Thursday, March 12, 2009

A moment of sanity in a sea of crazy

How low the bar has been set for Conservatives when the Foreign Minister gives what should really be viewed as a traditionally Canadian multilateral approach to the Arctic speech, and it receives praise mostly for its departure from the excessively militaristic posturing of the Harper government. It's like there's vivid relief that the Conservatives are momentarily dialling down the red dawn stuff from MacKay, Harper and Hawn. "Pleasantly surprised," said one historian. While eyes may glaze over at the Arctic sovereignty issue, it's worth noting that this is yet another issue where a complete reversal of stance is occurring.

What surprised was that Cannon, in his speech yesterday, emphasized the role of the "Arctic Council" made up of the 8 northern nations:
"The depth and complexity of the challenges facing the Arctic are significant, and we recognize the importance of addressing many of these issues by working with our neighbours - through the Arctic Council, other multilateral institutions and our bilateral partnerships," said Cannon.
This new emphasis from Cannon, if it holds, will be a complete turnaround from years of Conservative neglect on the Arctic diplomatic front. They've in fact failed to appoint anyone to the Arctic Council and have thumbed their nose at it:
In his first year in office, Harper eliminated the position of ambassador of circumpolar affairs, who represented Canada at meetings of international bodies such as the Arctic Council.
Cannon's speech yesterday, in that sense, is a major mea culpa that they've been wrong. They now seem to be following what Lloyd Axworthy was advocating in August, in a blueprint op-ed on the Arctic sovereignty issue where he set out the problems in Harper's muscle flexing approach and the merits of multilateralism and diplomacy.

Of course, we'll have to wait to see if the lid has finally been put on the Russian menace talk that has featured prominently in recent weeks.

The larger point here, as it is on so many issues with these Conservatives, is how long it takes them to get the political belligerence out of their system before they actually deal seriously with the entirety of an issue. On the Arctic sovereignty issue, pending confirmation that the Russian and other militaristic trash talking has ceased and that they actually follow through on Cannon's little speech yesterday, it's about three years.