Friday, August 07, 2009

Bungling by Harper government on Mexican visas criticized

John Ivison digs into the visa blunder on the eve of Harper's weekend summit with Mexican President Felipe Calderon and U.S. President Barack Obama. According to Ivison, Mr. Harper's been stepping on the toes of Lawrence "Loose" Cannon, with his hand right in the middle of this little bit of international super-diplomacy:
Sources suggest that when Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon left Mexico City on April 20, having discussed the issue with his Mexican counterpart, it was agreed to set up a working group to study the refugee problem.

The next time it came up was on May 1, when Mr. Calderon called Mr. Harper to thank Canada for the help it offered Mexico during the swine flu crisis. At the end of the call, without having given Mexican diplomats any prior notice, Mr. Harper is said to have dropped the bombshell that his government intended to impose visa requirements on Mexican tourists.

"It was a bucket of cold water," said one Mexican official. "It was very, very badly received in Mexico."

It can scarcely have been received much more warmly by Mr. Cannon, who was obliged to travel to Mexico City on May 19 to defend a decision that he appears to have had no hand in making. (emphasis added)
What does the above anecdote tell you about Foreign Affairs under the Harper watch? The changes we are seeing reported that are fundamentally altering the perception of Canada in the world are driven by Mr. Harper, his predominance is clear. His apparent unwillingness to honour the commitment of his own Foreign Affairs Minister to a major ally and trading partner and instead do a 360 on a policy representation within 10 days demonstrates that clearly enough.

And so the fallout from this visa move, another Stephen Harper judgment call, may be enormous:
But the ham-fisted way in which the issue has been handled has caused harm that may be irreparable to our relations with a country that has been one of our closest friends.

"There isn't a good atmosphere for Harper in Mexico right now," said the Mexican official.

The Conservatives downplay the idea that the visa requirement will hit a $24-billion trading relationship that is bigger than that which we have with France, Germany or the rest of Latin America combined.

But the Mexican official said he has already heard anecdotal evidence of Mexican businessmen by-passing Canada because they cannot afford to hand over their passports to the Canadian embassy for two weeks in order to receive a visa.

It seems apparent that Mr. Kenney pushed this misguided policy, either to pander to the Conservative base or to build his own right-wing credentials for a future leadership bid.

Whatever the reason, his claim that there were no other options does not hold water. The policy should be reversed and Mr. Harper should invite Mr. Calderon back to Harrington Lake at the first opportunity.
Despite that imperial line of succession that's been bandied about this week, pretty apparent who's got the ear of the Prime Minister. Unfortunately for the nation.

A brief stock taking...the nuclear medicine industry has been thrown into disarray by the Harper moves on the nuclear file, we see this major break with Mexico and its obvious perils...what else is on the agenda? Well the Nortel hearings today are up at the Industry Committee if you're inclined to check in on how the big high tech auction of one of Canada's intellectual property giants has come to pass. It's quite the boffo record being piled up these days by Stephen Harper, Economist.