Thursday, June 07, 2007

Grading Harper: G8 Edition

To be clear, I think the climate change statement was a watered down, ambiguous, pedestrian, disappointing collage of nothingness. I think Canada failed to provide leadership, and was instrumental in giving the Americans diplomatic cover, when they should have been exposed. Personal opinion aside, I will admit that Harper has managed to emerge from all of the ceremony in pretty good standing.

Commentary, such as this example, is objectively good news for Harper:
It was not clear heading into the summit precisely how Canada would align itself. Environmentalists accused the government of running interference for the U.S., but Harper had refused to explicitly endorse the U.S. stance.

It is now clear that, at least on some issues, Canada finds itself closer to the European Union than perhaps many observers expected.

Canada - along with Germany, France, Britain, Italy, Russia and Japan - supported the global target of cutting emissions by 50% by 2050. Only the U.S. opposed the target.

Harper even offered veiled criticism of countries such as the United States and China that have not set specific targets for cutting emissions.

Harper managed to create the impression, factual or not, that he is an ally of the European position on climate change. Harper also benefits from the bland communique, because Canada is singled out for its commitment. Again, I'm not speaking to the merits of our plan, more the sales pitch, and in this regard Harper has gained credibility for the government on the international stage. Canada looks engaged, interested and part of the process. This posture is meant to take some of the sting out of the Kyoto abandonment, and on that score, some progress.

The G8 summit is irrelevant, in terms of substance. Never has that fact been more striking than at this meeting. Listening to various leaders spin the final document, it was simply amazing to watch people attach such grandeur to a mostly meaningless announcement- global warming bad, we must do something, how earth shattering, this ancient news. The G8 is an exercise in propaganda, leaders positioning themselves so they can return home triumphant, real progress an afterthought.

I'm not suggesting Harper is a big winner, there are plenty of criticism available. What I am saying, all things being equal, given the expectations, Harper can leave the G8 mostly unscathed, with a few new talking points for counter. If I limit myself to a verdict on ability to paint pictures and presentation, Harper gets a pass, maybe a small bounce, in the land of people who really aren't paying much attention. Thoughts?


ottlib said...

G-8 summits are largely ignored.

All of the participants have to save face which is why the final communique always has something for everybody.

If you are expecting substative and substantial progress on issues then you are looking in the wrong place.

That does not mean that he Europeans are happy with Mr. Harper. Ms. Merkel had definite goals going into this thing and Stephen Harper helped to thwart them. She is not thinking Mr. Harper was helpful and it will have consequences for Canada down the line.

As for the domestic scene. Read my comment in your last post. Stephen Harper might have taken a small step forward this week but he took a giant leap backwards.

Steve V said...


I don't disagree, but my point is limited to just the G8, other issues aside.

Karen said...

Well then, limited to the G8, Merkel failed and Harper helped her.

Will it be remembered? Of course, these guy's are going to quote their victory from here to sunday.

We who watch the G8 won't see it as earth shattering, those who don't will consume his spin.

This is what he does well. Don't disregard it.

I'm still waiting for the environmental groups to say something.

Steve V said...

A couple comments:

"Canada helped the United States torpedo progress on climate change," said John Bennett, spokesperson for ClimateforChange.

"Stephen Harper did a big favour for George Bush by going there to pull the teeth out of the agreement, and apparently they teamed up and succeeded."


"The best they could get from him was a statement that their 50-per-cent-by-2050 emissions reduction proposal would be 'seriously considered.' That's a pretty tiny landmark," said Philip Clapp, president of the U.S.-based National Environmental Trust.

"This is what he does well. Don't disregard it."

Agreed :)

Peter Dodson said...

To be clear, I think the climate change statement was a watered down, ambiguous, pedestrian, disappointing collage of nothingness.

I think you're being generous Steve. This was a deal to talk some more about maybe doing something about climate change (with the high end possibly being a 50% reduction).

When the Constitution was signed in 1982, Aboriginal peoples got a promise to future talks about self-government. While there has been some progress, they still don't have it. That's 25 years later - with that precedent, we might set targets by 2035.

Bottom line - it's a joke and totally meaningless.

Anonymous said...

Maybe PM "steve's" lukewarm reception from the other leaders is due to the fact they hardly know him, hardly care about Canada anyways, and know the guy is running a minority government that is woefully out of step with its public.

