...not long into our meeting, I begin to get the feeling that the Canadian prime minister may have another reason for his road trip.Out of W's absence, Harper's ascendancy? The editorial observations of Harper's demeanour are good.
Since establishing a minority government in January 2006, this prime minister and his Conservative Party have restored Canada's international prestige by increasing military funding and tenaciously supporting Canada's dangerous NATO mission in the Afghan province of Kandahar. No NATO ally has put more on the line against the Taliban, and Mr. Harper seems to sense not just the opportunity but the need for Canada to capitalize on it. There is a vacuum in conservative leadership in North America and on the world stage, and Mr. Harper is stepping into it. His objective would appear to be the restoration of liberal-democratic resolve against tyranny.
Of note based on recent saber rattling events, in this interview during the NY trip, Harper raised the Russian bombers issue, prior to MacKay having gone public:
"They are testing our airspace more frequently than they have been doing in a long, long time," he says. "It's the aggression in the Arctic, aggression more generally, an aggression that is increasingly troublesome just to be troublesome."That's provocative. Confirmation of a troublesome and aggressive larger message from the Harper government, ratcheting up the stakes with the Russians. But this just impresses the WSJ crowd:
You're not supposed to say such things in public these days, even when they are known to be true, which is one reason why hearing Mr. Harper say them is so refreshing. His assessment of the Iranian government borders on the Reaganesque. "It concerns me that we have a regime with both an ideology that is obviously evil, combined with a desire to procure technology to act on that ideology. . . . My government is a very strong supporter of the state of Israel and considers the Iranian threats to be absolutely unacceptable and beyond the pale."Reaganesque? You say that like it's a good thing. More:
Did I mention that the prime minister seems fiercely competitive?Afghanistan comments and it being a test for NATO also a highlight of the article, well worth a look today.
Mr. Harper was once viewed as a messianic small-government reformer sent to slay monster Ottawa. That was before his minority government late last year faced the threat of an overthrow, and the economy began to take on water. Now Canadians are getting ready to eat a rather large stimulus bill -- and conservatives there are sore. He won't tell us how much of an economic jolt he expects the bill to deliver. But he does admit that the bailout of the auto sector is a "second best" option and only came about when the U.S. decided to intervene in Detroit. We concluded, he says, that if "we did not put our 20% skin in the game, we would end up with an industry that didn't exist in Canada. It would simply be restructured to the United States." Some analysts think that is going to happen anyway.