Canadians, face a strategic crossroads (Palamar and Jardine 2013; McDonough, 2013). The economic interests of Canadians increasingly diverge from their traditional political relationships. Though Canada weathered the Great Recession of 2008 better than most developed countries, the downturn altered the strategic environment in unprecedented ways. This, in conjunction with wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, weakened traditional allies in the North Atlantic Triangle (the United States and Western Europe). Against this backdrop, China stood at the forefront of the BRIC emerging economies, rising in multiple dimensions– economically, militarily and politically (Shambaugh 2012).

Even before the financial crisis, developments in both the US and Europe raised doubts about the cohesion of Europe and North America, leading some to question the wisdom of integrating Canada strategically into North America and the North Atlantic triangle (Haglund 2011). Technological advances in energy extraction improved US self-sufficiency just as environmental concerns eroded perceptions of Canada as a reliable and secure source of energy from the Alberta oil sands. A decade of unilateralism shook confidence in Canada as a preferred partner of the US. Similar tensions undermined European cohesion before the recession (Nossal 2011), while the eurocrisis profoundly set back the process of European integration and sowed doubt about its capacity to act as a strategic partner with global reach.

None of these developments have shaken the faith of Canadians in liberal-democratic values and the institutionalized post-war order of “embedded liberalism” (Ruggie, 1982). However, various factors, from the impact of US unilateralism to the trade-off between energy development and climate-change abatement eroded commitment to multilateral solutions to global problems. While Canadian foreign policy reaffirms enduring commitment to its values (Baird 2011), Canada seems less able to forge enduring partnerships and coalitions on the global stage,which is symbolized by the inability of Canada to gain election to the UN Security Council in 2010 (Stairs 2011).

The global recession pushed Canada to welcome greater Chinese investment in its resource industries, but this process has been fraught with deep ambivalence concerning the potential dependence on state-owned firms with institutionalized links to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and by the environmental and economic impact of a strategy one-dimensionally focused on resource extraction (Manicom 2012; Glavin 2012). Three times as many Canadian hold negative views of China as do positive ones and only 18% of Canadians even agree that Canada is an Asia Pacific country while 47%resist the notion (Asia Pacific Foundation 2013). Canada faces uncertainty about its traditional partners and ambivalence about emergent new ones. Dependence on a power at odds with their fundamental values, at best ambivalent about Canadian prescriptions for rules-based global governance, fills Canadians with misgiving.