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Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau. (Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau. (Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Trudeau unveils foreign policy team of ex-military officers, ambassadors Add to ...

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau has enlisted former senior military officers, an ex-fighter pilot and experts working in both Beijing and Berkeley to help him persuade voters he has the foreign policy chops to be prime minister in 2015.

The council of 14 international affairs advisers, which Mr. Trudeau’s office will officially unveil on Wednesday morning, has met with the Liberal Leader several times in the past few months to help shape his approach on matters including the rise of Islamic State militants in Iraq, the U.S.-led coalition military campaign against the jihadis, defence equipment purchases, global security threats and Canada’s contribution to humanitarian crises.

In many cases, the views of these advisers mesh easily with Mr. Trudeau’s past pronouncements on issues from China to Iraq to fighter planes, which suggests he is either listening very closely to them, or the party has picked a council with very similar views to those of the leader.

Former lieutenant-general Andrew Leslie, a co-chair of the council and a candidate for the party in the Ottawa area in the next election, spent the past year recruiting members of the council along with his fellow co-chair, Montreal MP Marc Garneau, a former naval officer and astronaut. Mr. Leslie was commander of the Canadian army at the height of Canada’s costly involvement in the war in Afghanistan.

Advisers include former CF-18 jet pilot Stephen Fuhr, a B.C. candidate for the party and a vocal critic of Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter-bomber, which the Royal Canadian Air Force favours for Canada’s next warplane.

Mr. Fuhr has criticized the Lockheed jet as “technically risky, ill-suited to Canada’s priorities” and destined to cost far more than Prime Minister Stephen Harper says it will.

“I am a Christian. I was born in Tory-blue Alberta and grew up in the B.C. Interior. I have never smoked a joint in my life, and I always voted Conservative,” Mr. Fuhr said in a recent commentary in The Huffington Post.

Mr. Trudeau’s party is leading the polls these days, ahead of Mr. Harper’s Conservatives.

Another member of Mr. Trudeau’s council is Margaret Cornish, a Beijing-based senior adviser for the law firm Bennett Jones, who has argued against special restrictions on what Chinese state-owned firms can buy in Canada. Her position, as laid out in a 2012 paper for the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, matches Mr. Trudeau’s opposition to the December, 2012, ban that Mr. Harper placed on further investments in Canada’s oil sands by state-owned firms from China. Ms. Cornish says companies owned by Beijing operate strictly on a commercial basis, and should face no more investment barriers than other foreign corporations.

Former ambassadors in the group include Michael Bell, who served in a number of mid-east capitals, and Jeremy Kinsman, who headed missions in Moscow, Rome, Brussels and London. Mr. Bell, who teaches at the University of Windsor, has expressed skepticism about the effectiveness of some Western military intervention in Iraq. Mr. Trudeau opposed sending Canadian jet fighters to war against Islamic State militants. “The problem is the state has disintegrated and in effect it no longer exists. Nothing the Americans can do with bombing sorties is going to stop that,” Mr. Bell told CBC News in June. “What happens if you have this kind of air raid and you kill women and children? What happens if the bomb goes off in the wrong place?”

Mr. Kinsman, who teaches at the University of California, Berkeley, and Ryerson University in Toronto, has criticized the way the Harper government has reduced participation in multilateral institutions such as the United Nations. “Stephen Harper doubts that voters care much about multilateral activism on big and lofty international issues,” he wrote in the National Post in January, 2014.

Other experts on Mr. Trudeau’s panel include Jocelyn Coulon, a journalist and policy analyst who ran unsuccessfully against Thomas Mulcair, now NDP Leader, in the Montreal riding of Outremont in 2007. Mr. Coulon, director of the Francophone Research Network on Peace Operations (ROP), affiliated with the Centre for International Studies and Research at the University of Montreal, has called for the Canadian military to return to a large peacekeeping role. The Harper government has pulled back on peacekeeping.

Rana Sarkar, a friend of Mr. Trudeau’s top adviser, Gerald Butts, is another member of the council. He’s national director of high-growth markets at KPMG Canada and a former CEO of the Canada-India Business Council. He’s a senior fellow at the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto.

Mr. Sarkar recently lost the Liberal nomination for the riding of Don Valley North to scientist Geng Tan.

He was critical earlier this year of Conservative government legislation, C-24, that made it harder to get Canadian citizenship and easier to lose it.

“It shows [the] Conservative Party’s real view on citizenship in that it allows for first– and second-class Canadians,” Mr. Sarkar told South Asian Generation Next in July.

Other advisers include Catherine McKenna, a lawyer and founder of Canadian Lawyers Abroad, a charity based at the University of Ottawa. Ms. McKenna is the Liberal candidate in Ottawa Centre, which means she will challenge long-time NDP incumbent Paul Dewar for the seat in an expected 2015 election.

Ms. McKenna teaches at the Munk School of Global Affairs and once served as a legal adviser with the UN peacekeeping mission in East Timor.

In October, 2012, she helped write a newspaper op-ed lamenting the lack of diversity and women in positions of power in corporate Canada.

“While the world has changed and so has the face of Canada, it seems that most of the people running Canadian companies live in an alternative reality where all their colleagues are white, few of their peers are women, they have no visible minorities on their boards, they’ve never hung out with an aboriginal person, they don’t have friends in Africa, they don’t speak Mandarin, and they don’t take vacations in India,” Ms. McKenna co-wrote for Postmedia with Adam Goldenberg. “That’s a shame for them but spells disaster for Canada’s future prosperity.”

Other advisers include Martine Durier-Copp, director of the Centre for Advanced Management Education and a professor at the School of Public Administration at Dalhousie University, as well as Vancouver MP Joyce Murray, Montreal MP Irwin Cotler, deputy Liberal leader Ralph Goodale of Saskatchewan, and Toronto MP Kirsty Duncan.

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