Saturday, May 24, 2008

Void in leadership at Foreign Affairs hurting our international interests

As noted by bloggers this week, a significant international meeting of foreign affairs ministers on the future of the Arctic is to take place in Greenland next week. The U.S. is sending a heavy-hitting diplomat:
"John Negroponte, the US deputy secretary of state, will travel to Greenland for an international conference next week about territorial claims in the oil-rich Arctic, the State Department said Wednesday.

'Negroponte will lead the United States delegation to the Arctic Ocean Conference hosted by the Government of Denmark in Ilulissat, Greenland, May 27-29,' it said in a statement.

Pointing out that Canada, Russia and Norway will send high-level delegates to the conference, it added, 'Negroponte looks forward to these discussions as well as bilateral meetings with his counterparts.'"
Well, our delegate is not exactly as "high-level" as the Americans would have you believe. Who are we sending? Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn. That's right. Lunn will go toe to toe with Negroponte et al. Not exactly inspiring much in the way of confidence in our diplomatic force there. Not that Bernier would be much of an improvement. And that's the problem.

There are conflicting claims on seabed rights to be negotiated with other nations and boundary disputes in the mix. Michael Byers took the government to task the other day for this mistake in judgment in sending Lunn:
Co-operation, diplomacy and international law are not the remit of a natural resources minister. Denmark invited foreign ministers to the summit for a reason. The Prime Minister needs to reconsider, dispatch Bernier to Greenland, or send a new foreign minister in his place.
Where will Bernier be? Hosting a meeting of the Caribbean Development Bank in Halifax, a get together that will see not only Bernier attending, but a bevy of Harper ministers: Bev Oda (pardon the pun), Guergis, and MacKay. Why this event warrants four ministers yet Lunn is tapped to attend the more significant Greenland meetings is striking.

The Greenland meeting should have Foreign Affairs representation. But Harper's crew demonstrates once more that they are just not up to snuff.