Monday, October 20, 2008 | 01:05 PM ET
By Nahlah Ayed
There goes another election and, with it, another opportunity to have a national discussion about Canada's role on the world stage.
There's no question there were larger priorities for Canadians in this campaign: The uncertainty over the economy big-footed even the traditionally pressing matter of the state of health care.
And it's true, foreign policy has rarely dominated a Canadian election. Political studies professor Kim Richard Nossal of Queen's University in Kingston, Ont., says it happened only four times: in 1911 when free trade and naval expenditures were an issue; 1917 when debate raged on conscription; 1963, when defence policy dominated the campaign; and 1988, when free trade was the defining issue.
Yet despite Canada's involvement in Afghanistan, there was little room in the election campaign this time around for a substantive discussion on international affairs, even where Afghanistan was concerned.
More than ever, it seems foreign policy as a whole has been relegated to the margins of discussion on Canada's future, reduced to one of two things — trade or aid. It's low on the list of the country's priorities, even now, when it seems to matter everywhere from the Middle East to Russia and China.
"It's a problem that's gotten worse over time," says Christopher Waddell, a journalism professor and political analyst at Carleton University in Ottawa.