Friday, January 04, 2008

Running Foreign Affairs, One Letter to the Editor at a Time

A few days ago Michael Byers wrote an article in the Toronto Star. While I do not agree with Byers on all issues, the thrust of the article is how much Canada has changed under Harper's rule and how the rest of the world is noticing. They are not noticing with admiration, they are surprised to be polite.

Before I get to Bernier, I'd like to make a comment about the overall theme of the article. What really struck me is the fact that other countries are paying attention and it's not the first time I've read that.

How many times have we heard that Canada is a bit player that no one pays attention to? How many times have you heard that Canadians have no identity, save for the fact that we are not American? While I think a case could be made for both statements, overall I do not believe that they are true.

We do have a reputation around the world and it's a good one, (or perhaps I should say was). We're no superpower of course, but that has never been our aim. We have made our mark and that has earned us respect. I don't know about you, but the only people I ever heard berating Canada and Canadians are the conservatives that follow Harper. I think most of us love Canada and are proud of what we stand (stood?) for.

Anyway, back to Bernier. I suppose some astute staffer saw it first, sent it to him and then he must have spoken with the PMO or Harper himself to get permission to write this letter to the editor.

It opens with the hilarious line:

This article by Michael Byers is so one-sided and lacking in objectivity that I feel compelled to respond.

It goes on to create that Alice in Wonderland/upside down world that the Con's are so famous for and ends with this fantastical sentence:

Under the previous Liberal government, Canada's global influence declined while it diverted energy away from the important work of diplomacy and toward soft-power fantasies.

In an effort to be objective, Bernier apparently thinks that what is required is some good old fashioned partisanship, coupled with ideology that in this case ends in fantasy.

The next day the Globe and Mail ran an editorial on Omar Khadr. Sorry, it's behind a wall, but essentially it spoke to how Canada is the only Western nation that has not spoken up for their citizen. It ends with reminding us that the Canadian Bar Association belatedly found its voice last August and called for Khadr's repatriation.

Again, those busy staffers were on top of it or perhaps Bernier read the editorial himself. Again getting the okay from Harper he wrote another letter, just as ridiculous.

The government has received assurances Mr. Khadr is being treated humanely


He goes on:

Any questions regarding whether Canada plans to ask for his release from Guantanamo are premature and speculative, as the legal and appeals processes are still ongoing.

No, they are far from premature. I won't get into the details but Bernier's assertions are absurd.

Is it common for the government to argue policy in letters to the editor? I'm certainly not familiar with it. I do see the occasional letter from opposition members as well as articles written by them, but this tells me just how defensive these Con's are. I'm sure I am one of a few who actually read, (I should say skim) these letters so no big damage done, but really, how shoddy.

I missed the publication of the manual on Media Response for Cabinet Ministers Whom I Allow to Speak, but it clearly exists.


Miles Lunn said...

I think it is true that the average person on the street knows very little about Canada. I suspect there are few people in any country that could name our PM, however what little people do know about Canada they tend to like. I would also argue our identity is more than just being not American, although unfortunately there are some Canadians who hinge our identity too much on this. I would argue things such as the Charter, health care, bilingulism, multiculturalism, hockey, cold winters, our beer, beaver, mounties all are aspects of our identity and none of these things are about not being American.

On foreign affairs, the issue is more whether we stand for what we believe in, since it is always better to stand by your principles and try even if you fail. I would rather we tried to do what was right and failed than do nothing.

Anonymous said...

Canada's Stephen Harper was recently named as the most admired foreign leader in an international poll. The head of Germany came second.

Why no big headlines about this in his own country? Strange times.

Miles Lunn said...

Anonymous - Considering how well liked Canadians generally are abroad, yet people tend to know little about our politics, I suspect any Canadian leader would get high marks. The question is if Harper's policies were given in a non-objective matter to each of those surveyed, if the responses would be the same.

knb said...

miles, first of all, great avatar. What is his/her name?

Added to your list of our identity, I would contend that we know our standing in the world. It's not a tangible but it's real. We know that all of what you said, Pearson etc., gave us this personality. It's one we wear/wore with pride.

I too would rather try to do what is right and fail. To do nothing is abject failure in my view.

knb said...

Anon, I'd be grateful if you could provide a link to that poll. Even better, provide the question asked.

That would be the point of this post. Canada is always considered a leader and who on earth do you think knows that Harper took power?

The world is starting to know and they are not happy.

Losing allies is not a good thing my friend. If the US is our only ally, we are in for bad times.

Anonymous said...

I'm a different anon, but here is the poll you were asking about.

To me it is no different than when I hear "The world is starting to know and they are not happy."

Penny said...

Personally, I have never cared that Canada was not "a player" in the sense that... who is? The US, Britain, France and Germany? There are a lot more unknown, non-players than those guys who run the world - who can name the PM/President of Luxembourg, Belgium, Costa Rica,Rhodesia, Cambodia...?

Harper's idea of "we're back" means we're back licking the boots of the US imperialists.

Do you suppose the biggest difference between the Neos and Libs is that they wannna be bigshots, and we want a place that is good to live in - for everyone?

Anonymous said...

I cannot believe someone actually takes an angus-reid poll seriously.

knb said...

Good to see you Penny.

Do you suppose the biggest difference between the Neos and Libs is that they wannna be bigshots, and we want a place that is good to live in - for everyone?

I'd say that sums it up.