Stephen Harper: So far, so good
Debbye of Being American in TO gives rookie Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper a thumbs up on his first weeks in office;
Significantly, Harper asserted that the troops were in Afghanistan to “defend our national interests.” Now I don’t know how often the Liberals openly justified foreign policy on the basis of national interests but I’d hazard it would be somewhere between “not often” to “rarely if ever.” Canadian participation in the NATO mission in Afghanistan, for example, was portrayed as one of altruistic peacekeeping — as though Canada did not have a stake in the establishment of a democratic, peaceful Afghanistan. (Harper did elide over the fact that it is a NATO mission by referring to it as a U.N. mandated mission. The political reality is that Canada tends to regard the U.N. as a Canadian accomplishment so invoking the U.N. confers better legitimacy. Sigh.)
He also stated that Canada has a stake in the role on terror, and by affirming that Harper broke new ground – not so much because of what he said but because he was completely and utterly sincere. If Americans regarded former prime minsters Chretien and Martin as indistinguishable from France’s Chirac maybe it’s because that perception was accurate: the previous governments were perceived to be paying token lip service to the war on terror and justified Canadian participation by playing the trade card, as though Canadian security and national interests were not at stake and as though terror attacks on innocent civilians were not an affront to Canadian values. Yet, like France, Canadian security forces have been more active than is publicly recognized here. It’s as though they are contributing but don’t want anyone to know about it – something that is insulting to Canadian citizens who are entitled to know what their government is doing.
She revisits the past;
Right about this time three years ago the booing of the U.S. national anthem at a Montreal Canadiennes game was noted by the American news media (although not so much the determined cheering of the anthem at a Blue Jays game in Toronto.) There were a lot of people up here who recognized that, despite one’s attitude about the war in Iraq, the ties of friendship and shared values were worth defending, and it was in that spirit that the Friends of America organized rallies across Canada in early April of 2003.
The Toronto rally was on a Friday afternoon and, despite the freezing rain, some 2,000 people attended. One of the most spirited speakers at that rally was Stephen Harper, then leader of the Alliance Party, who ended his speech with the cries “God Bless America” and, very significantly, “The Maple Leaf Forever!”
The response was electrifying. By invoking that cry he hearkened back to an earlier, pre-Trudeauian era when Canadians were internationally regarded as tough and gritty – bold men and women who strode down from the North with determination and got the job done. (The song Maple Leaf Forever is quickly recognizable because it was often background music in war films where Canadian troops were featured, and was the unofficial song of Canada before Oh Canada was institutionalized.)
Despite a negative media campaign launched in the first week of his new government, (criticizing controversial cabinet appointments, his relationship with his children, his weight, his wardrobe, and most bitterly, the new arms-length treatment of the Ottawa press), the new Prime Minister is enjoying rising popularity in the polls. And today, more good news for Conservative fortunes – the Liberals are now reported as seeking advice from “legendary Democratic guru” Joe Trippi.
Ottawa Citizen: The 5 Priorities of the “Harper Revolution”.