Michael Byers, the Canada Research Chair in Global Politics and International Law at the University of British Columbia, writes that during his recent Arctic Tour Stephen Harper tried to look like Vladimir Putin:
Photos showed Harper standing awkwardly in front of a campfire made of logs that must have been flown in specially, because the camp was 800 kilometres north of the tree line. Putin would have killed a seal with his bare hands and ignited its oil by striking a rock against his teeth.
Harper’s rifle was one of the 65-year-old relics used by the Canadian Rangers, relics that Harper once promised and then failed to replace. Putin does his target shooting with a Kalashnikov. Just for fun, he hunts Siberian tigers with a tranquilizer gun.
Harper, bundled up like a toddler at the rink, went for a ride in a motorboat. Putin swims naked in Arctic lakes.
His Northern Trek was an attempt to project Canadian power and abundance. Unfortunately, he projected neither:
Harper just announced $5.6 million to build a centre for mining innovation in Whitehorse. In the Arctic, $5.6 million buys you a website, some letterhead and antifreeze for the truck. Putin funds the Sobolev Institute of Geology and Mineralogy in Novosibirsk, which employs 700 scientists and technicians.
The prime minister desperately wants to play with the big kids. But he winds up looking like a pre-schooler peering through the chain link fence as the other kids enjoy the playground.
He is The Arctic Shadow.