It was early March and the external affairs minister was halfway through a hectic whirlwind tour of Jordan, Kuwait and other flash points in a volatile area. Clad in a grey three-piece suit, a relaxed but weary Joe Clark leaned against a wall in the Canadian Embassy in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and told Maclean’s: “I get the sense there’s a real chance for a breakthrough in this region, but we have to take advantage of it now.” After last weekend’s cabinet shuffle, Clark apparently will not get that chance. Instead, his successor—at press time, former diplomat and current Treasury Board President Gilles Loiselle and Finance Minister Michael Wilson appeared to be the leading choices—now has to steer Canada’s foreign policy through an increasingly hazardous post-Cold War world. Said Christopher Maule, director of Ottawa’s Carleton University School of International Affairs: “This will be a period of tremendous instability. A new minister faces a very challenging time.” Those challenges will come from the tor-
mented heartland of the Soviet Union, through a changing European continent and—by way of drought-stricken Africa and plague-ravaged Latin America—to China, where a geriatric leadership is now trying to rebuild shattered international alliances. But the new minister’s greatest test is likely to come in the Middle East, a region mired in the Arab-Israeli and other inter-ethnic conflicts and scarred by war. That region, said Alex Morrison, executive director of the Toronto-based Canadian Institute of Strategic Studies, “will continue to be the number 1 trouble spot in the world.” Canada’s involvement in the region was underscored last week with the departure from Chilliwack, B.C., of the first of about 300 military engineers whom Ottawa has committed to a UN peacekeeping force in the Persian Gulf (page 24).
Other regions also may explode into crisis. Europe, for one, faces massive changes in the coming months. The former member-countries of the Warsaw Pact remain highly unstable, noted Maule. And if the Soviet Union breaks apart, as some experts anticipate, refugees may flood into Western Europe. The exodus, predicted Maule, could “make the migration of people coming out of Iraq look minuscule by comparison.”
Other pressing issues: the allocation of an increasingly constrained foreign-aid budget; Canada’s stance towards South Africa as that country dismantles its racist apartheid policies; future participation in NATO; and the growing alarm over such global issues as the environment. South America, where a raging cholera epidemic has added to the miseries imparted by the flourishing cocaine trade, will also demand the new minister’s attention.
Still, the most personal challenge for the new minister may simply be filling Joe Clark’s shoes. Said Christopher Pinney of the Canadian Council for International Co-operation, an umbrella group based in Ottawa representing 130 development agencies: “He has been one of the best ministers in decades. We’ll be very sorry to see him go.” John Kirton, a Canadian foreign policy specialist at the University of Toronto, observed that over his 6V2 years in the ministry, Clark “had developed an immense range of contacts.” And, Kirton added, Canadians themselves had developed confidence in Clark’s performance. “The country had a good comfort level with Joe,” Kirton observed, adding that professional diplomats “trusted him and had tremendous affection for him.” Clearly, the challenges confronting Clark’s successor will be found at home as well as overseas.
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