Over the weekend, Conrad Black ventured the opinion that Canada's "almost slavish veneration" of the UN was coming to an end. Calling the recent Human Rights Council criticism of Quebec's Bill 78 "outrageous," Black wrote that:
Unfortunately, Canada was, for most of the UN’s history, far too indulgent of it. First, as a victorious ally and charter member, it was part of the Anglo-American governing consensus. Then, after Lodge gave Pearson the Suez peacekeeper idea (and Pearson forgot that it wasn’t his originally), the foreign policy establishment in Ottawa began to view the UN as a way for Canada to distinguish itself from the U.S. at little cost, and to allow itself, with a modest foreign aid budget, to pander to Third World countries without seriously annoying our traditional allies. This gradually developed into the Chrétien government’s endorsement of “soft power,” a phrase originated by former U.S. president Bill Clinton’s national security adviser Joe Nye, which was a soft alternative to the use of American military might. It is a concept that has any validity only when there is a hard power option, which Canada did not possess. As practised by this country, soft power was a fraud, it was just more softness.
And that's what the Harper government is all about -- hard power. Never mind diplomatic niceties -- even at home. The only thing people understand is contempt. And that contempt, Harper proclaims, is a Canadian value. He speaks for Canadians. Lord Black appears to believe that he, too, speaks for Canadians.
Before advancing that argument any further, both Black and Harper might consider the results of a new EKOS poll. No doubt Mr. Black would repeat John Diefenbaker's observation that "polls are for dogs." And it is true that they are merely a snapshot in time. As of yesterday, the NDP is on top, with the support of 34.2% of Canadians. Conservative support has slipped to 29.3%. The Liberals are stuck in a holding pattern at 19.2%.
But there is a bigger story behind the numbers:
"The major notable factor here is a pretty alarming for the government, decline in support,” EKOS president Frank Graves said. “They’ve lost over 11 points of support and to see a government that secured a majority under 30 points one year later, I think is pretty well unprecedented.”
The numbers call into question the Conservative claim that they represent ordinary Canadians:
I would stress it’s not much different from the very good result [the NDP] got in the last election,” [Graves] said. “What’s really different here is a majority government under 30 points a year out and with evidence that they may in fact be poorly poised to weather any further ethics storms or any other missteps.”
Crucially for the government are the numbers revealing how Canadians feel about the direction in which it is heading, Graves pointed out. Only about a third (34.8 per cent) of Canadians thinks the government is moving in the right direction, while over half (55.2 per cent) believe the government is moving in the wrong direction.
Canadians are beginning to treat the Harper government with the same contempt which it has shown them. The UN hopes that Stephen Harper does not speak for the majority of Canadians. Apparently, Lord Black hopes he does.