Concept would be similar to U.S. Department of Homeland Security
TORONTO -- Canada will develop a comprehensive national security policy to deal with the continuing threat of terrorism, says prime minister-to-be Paul Martin.
The new approach will ensure greater co-ordination between the military, police, intelligence agencies, coast guard, customs officers and emergency preparedness officials.
The plan was highlighted by the new Liberal leader in a policy document he released yesterday. It reinforces comments made by Mr. Martin during an interview with CanWest News last April in which he said he was considering clustering security-related responsibilities into a single department, similar to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
The new 16-page policy paper, written by Mr. Martin himself in recent months, provides further insight into how he intends to lead the country as he takes over the reins of power from Jean Chrétien.
It stresses that a Martin government will provide "sound financial management" and work toward lowering taxes. At the same time, he promises to improve the "social foundations" of the country by improving medicare and "making demonstrable progress" in areas such as early childhood development and homelessness.
On foreign policy, Mr. Martin writes Canada must ensure its "place in the world as one of influence and pride."
"That means coming to grips with a world where our closest friend and nearest neighbour -- the United States -- has emerged as the lone super-power."
He writes that Canada-U.S. relations have been "strained" recently and must be repaired.
"This begins with attending to the security of our shared geography and common border. The tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001, changed America's outlook forever. We must understand that new reality. Canada must be prepared to act in our national self-interest and advance the mutual objective of a safe and secure North America."
He said that is why Canada must develop a new national security policy to co-ordinate how those in government and the military protect the country against terrorism.
At his news conference yesterday, Mr. Martin once again confirmed Canada will work with the U.S. to examine the development of a missile-defence program to protect both countries against the possible use of nuclear weapons by rogue nations.
But he ruled out a joint immigration pact with the U.S. to alleviate that country's concerns about border security.
In his policy paper, Mr. Martin also asserts there is a crucial need for parliamentary reform to give greater powers to MPs, and for a more harmonious relationship between the federal and provincial governments. Without those changes, he writes, people will become more cynical about politics and the federal government will increasingly lose its relevance for most Canadians.
"When we do not seek out great objectives -- when we turn away from the politics of achievement -- we run the risk of our nation remaining something beloved, good and important in the abstract, but detached from the living reality of Canadians' experience," writes Mr. Martin.
"The sense becomes almost palpable across the land: that the national government is becoming irrelevant. We cannot permit this process to take hold."
He concludes that a failure to "seize the moment" by ensuring that Canadians bond together to achieve great things would not be "cataclysmic."
"People will continue to live their lives... But that having been said, instead of a hopeful course towards the uplands I believe are within sight, we would confront a sad and growing sense of hollowness at the heart of the Canadian endeavour."
At the news conference, Mr. Martin said he wrote the document to "set out the logic and background" behind the themes that he discussed in his convention speech Friday night. His advisers stressed the document is not the party's policy platform for the next election, but does reveal the "intellectual foundations" for Mr. Martin's thinking.
Mr. Martin writes that the country is at a critical crossroad in its history.
"Across the country, in every region and in Ottawa, a new guard is taking the centre of the political stage -- one that has politically come of age since the constitutional and jurisdictional wars of the '70s and '80s."
"These factors are helping to make our perennial problem -- that uniquely Canadian nexus of regional discord and inter-governmental bickering, which, no matter how understandable in its origins, is always pernicious in its consequences -- seem less threatening than it has been for almost 40 years."
Meanwhile, he writes, Canadians have overcome "a generation of mismanagement of public finances" because they were willing to let their governments eliminate deficits.
"Prudence, frugality and collective responsibility have been reaffirmed as core Canadian values. Governments remain determined to live within their means."
Indeed, Mr. Martin's government is facing some tough choices in the near future. Government revenues have been drying up and Finance Minister John Manley has indicated that the surplus is minimal.
At his news conference, Mr. Martin insisted he will not put the country back into a deficit. In his background paper, he pledged to build a stronger Canadian economy.
"This begins with a renewed commitment to sound financial management: lowering our national debt ratio, which will enable us to keep our interest rates low, continue lowering taxes, and keep the flexibility we need to respond to an unpredictable international economy. That means always keeping a firm grip on government spending."
On social policy, Mr. Martin promised to "maintain universal and high quality health care." He said governments must reduce waiting lists for surgeries and other treatment. The federal government will work with provinces to develop "objectives" for maximum wait times for various procedures.