Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Foreign Affairs Now On Table

I note some dismissal, but given the track record, nobody should buy into this "won't resonate" scepticism attached to the UN Security Council seat issue. As a matter of fact, I submit yesterday amounts to a new crease on the "distinction" front, one that the Liberals will use come the next campaign.

Foreign affairs are generally a side issue, in the sense that not many Canadians vote based on issues outside of our borders- obvious exceptions factored in. However, it is also true that Canadians have largely taken for granted our international "reputation", primarily because it has always been in tact and accepted. There is a certain quiet pride surrounding how we think others perceive us. What yesterday did is challenge our assumptions, somewhat of a wake up call, demonstrating just how far we've fallen. The seat is symbolic, and a shrewd opposition can weave a coherent narrative to show real DAMAGE, caused by this group of amateurish ideologues, who clearly can't play well with others. That this "style" can directly overlap to domestic relationships, only serves to validate the argument.

The Liberal now have an opening, THEY can return Canada to our previous stature, they can undo the damage to our reputation. There is no question, yesterday represents a colossal embarrassment for Harper and this government. Practicalities aside, the imagery is clear and this rebuke stands out in striking fashion. Again, I don't think this issue will dominate our national conversation, but it will provide another useful avenue for the Liberals to draw real distinctions. The issue will also lend itself to the "we need a change" narrative, Harper as an obstacle, a complete and utter failure on the world stage.

For those sceptics, I would simply point to the government's reaction and tactics here, if one actually believes there is "nothing to worry about" from their perspective. There is a certain objective vulnerability here and it will be exploited in the next election.


penlan said...

For a few months now I've been hearing people say Canada's reputation has gone downhill on the world stage. This isn't from rabid political followers either. Just average people I've met on the street & at Tim Horton's & other places. Interesting. It's out there & they are blaming Harper & the Cons.

Tof KW said...

Another excellent post Steve. It has always been a great source of national pride that Canada has consistently punched above it’s weight class in foreign affairs ever since the end of the Second World War. I will however start this off by playing devil’s advocate somewhat, and point out that Canada’s foreign stature actually began waning under Jean Chretien’s government.

There were two factors at play there, primarily the austerity measures invoked which were necessary in order halt Canada’s slide into economic ‘Banana Republic’ territory. The Foreign Affairs Dept took significant cuts to their budget, and really no one can fault any government for doing this as it was a case of maintaining foreign diplomacy over domestic issues (like healthcare), which would result in certain losses in future elections. The other reason totally out of Chretien’s control was that the Cold War had ended. Both these factors lead to a marked decrease of our nation’s best and brightest from pursuing careers in international diplomacy.

With our economy repaired in the 2000’s there was some extra money pumped back into Foreign Affairs and aid for developing nations under both Chretien’s and Martin’s administrations, but not up to the levels seen prior to the 1980’s. Also time and firm resource commitments are required to mature an institution as complex as the Foreign Affairs Dept, along with solid dedication shown by successive governments; regardless of political stripe.

This is where Harper blunders into the picture. Throwing over half a century of solid work by previous Liberal and Conservative governments into the toilet; we piss off China, abandon our traditional neutrality towards the middle-east, cut aid to Africa (an entire continent which will develop significant strategic importance over the 21st century; also exiting Africa opens a vacuum …for China, India, and yes Al Qaida), and in general gave the ‘Trudeau Salute’ to the UN on climate change. We also abandoned our traditional roll of peacekeeping for a combat roll in Afghanistan. Admittedly this transformation began under the Liberals (and had a lot to do with NOT joining the coalition of the stupid in Iraq) however Harper firmly wrapped himself in our military and made Afghanistan his war.

I too am saddened by our nation’s decline in international stature; a process which truly had begun almost 20 years ago, but one which Harper has hastened by putting his foot on the accelerator. This loss at the UN is indeed a wake up call for Canada. The world just isn’t that ‘into us’ anymore.

Omar said...

What should only need be exploited is the throwback record this overtly ideological and thus useless Conservative government has offered Canadians these past 4+ years. Yesterday was a bad day for Harper. Shunned at the UN, an embarrassing international incident with an Arab state that saw a senior minister unable to get landing clearance, Ministers (Peter Kent) falling all over themselves doing media spin all night and again this morning. These morons have had bad days before, but this???
Yet this morning, we have Harper continuing to maintain he and his administration are the Alpha and Omega choice for an electorate about to be poached by an evil coalition. It's all such a joke. A very unfunny joke. If we can't have an election I want somebody shoot me.

