Matt DeCourcey laying flowers honouring the ‘Heavenly Hundred’, people killed during the Maidan protests in the fall and winter of 2013-2014, with Canada’s Ambassador to Ukraine, Roman Waschuk, in Kiev, Ukraine.
OP-ED – My Year as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs
Becoming parliamentary secretary to the minister of foreign affairs more than a year ago, was, and continues to be, one of the most enriching experiences of my life. Though I knew there would be a steep learning curve — and there has been — I also knew that gaining a deeper understanding into the intricacies of international diplomacy, and how the machinery of government works, would make me a more effective MP.
Parliamentary secretaries are members of the government party appointed by the prime minister. Our role is to assist cabinet ministers with parliamentary duties such as committee work, speaking engagements, attending ceremonies, or meeting delegations. We also act as a link between ministers and parliamentarians and, when the minister is away from the House, are often called upon to answer policy questions during Question Period.
The contacts I have made as parliamentary secretary and the knowledge I have gained carrying out my duties have helped me and my staff deal more effectively with the issues and concerns of constituents. Helping them find solutions to their problems remains my highest priority.
Considering the many tumultuous international issues currently facing our country, including complicated trade issues with the United States, I could not have picked a more challenging time to become parliamentary secretary. I continue to welcome the challenge.
Given the importance of New Brunswick’s trade with the United States — softwood lumber in particular — I’m pleased the prime minister chose a New Brunswick MP to assist Minister Freeland and her team. Working with them, I have observed firsthand the value of building global relationships and respecting international agreements and institutions. I’ve also learned the value of investing in our military.
Canadian diplomacy and development sometimes require the backing of hard power, which is why our decision to make substantial investments in our military is so important. It is not in Canada’s interest to rely solely on the U.S. security umbrella. To build strong and productive international relationships, we need a capable, professional and robust military.
Our defence policy — Strong, Secure, Engaged — reflects Canada’s desire to build stronger international relationships. The policy will increase annual cash defence spending by more than 70 per cent over the next 10 years. Base Gagetown – the Home of Canada’s Army – will play an even bigger role defending our country and as an economic generator to the tune of more than 700 million annually to the provincial economy.
What about the United States? It’s a question I hear a lot, especially at the Boyce Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings.
Canada and the United States share a history that transcends personalities and policies. We are strong trading partners and allies, and we will remain strong trading partners and allies. Based on some of its recent policies, however, the US appears to be questioning its role as global leader, which puts into sharper focus the need for Canada to set its own clear and sovereign course.
Canada’s post-Second World War efforts in helping to create and maintain international agreements and institutions, combined with military contributions such as Lester Pearson’s peacekeeping efforts, reflect our nation’s strength, determination and desire for cooperation among nations.
Last August, I had the honour of representing Canada during commemorative ceremonies marking the 26th anniversary of Ukrainian Independence, which took place on August 24, 1991, in Kyiv (Kiev), the capital of Ukraine. Watching Canadian Armed Forces members march for the first time with troops from the United Kingdom, the US, Georgia, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Poland, Estonia and Romania in the Ukrainian Independence Day Parade was a moving experience.
Canada was the first Western nation to recognize Ukraine’s independence, in December 1991. Our two countries continue to work together on military training and defence matters through Operation UNIFIER and the Canada-Ukraine Defence Cooperation Arrangement.
Observing the faces in the crowd that day, I knew that many of the people to whom those faces belonged had lived under a regime where tyranny, misinformation and lies were the norms. That thought made it even clearer to me that cooperating with other countries to further peace and stability internationally is not just the right thing to do, it’s the clear and sovereign course for Canada.