The decision by Prime Minister Harper to miss any appearance at the United Nations the same week as the presence of senior leaders around the world, including President Barack Obama was a typical triumph of his personal spite over long term Canadian interests. We were left with the lame excuse that he could not get a speaking time that fit into his schedule (as if that couldn’t be worked out), and so issued his entirely welcome denunciation of President Ahmadinejad not from the podium at the General Assembly but from a Tim Horton’s in Oakville. His powerful words about anti-Semitism would have had far more effect, as would Canada’s sensible decision to walk out of Ahmadinejad’s speech. if Mr Harper had done it all at the General Assembly in New York.
Canada has announced its intention to run for a Security Council seat, and is allegedly campaigning hard for it. But the man missing in action is the Prime Minister. On Iran, on the Middle East, on critical UN missions in Afghanistan and Haiti, on Darfur and re-emerging conflict in East Africa, on Sri Lanka, on climate change, on the new architecture for the world’s financial system, Canada’s Prime Minister missed the chance to speak to the issues of the day.
It is as if the world didn’t matter, or as if the institutions Canada has been involved in building since Sir Robert Borden attended the Versailles Conference in 1919 were somehow not worthy of his time or attention.
Even the swine flu issue is being seen as an entirely domestic concern. Barack Obama and Gordon Brown announce they are prepared to allocate vaccine for the world’s most vulnerable, but not Canada. So Canadians will get their vaccines six weeks late and people outside the country will get nothing from Canada unless a new policy is adopted.
We’re proudest as Canadians when we’re setting the highest standards for ourselves and the world. Instead we’ve got a government that keeps lowering the bar, that just won’t even try to take the leadership role that’s so clearly required.
Governments fail when they aim too low and don’t set clear direction. We all know that ships get blown off course when they lack steam and focus. They are then at the mercy of high seas and brutal winds. This is the position Mr Harper’s pinched Prime Ministership leaves us in.