‘barbaric cultural practices’ tip line. Globe and Mail, October 2.Google Scholar
  4. Austin, Ian. 2017. Justin Trudeau, facing pressure to oppose Donald Trump, opts to get along. New York Times, February 3.Google Scholar
  5. Bellavance, Joël-Denis. 2016. Ouagadougou: le conjoint de Maude Carrier raccroche au nez de Justin Trudeau. La Presse, Janvier 21.Google Scholar
  6. Berthiaume, Lee. 2016. Canada to send 450 troops to Latvia as NATO faces off against Russia. Globe and Mail, July 8.Google Scholar
  7. Bickis, Ian, and Canadian Press. 2017. Trudeau navigates perils of energy, climate, Trump as liberals wrap defeat. National Newswatch, January 24. Accessed 25 Aug 2017.
  8. Blais, Eric. 2015. Conservatives’ Trudeau attack ads worked, but maybe not ‘forever.’ CBC News, October 16. Accessed 25 Aug 2017.
  9. Brewster, Murray. 2016. Liberals to buy 18 Boeing Super Hornet fighter jets to fill ‘capability gap.’ CBC News, November 22. Accessed 25 Aug 2017.
  10. Canadian Press. 2015. Liberal, NDP anti-terror strategy ‘just dropping aid on dead people’: Harper. Globe and Mail, August 11.Google Scholar
  11. Castonguay, Alec. 2015. Premier test pour Trudeau: le monde. l’Actualité, Novembre 10.Google Scholar
  12. CBC News. 2014. RAW Trudeau: Don’t just ‘whip out CF-18s.’ CBC News, October 2. Accessed 24 Aug 2017.
  13. ———. 2015a. Canada federal election 2015: Stephen Harper confirms start of 11-week federal campaign. CBC News, August 2.Google Scholar
  14. ———. 2015b. ‘Just not ready’ Trudeau ad may be getting to voters, poll suggests. CBC News, September 5. Accessed 25 Aug 2017.
  15. Chase, Steven. 2015. Kurdish fighters call Trudeau plan to withdraw CF-18 fighter jets ‘bad news.’ Globe and Mail, October 21.Google Scholar
  16. ———. 2016. Defence Minister to tour Africa on mission to learn about peacekeeping. Globe and Mail, August 4.Google Scholar
  17. ———. 2017. Dion, an unlikely diplomat, dropped as Liberals retool for Trump era. Globe and Mail, January 10.Google Scholar
  18. Chin, Jessica. 2015, Justin Trudeau’s not the first prime minister to say ‘Canada Is Back,’ Huffington Post Canada, December 1. Accessed 25 Aug 2017.
  19. Clark, Campbell. 2013. Joe Clark’s new book: Canada is the country that ‘lectures and leaves.’ Globe and Mail, November 1.Google Scholar
  20. Clark, Joe. 2013. How we lead: Canada in a century of change. Toronto: Random House Canada.Google Scholar
  21. Clark, Campbell. 2015. Harper’s early election call a clever ploy to gain edge on campaign spending. Globe and Mail, August 2.Google Scholar
  22. Collins, Eliza. 2016. Trudeau: I’ll work with Trump if I have to. Politico, March 7. Accessed 26 Aug 2017.
  23. Conservative Party of Canada. 2006. Stand up for Canada: Federal election platform. Ottawa.Google Scholar
  24. ———. 2015. The interview. Cpcpcc video, 0:01:03, May 25. Accessed 24 Aug 2017.
  25. Dale, Daniel. 2017. Daughter diplomacy: Trudeau’s unorthodox play for Donald Trump’s approval. Toronto Star, March 16.Google Scholar
  26. Den Tandt, Michael. 2015. Why Trudeau should keep CF-18s in the fight against ISIL. National Post, December 22.Google Scholar
  27. Dornan, Christopher. 2015. The long goodbye: The contours of the election. In The Canadian federal election of 2015, ed. Christopher Dornan and Jon H. Pammett, 7–21. Toronto: Dundurn Press.Google Scholar
  28. Elections Canada. 2015. Forty-second general election 2015: Official voting results. Accessed 24 Aug 2017.
  29. Fife, Robert. 2016. Canada shut out of IS coalition meeting. Globe and Mail, January 18.Google Scholar
  30. Fisher, Max. 2017. Canada’s Trump strategy: Go around him. New York Times, June 22.Google Scholar
  31. Gagnon, Lysiane. 2016. Where is the PM when Quebec needs him? Globe and Mail, January 20.Google Scholar
  32. Gerson, Jen. 2013. At Toronto fundraiser, Justin Trudeau seemingly admires China’s ‘basic dictatorship.’ National Post, November 8.Google Scholar
  33. Gurney, Matt. 2015. Canada should stay in the fight against ISIL. National Post, December 17.Google Scholar
  34. Hamilton, Graeme. 2015. Tom Mulcair appeals for tolerance as NDP’s niqab policy at odds with Party’s Quebec base. National Post, September 23.Google Scholar
  35. Harris, Kathleen, and Melissa Kent. 2016. Trudeau unveils Canada’s plan to seek 2021 UN Security Council Seat. CBC News, March 16. Accessed 25 Aug 2017.
