Monday, January 10, 2011

Harper writing off the UAE?

Update (5:00 p.m.) below.

Interesting reading today that's bound to produce a whole host of overreactions: "Bob Rae meets with UAE leaders, fields air landing complaints." Rae is in the Middle East apparently, on his own dime, and mixing meetings in with his personal travels. So he's met with some UAE officials and has found that actually, things might be worked out if there were an interest on Canada's part:
“My sense from my discussions [Sunday] is that if Mr. Harper were to show some flexibility and goodwill, the UAE would reciprocate, and a solution in the best interests of both countries and economies could be found. That is the purpose of my visit here,” he said.
Well, you can just see where that's going, despite the comment cited in the Globe piece from a former respected diplomat that yes, such overseas opposition interventions can happen and be helpful from time to time.
...Mr. Harper’s spokesman, Dimitri Soudas, questioned Mr. Rae’s trip in an e-mail to the Globe.

“Canadians expect that when Canadian MPs travel abroad that they represent Canada and Canadian interests. It would be extremely regrettable if Canadian interests were undermined in any way,” he wrote. “What the UAE was asking [for] was not in the best interest of Canadians. We trust Mr. Rae will recognize that during his fact finding visit and we urge him to convey that information to the UAE royals.”
Is that what Canadians expect of Canadian MPs? Someone should have told this guy back in the opposition days how opposition MPs are supposed to behave then:
Opposition leader Stephen Harper has told Fox News in the U.S. that most Canadians outside Quebec support the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, despite our government's decision not to take part in the war.

In an interview with the American TV network, Harper said he endorsed the war and said he was speaking "for the silent majority" of Canadians. Only in Quebec, with its "pacifist tradition," are most people opposed to the war, Harper said.

"Outside of Quebec, I believe very strongly the silent majority of Canadians is strongly supportive," the Canadian Alliance leader says.

In a segment to be broadcast across the U.S. and in 41 countries Friday night and repeated on the weekend, Harper says Ottawa's position on the war is hypocritical.
So if any are inclined to start attacking Rae's bona fides...they might consider Mr. Harper's record. To state the very obvious, Canadians know we live in a democracy and views among political parties differ. Occasionally, that can manifest itself abroad. There is also the plain fact that Harper leads a minority government. The world knows that.

The larger point here though might get missed. It's about Harper and that interview with QMI published on the weekend in which he seemed to write off the UAE relationship, as if he and his government have just given up on it because of the landing rights/Camp Mirage dispute:
“That’s just not how you treat allies, and I think tells us you better pick your friends pretty carefully in the future,” Harper told QMI Agency during a visit Friday to Welland, Ont. “I could never see [Canada] treating an ally like that. Could you imagine after 9/11 if the Americans had come to the Canadian government and said, ‘We need help on something to do with security’ [and we said] ‘Well, only if you do something on Buy America.’ I mean, give me a break.”
Are we writing off nations now, slotting the UAE into the past like Harper does and with his clear message that they're not our friend anymore? It is supposed to be one of the most significant relationships we have in the Middle East. Camp Mirage is gone now, with Canadians left holding the bag to the tune of $300 million plus. But presumably we don't want to keep escalating the dispute. Harper's comments are also a reminder of the longer term question, whether Canadians want a government with a costly my way or the highway approach or one that can work out disputes like adults. Domestically and abroad.

Rae's meeting sounds like it could be helpful to MacKay and Cannon, who are travelling to the Middle East this week, according to that QMI report. If they wish to repair the relationship, that is.

Update (5:00 p.m.): Bob Rae has written a blog post today on these issues that is worth a read. This really is a set of issues that should have been managed much better than what we've seen from this government. It should be possible to juggle and respond to issues without putting everyone in their corners.