Saturday, August 29, 2009

Thoughts on Doer

Just a few on this non-partisan choice by the Prime Minister that seems to be winning universal praise. I'll acknowledge the surprise element here that appears to show a Prime Minister reaching out.

But is this really so bold? The big issues the U.S. ambassador is said to face are not of any partisan controversy, really. The "Buy American" and border security issues that will occupy a good amount of his time aren't controversial in a partisan sense. Most of the issues Doer will deal with will likely fall into that category. So any thinking about this representing somehow a new golden era in "progressive" diplomacy for Canada in the U.S. might end up being disappointed. Doer will no doubt get along better personally with Democrats so in that sense it's a plus.

Environmental policies that Doer may be involved in will likely be Harper driven. Do we have any illusions about that? Or who runs the foreign affairs portfolio? Is Harper turning over a new leaf, hmmm? Even Stephen Lewis, the likely model appointee for this Harper exercise, is politely hedging his guesses on how this is likely to work out. Does Harper have a track record of working with strong, independent people and trusting them with their portfolios? Am I missing something?

One quote from Stephen Lewis did stand out in light of some other current developments:
“It's a bit of a shock when you get into the role and realize that you're much more shackled,” Mr. Lewis recalled. “I was very lucky because of the relationship with the prime minister … but Foreign Affairs [bureaucrats] dictate the content of what you say and do in significant measure. They can write the speeches and insist that you deliver them, and they make sure that the talking points on your policy briefs are adhered to,” he said, adding: “You're sort of unprepared for it. And I think I learned over time that you shouldn't be constrained by it.”(emphasis added)
The present Harper foreign affairs content managers, as we know, have excised terms like "gender equality" and "international humanitarian law" from our foreign policy terminology. Maybe Doer's going to get a pass on using those terms? Or maybe they just won't come up.

On its face it all looks good and best of luck to him. The proof will be in the pudding...or whatever that platitude is...