Kirk said...

I agree. One detailed policy paper that the Liberals have put out (only to have it ignored by everyone) was their foreign policy paper.

This gives Ignatieff a chance to now talk about something that plays to his strengths and the Liberals are prepared for it.

The importance of foreign affairs to Canadians is the pride in the elevated stature Canada held in the international arena. This matters, emotionally, to Canadians.

They should use this to attack Harper now, not wait for an election, by election time it should be an established fact that Harper has lowered Canada's valued international reputation.

The should also use Harper's feeble attempt to blame Ignatieff to show him as weak and childish, not able to "man up". This can be a valuable subtext in the discussion.

They should show Ignatieff and the Liberals as those who can bring back Canada's international reputation, to restore Canadian pride. Something that is a very credible proposition.

International standing in foreign affairs (punching above our weight) is as important to Canadian as our standing in international hockey. Both are an emotional part of being Canadian.

Dame said...

Canada.... according to Harper was unceremoniously dismissed rejected... "his" Canada not mine..

it is a win.

Rotterdam said...

While Iggnatieffs comments did not help, Harper's commitment to stand with Israel at times of need cost him the Islamic vote.

My Dad always said doing what is right may cost you a few friends.

I have never been more proud of my PM.

Steve V said...


You do realize, that Harper's stand on Israel has provided nothing in terms of sway? You actually think any Arab state gives a rats ass if Canada takes a firm line in the sand, you actually think we have EVER enjoyed that kind of stature? NO. Where Canada can make a difference is in the role of honest broker, trying to bring sides together, a source that both sides have some faith in. That is Canada's traditional and relatively most influential role in world affairs. You delusional partisans think Harper needlessly alienating China, the Arab world, is productive, but really it's just background noise, that only serves to marginalize us.

I'd also add, if you think this is just about Israel, then you are beyond ignorant. You name the file, you can find amateurish, which has congealed to make us a joke on the world stage. This vote merely confirms the obvious, but wrap yourself in your "principles" if it provides comfort. Laughable.

Kirk said...

Rotterdam: "Harper's commitment to stand with Israel at times of need cost him the Islamic vote."

Canada has always been a firm supporter of Israel. Harper just upped the rhetoric.

And what does "at times of need" even mean? When they were invading Gaza?

Lastly, the govt says they got a lot of Islamic votes.

A senior government official said Canada actually got "a good chunk" of the Arab vote.

Unless you can show that every previous govt who actually won this seat was a supporter of "Islamic" countries and against Israel you have nothing but propaganda to argue against truth.

Steve V said...

From Taber's column:

"Mr. Nanos notes, however, that it could raise questions as to why Canada was not successful. Ultimately, he sees this as “another political flashpoint where the parties can use the outcome to attack and define each other.”

EKOS president Frank Graves, meanwhile, believes it could be more than that. He says this will be a good issue to watch, especially among the educated classes, who may be concerned about the impact on the country’s reputation. Canadians, he says, are very sensitive to how they are viewed on the world stage.

Mr. Graves’s polling shows that the highly educated classes began leave the Conservatives for the Liberals over the government’s decision to scrap the mandatory long-form census. “The big exposure for the government is that this fits into an increasingly damaging narrative that portrays the country as lacking sophistication and gravitas,” he says. “This would certainly be problematic with the professional and university educated classes who have been showing increasing reservations about the government’s management style.”

marie said...

Great post Steve and great responses. I do have an issue with Rotterdam though.

Hey Rotterdam, While Iggnatieffs comments did not help, Harper's commitment to stand with Israel at times of need cost him the Islamic vote.(What did he expect)

My Dad always said doing what is right may cost you a few friends. (Your dad was right but you don’t seem to have learned anything from your Dad.)

I have never been more proud of my PM.

Harper and his cult followers and supporters blaming the Liberals for Harpers failures is getting a pretty lame and stupid,especially Harper and his brain washed parrots. They must now feel themselves dangling most of the time these days? The big drop is coming soon so be prepared.

While you are so proud of your PM R, I am totally embarrassed of him and so are any sane bodied citizen of Canada