OTTAWA — Stephen Harper has surprised and annoyed European Union leaders by cancelling a planned Canada-EU summit, where he was going to be criticized for abandoning this country's commitment to the Kyoto Protocol on global warming.
Mr. Harper told Finnish Prime Minister Maati Vanhanen yesterday by telephone that he would not be able to attend the summit scheduled for Nov. 27.
The Prime Minister cited the need to remain in Canada as much as possible while the House of Commons is sitting, because the Conservatives enjoy only a minority government.
However, Mr. Harper still plans to travel to Hanoi later this month to attend a meeting of APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation) leaders. He will also be in Riga, Latvia, at the end of the month for meetings with the heads of NATO.
“The undertone is pretty bitter,” stated one European official who asked not to be identified.
There is widespread belief that Canada cancelled the meeting because EU officials announced that the question of Kyoto Protocol targets would be placed on the agenda.
European leaders are upset with the Conservative government's proposed Clean Air Act, which abandons Canada's pledge under the Kyoto Protocol to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.
A pretty transparent excuse for not attending, but what sort of a message does this send to our allies? It was just the other day that Rona Ambrose was bragging about the Clean Air Act showing the world how serious Canada was about emissions. Ambrose said the Act would do a great deal for Canada's reputation abroad. Apparently, the opposite is true and Canada now wishes to hide from scrutiny, as though embarrassed.
Harper's latest decision is similar to his no-show at the AIDS conference. Harper is more worried about appearances than participation, which isolates Canada. Harper's approach creates bad feelings, betrays our historic role and is scarily similar to the Bush administration tactics. There is nothing to be gained by alienating people, with the exception of short-term political expediency.
How ridiculous that we now have a government that effectively hides for the world, while simulateneously saying we are a key player on the world stage. Harper should endure any criticism and make the case for his plans, if they are so "ambitious" as Ambrose argues. Why the fear if the legislation is really how you present it? The fact we avoid our allies tells us all we need to know about the true nature of our position. Harper, the control freak, worries about his inability to mask the truth with his propaganda machine in the face of outside perception.