  36. Hopper, Tristan. 2016. Condemn Burkina Faso terror attack ‘with planes,’ not just words, victim’s mother tells Trudeau. National Post, January 18.Google Scholar
  37. House of Commons. 2016. Debates, 42nd Parl., 1st Sess., June 7, 14h20.Google Scholar
  38. ———. 2017. Debates, 42nd Parl. 1st Sess., June 6, 10h25.Google Scholar
  39. Hume, Jessica. 2014. It’s ‘not about whipping out our CF-18s to show how big they are’: Trudeau. Toronto Sun, October 2. Accessed 24 Aug 2017.
  40. Humphreys, Adrian. 2013. Justin Trudeau hosts ‘ladies night’ fundraiser despite ‘firestorm’ of controversy over ‘patronizing’ ad. National Post, November 7.Google Scholar
  41. Ibbitson, John. 2017. Trudeau’s Liberals: A midterm report card. Globe and Mail, April 18.Google Scholar
  42. Joseph, Rebecca. 2015. 1st planeload of Syrian refugees land on Canadian soil. Global News, 10 December.Google Scholar
  43. Kennedy, Mark. 2015. Trudeau channels his father on minority rights. Ottawa Citizen, October 7.Google Scholar
  44. Liberal Party of Canada. 2015. Real change: A new plan for a strong middle class. Ottawa, October 5.Google Scholar
  45. MacDonald, Michael. 2013. Trudeau says Canada should accept more Syrian refugees. CTV News, August, 30.Google Scholar
  46. Milewski, Terry. 2015. CBC, power and politics. CBC News video, 0:04:35, June 23. Accessed 24 Aug 2017.
  47. Munk Debate on Foreign Policy. 2015. The Munk Debate on Canada’s foreign policy. Cpac video, 1:48:46, September 29. Accessed 24 Aug 2017.
  48. National Defence. 2017. Strong, secure, engaged: Canada’s defence policy. Ottawa.Google Scholar
  49. Nossal, Kim Richard. 2008. A thermostatic dynamic? Electoral outcomes and anti-Americanism in Canada. In The political consequences of anti-Americanism, ed. Richard A. Higgott and Ivona Malbašić, 129–141. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  50. ———. 2013. The liberal past in the conservative present: Internationalism in the Harper era. In Canada in the world: Internationalism in Canadian foreign policy, ed. Heather A. Smith and Claire Turenne Sjolander, 21–35. Toronto: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  51. ———. 2014. Primat der Wahlurne: Explaining Stephen Harper’s foreign policy. International Studies Association, March 29. Accessed 24 Aug 2017.
  52. ———. 2016a. Canada and the General Assembly: A global bully pulpit. In Canada and the UN: Legacies, limits and the Harper shift, ed. Robert Teigrob and Colin McCullough, 161–182. Montreal/Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press.Google Scholar
  53. ———. 2016b. Charlie foxtrot: Fixing defence procurement in Canada. Toronto: Dundurn Press.Google Scholar
  54. Paris, Roland. 2014. Are Canadians still liberal internationalists? Foreign policy and public opinion in the Harper era. International Journal 69 (3): 274–307.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Petrou, Michael. 2015. How has Canada fared on resettling Syrian refugees? Maclean’s, July 15.Google Scholar
  56. Plamondon, Aaron. 2010. The politics of procurement: Military acquisition in Canada and the Sea King helicopter. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press.Google Scholar
  57. Sheetz, Michael. 2017. Justin Trudeau says Canada will not buy from Boeing while it is ‘busy trying to sue us.’, September 18. Accessed 2 Oct 2017.
  58. Simpson, Jeffrey. 2014. The trouble with bullhorn diplomacy. Globe and Mail, May 2.Google Scholar
  59. ———. 2015a. Want to be a world player, Canada? Get ready to spend. Globe and Mail, October 30.Google Scholar
  60. ———. 2015b. As allies gear up, Trudeau ramps down. Globe and Mail, November 17.Google Scholar
  61. Taber, Jane, and Tu Thanh Ha. 2015. Immigration Minister Chris Alexander suspends re-election campaign. Globe and Mail, September 3.Google Scholar
  62. Trudeau, Justin (@JustinTrudeau). 2015. To fight climate change we’re all in this together. Canada is back. #COP21. Twitter, November 30, 2:02 p.m. Accessed 24 Aug 2017.
  63. TVA Nouvelles. 2016. Ouagadougou: la mère d’une victim en colère contre Trudeau. TVA Nouvelles, Janvier 18.Google Scholar
  64. UNHCR. 2017. Syria emergency. UNHCR. Accessed 24 Aug 2017.
  65. Zakaria, Fareed. 2016. Justin Trudeau reaffirms Canada’s position on the fight against ISIS in Davos. CBC News video, 0:01:42, January 20. Accessed 24 Aug 2017.
  66. Zilio, Michelle. 2016. Canada to pull fighter jets, triple training mission against Islamic State. Globe and Mail, February 8.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kim Richard Nossal
    • 1
  1. 1.Queen’s UniversityKingstonCanada

Personalised recommendations