I think they were being nice because they know he's really just there on a temporary visit before he returns to the NCC after the next (and coming soon) election. I don't think these other leaders are that dumb, I think they know PM "steve" is past his best-before date.

Finally what 'good' play he got out of this event, the disasters at home will be waiting for him when he returns. Lets see how long he can hide.

Anonymous said...

With Bush having only one and a half years left of his failed presidency, Blair leaving in a couple of weeks, Sarkozy brand new and trying to make friends - this G8 summit was nadda.

So, they agree to talk, talk, talk about climate change - 2050? Most of us including the G8 leaders will be dead.

Wow - why am I NOT impressed.

JimBobby said...

Whooee! It's like Geldof sed, the G8 commitments on African aid ain't bein' lived up to. Whay should we expect compliance even if they did come up with some hard caps and targets?

I was watchin' the ABC 6:30 news last week. They said Bush would be attending "a meeting in Europe with other western leaders." They didn't even use the G8 or Group of Eight moniker. The Merkan media was already downplayin' the G8 before the meeting even started.

If our G8 commitments are meaningless, like with the African aid commitment, why are we wasting time and money sendin' Harper off on a public relations exercise?

I watched a fair bit of BBC coverage and I watch at least one major US network newscast daily. Nobody was talkin' about Canada and Harper except the Canajun media. By population, we're about the smallest G8 country. Harper may have visions of Canada as an energy superpower or even a clean energy superpower. The rest of the world sees a couyntry of 30-odd million that routinely aligns itself with our bigass neighbour.

When Harper upbraids Putin on human rights, the only ones listenin' and reportin' are the Canajuns. And that's just fine with Harpoon, I figger, on accounta all's he cares about is what potential CPC voters in Canada think.

Everything is about gettin' a majority in the next election. Everything.


Oxford County Liberals said...

You know Steve... if the government wanted to make hay outta this agreement, they'd have done so in QP. But so far, all Van Loan has done when questions are raised about what exactly Harper was saying/doing with response to environmental actions was to ignore the question and go after the liberals on the Senate legislation.

That hardly seems to me to indicate they think they'll make too much hay out of it.

Anonymous said...

Funny - if it wasn't for Pierre Trudeau and Gerald Ford, Canada wouldn't even be part of the G8.

Ford was impressed with Trudeau and Canada and pushed to get Canada in - when Trudeau spoke, they were impressed.

Hence, we are now part of the G8 conferences.

Steve V said...

I'm not suggesting they can "make hay", merely another counterpoint to confuse the issue.

I'm not sure I'm being generous, I think the whole process was a waste of time and Canada accomplished little. I guess my point, Harper went in hoping to get some credibility and look the leader, on that fine point, the trip wasn't a failure.

ottlib said...

In the final analysis it does not matter what agreement was reached at this summit because the participants forget about any agreements as soon as they get on the plane home.

Paul Martin trumpeted the agreement about aid to Africa after the 2005 summit and nothing was done by any country to adhere to it.

During the '80s there were several agreements about the world economy that Reagan agreed to during the summit and then ignored when he got back to Washington.

The list goes on.

This summit was not much different from any of the ones that came before and it will be quickly forgotten.

JimBobby said...

Whooee! I reckon Ottlib's on the money a hunnert percent's worth.

Here's a question -- if these here G8 meetin's is so meaningless like it looks like they are, howcum all them anti-G8 protesters bother showin' up to get fire-hosed off the streets an' billy-clubbed an' dragged off to the hoosegow?

I reckon it's on accounta the world's press is there an' maybe, just maybe, one or two world leaders'll notice an' ask what's eatin' them clowns.

I'm disappointed in Frau Merkel. I figgered she was gonna give the anti-Earthers Bush an' Harper a hoffen-goffen tongue-lashin' they'd remember.


Anonymous said...


A centre right politician giving Harper and Bush a tongue lashing??? Wishful thinking.

JimBobby said...

Yer right, Mush. When I heard that the climate crisis was was Merkel's pet issue, I got too wishful.

Anonymous said...

Also note that there is agreement among the Western European leaders of a missile shield against Russia.

Ask Gordon Brown and Sarkozy whether UK and France,they would give up their nuclear deterrence.

Time for a Canadian foreign policy rethink.