Thursday, June 21, 2007

Harper supporting missile defence?

Sorry for being away awhile. This is from the G8 summite, but want to make sure it gets on here.

It seems Stephen Harper may be throwing his weight behind George Bush's sorely misguided and dangerous ballistic missile defence plan:

U.S. plans for its anti-missile shield include installing 10 interceptors in Poland and a radar system in the Czech Republic linked to an early warning system, probably based in the Caucasus region.

On Tuesday, Harper said Putin shouldn't be concerned about a U.S.-built missile defence shield because it is not aimed at Russia.

Putin's relations with Washington are at an all-time low after he threatened to aim nuclear missiles at Europe in retaliation for the U.S. missile shield plan.

The Harper government, with a minority, has to be careful in its approach, Jack Lyaton has said in response to denials from Harper's communications director:
In Heiligendamm, Germany, site of this year's G-8 summit, Harper's communications director, Sandra Buckler, told reporters travelling with the Prime Minister yesterday that Canada was not changing its stance on missile defence.

Asked yesterday what Harper meant by his comments in Bush's defence on this issue, Buckler said the Prime Minister was mainly trying to lower the tensions between Russia and other leaders in advance of the G-8 meeting.

"We're trying to make sure that the conversation stays open and the dialogue remains calm."

Buckler said that Canada would only change its position on missile defence if the Americans made a formal request.

"In order for that discussion to be reignited, the Americans would have to ask us, and that has not happened. It's not on our agenda," she said.

Dion said yesterday's he's worried that the only reason U.S. officials haven't asked is because they know Harper leads a minority government and he couldn't get it past Parliament. What Canadians are seeing this week, Dion said, are glimpses of how Harper would move Canada closer to the U.S. on military and environmental issues if it had a majority.

Before he became prime minister, Harper made clear he'd like to revisit Canada's objections to missile defence if he came to power, but he also promised a vote in Parliament.

Dion and Layton said yesterday Harper knows he can't win that vote with the current makeup of the Commons, so he's chosen to send quiet signals of support to Bush instead. Layton said he believes this is part of a larger plan to cosy up generally to the U.S.

"I think he's violating his own principles here, which were that Parliament should be deciding on such incredibly important matters of foreign policy," Layton said.

"This is all a part of Stephen Harper's desire to follow the instructions from the White House and to enter into a deeper and deeper integrated relationship in North America, with the United States. It's not where Canadians want to go, but it's clearly what he's had in his sights for some time."

Dion said that the Bush-Putin dispute presented an ideal opportunity for Canada to act as a bridge and a calming influence – to reassure the Russian leader, for instance, that this country shared concerns about missile defence but it also shared the NATO view that this isn't a threat to Russia.

Instead, Harper has presented himself as an advocate for the U.S. side, Dion said.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Cons face freefall in Atlantic Canada

Thanks to Impolitical for this from Rodney MacDonald, Premier of Nova Scotia. The part that particulary caught my attention was that he

is urging Conservative politicians from his province to oppose the federal budget because of a federal-provincial money dispute. (emphasis mine)

I also agree with Impolitical that good ol' Peter McKay can't be happy at all about this. I think that Liz May has a real shot at beating him now, unless he stops being an apologist for the Harper government.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Bono rebukes Harper

To the list of various issues that Stephen Harper has neglected, and for which he has been publicly rebuked, one could now the issue of aid to Africa. Bono has blasted Harper for blocking attempts to increase aid at the G8 meeting.

Bono, lead singer for U2 and activist for humanitarian aid, singled out Harper for criticism and accused the prime minister of blocking a deal – a charge Harper vehemently denied.

"It's completely false and the people saying this have no proof to their allegations," Harper said at a news conference as the summit ended in Germany.

But Bono said he had numerous sources at the negotiating table. ``It's as if we have the place bugged, because everybody tells us," he said.

"We know who's causing the trouble and who isn't. And we know that Canada blocked progress. We know that Harper blocked it."

He described the prime minister as out of step with Canadians who enjoy a prosperous economy and surplus public finances and would like to help others.

Harper has said he's a U2 fan but he's not at the summit to meet celebrities. His office did not respond to a phone call from Bono seeking a meeting to discuss aid for Africa. Later, it was explained that the prime minister could meet Bono at another time.

Bono said he doesn't believe the prime minister was too busy to meet with him at the summit – the leaders of the United States, Germany, France and Britain managed to do so.

"It's not the pop stars he doesn't want to meet. It's the movement that we represent," Bono said.

"I said some years ago that the world needs more Canadas, and I meant it. I can't believe that this Canada has become a laggard. I think he's out of sync with the people."

Refusing to even meet with Bono was just not a strategically smart move. They could have had the photo up, both of them smiling, and Bono's response to Harper would have been somewhat more gentle.

Nevertheless, I'm glad that Bono is speaking this forcefully not just about Harper, but about the G8. Personally, as much as I like Bono as a musician and am glad he speaks out on issues, his gladhanding with the likes of Bush just rubs me the wrong way. I can understand the diplomacy angle to a point, but I think he goes too far with it. I much prefer the Stephen Lewis fair but firm approach.