Friday, January 29, 2010

The "fellowship of the lifeboat" is only for some issues

There was a major contradiction in Harper's overall presentation at the Davos summit yesterday. It did not go unnoticed by Canadian media. The contradiction was between the cooperative stance in global financial matters that he pitched during his speech versus the uncooperative stance on climate change matters that came out during the post-speech panel session. Here he was, during his speech, (video) praising the cooperative spirit of the G20 in tackling financial challenges:
“If I may be indulged in a personal recollection, what I saw at the Washington Summit made a huge impression upon me. Nations whose interests have been often at odds, nations with different traditions of governance — rivals, even former enemies — found themselves addressing common problems with a common will. In this globalized economy, they recognized that a flood engulfing one would soon swamp them all. So, even though these twenty-some leaders all represented sovereign states, they agreed to common, synchronized actions to chart the same course toward calmer waters.

“Ideological differences were set aside. Old enmities were not raised. Indeed, if you had arrived from another planet you never could have guessed which nations had spent decades mired in hostility. You might call it the fellowship of the lifeboat.

“But ladies and gentlemen, in that brief parting of the veil, I saw world leadership at its best, a glimpse of a hopeful future — one where we act together for the good of all. The world we have been trying to build since 1945. The world we want for our children and grandchildren. It can be done if we act together. This is ‘enlightened sovereignty.’
The speech went on with its call for "shared responsibility" and an "expanded view of mutual-interest." Yet when the issue of climate change came up during the panel session after his speech, the story changed. There's a video report here that conveys the inconsistency.

You have to wonder how we come off to the world at such moments. A big part of Harper's speech, despite being billed as focussing on his new priority of maternal and child health in the developing world, was fairly self-congratulatory for Canada and our weathering of the financial crisis, specifically our financial system. That part of the speech seemed to be the version that he's been giving on the international stage for a while now, the requisite national pitch for image's sake. But if we're doing so well financially, if we're a model of stability, if our debt level as a percentage of GDP, etc. that he touts is so manageable in his view, it begs the question about our obstinacy on climate change. If we came through the financial crisis in such good shape, then why are we as opposed to other nations being so recalcitrant?

Funny that Harper and his speechwriters didn't foresee the obvious inconsistency they were setting themselves up for with its message. Surely they would have known that Canada's position on climate change would be a factor that might come up? In elitist occupied Davos? But...they missed it. It's a political point, but still, you can see for yourself where he ended up and how it was reported by Canadian media. If he was going to step up into the international leader role and make a pitch for "enlightened sovereignty," you would think he'd at least have a way of explaining the contradiction on the climate change front.

As for the rest of his speech, the whole thing ran about 26 plus minutes and just a few minutes at the very end were devoted to the issue of women and children's health, about 6 paragraphs. The speech seemed to need less in the way of John Maynard Keynes jokes and more on the topic he was supposedly there to prioritize.