Natalie Brender writes, in the Toronto Star, that the federal government's decision to withdraw from the UN anti drought convention is an enigma:
The Harper government’s latest nose-thumbing at the UN is a baffling move that lacks any obvious political advantage to balance out the sizeable blows it inflicts on the government’s domestic and international credibility. It is taking this government’s foreign policy past the sphere of contentiousness into the realm of unfathomability.
The reasons offered for the decision make no sense:
The $350,000 savings to taxpayers from leaving this convention represents a paltry sum in contrast to cost-cutting challenges; as this paper has noted, it’s not even 2 per cent of what the government spent last year on advertising its Economic Action Plan. And in any case, if savings were really at issue, Foreign Minister John Baird was free to announce a reduction in Canada’s future contributions as opposed to the door-slamming exit he chose.
As for the government’s charge that the UN convention was a “bureaucratic talkfest” that spent most of its budget on discussion rather than programming, that’s exactly what the convention is primarily supposed to do. Above all, it’s aimed at collecting scientific information about drought and desertification, and sharing it to inform effective policy measures.
And, as is always the case with this gang, the decision is demonstrably hypocritical:
On one hand, the government trumpets the new $13 million in bilateral aid it’s just given Jordan to cope with the effects of receiving thousands of refugees daily from the conflict in neighbouring Syria. Yet simultaneously, in withdrawing from the UN convention it effectively pretends not to know – as its own diplomats have surely pointed out – that one of the factors behind recent Syrian social unrest is a multi-year drought that has brought much economic duress and internal migration.
Moreover, at a time when selling the Keystone Pipeline requires a record of action on the environment, the decision will help sabotage the pipeline.
So it is, indeed, puzzling that the Harperites would do as they have done -- unless you factor in what has been obvious from the very beginning. Despite the soaring rhetoric about Stephen Harper's strategic talents, the fact remains that he is profoundly ignorant. That's no enigma.