Travers refers to the ads that the Conservatives have launched, but notes that while they infer that Ignatieff doesn't know the country because he's lived outside it, even if he hadn't, things have changed.
There's accidental comedy in new Conservative ads attacking the Liberal leader as a globetrotter who doesn't know the country and was only drawn home by opportunism. The dark laugh is that the Canada Stephen Harper is creating would be hard for Michael Ignatieff to recognize even if he had never wandered away.
If Ignatieff is just visiting the country, as this week's new TV spots claim, Harper is more than simply tinkering with the way it works.
This Prime Minister's Canada is as unfamiliar to those who stick close to the neighbourhood as it is to expatriates.
Indeed it is. Travers goes on to say that Harper is taking incremental steps to change the country to the model I suppose he has always envisioned. What he aspires to is not Canada though. It's all well and good to have views on what you'd like to change in the country, but that does not give you the right to manipulate a system, and a population, to fashion a nation in an image that suits you and one that does not relate to it's origin.
It grafts presidential powers and situational expediency to the Westminster democracy that has served well, if imperfectly, for 141 years and then wraps it in the rhetoric of Reform Party populism.
By incremental steps and leaps of logic, the Prime Minister is taking advantage of public confusion to advance a political hybrid. Worse, it's being finessed with little public debate and no national consensus.
That's the real tragedy isn't it? No debate, no consensus, just his view. There are names for such leaders.
And it's not just here at home where things are changing. Of course that too would be tough to tell given all the rhetoric that comes from government. They have pranced around and shouted from the rooftops just how influential Canada is in the world. After all, didn't Harper tell the world that only Canada had a banking system that could withstand the current crisis, or at least remain the most unscathed? Didn't he boast that everyone should follow our lead? Day talks about our influence in the US and Prentice is now suggesting that the Canadian model on the environment is the one to follow. In fact, for all the crowing, you'd think that Canada would be the lead story in just about every newspaper around the world.
Here''s some truth though.
For three years, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has had his diplomats and ministers sell the idea of a “new, muscular Canada” to Europe – a forward-leaning image of a wealthy, militarily strong, export-oriented country that is more than just another middle power.
It hasn't worked though. To the contrary.
“I don't think Canada is sending any message at all. It has become invisible in Europe,” says Jeremy Kinsman, who was Canada's ambassador to the European Union until 2006 and served as prime minister Brian Mulroney's ambassador to Moscow.
“I think you can see that. This government has failed to reciprocate initiatives from the Europeans, it has not listened or offered anything that matters to them – we have just faded from the European picture.”
That view is echoed, in less-public language, by Canadian officials across Europe, who say it has become difficult to get any significant hearing from European leaders.
“Canada's mistake,” says a senior EU official involved with the trade talks, “was that they didn't play the diplomatic game – they didn't do the Henry Kissinger stuff and make a big, visible sacrifice so they could get something in exchange. They just wanted to win everything.”
And that's because of who Harper is:
His immovable principles collided head-on with Europe's needs and desires, sending exactly the wrong messages on several fronts.
Sound familiar? If nothing else the man is consistent as he is doing abroad what he does at home. He is an ideologue with no tolerance for any other view. He plows forward and the rest be damned.
As with most unsuccessful campaigns, this one seems to have failed because we did nothing to win the locals' hearts and minds.
Lest you think this is only being noticed in Europe, you might want to read Glen Pearson's blog and if you are so inclined, here is the committee meeting that he refers to. (Go to 1:03 to hear the witnesses he mentions)
We don't really have a clear articulation of Harper's image for Canada do we? That should be troubling to all, given what little we do know.
Harper's MPs and talking heads are busy claiming that Ignatieff hasn't put forward any policy. Don't you think it's about time we heard what the government's agenda really is?
The life of states cannot, any more than the life of individuals, be conditioned by the force and the will of a unit, however powerful, but by the consensus of a group, which must one day include all states.
~Lester B. Pearson~