Stephen Harper has abandoned three of his senatorial appointees -- including the man he once called "my most valuable senator." Abandonment defines the man. And in foreign affairs, Joe Clark writes, Stephen Harper has "all but abandoned the global arena."
Foreign affairs has never been the prime minister's strong suite, even though he has spent a lot of time in international forums. Clark writes:
In the seven years between his first election and the time I am writing this, Stephen Harper would have been exposed directly to informed and passionate leaders describing similar challenges and opportunities in the developing countries they lead. Conversations of that kind may well have influenced his willingness to serve as co-chair, with President Kikwete of Tanzania, of the UN Commission on Information and Accountability for Women’s and Children’s Health. They could have informed his government’s more recent interest in international trade, including with some countries in Africa and the Americas. However, there is little evidence of much impact on the government’s understanding of the human and political dynamics of countries outside the West.
Under Harper, Canada has lost its international credibility:
During the decades when Canada was earning a respected reputation in the world, part of our strength was that we felt no need to sit always at the head of the decision table. Our competence meant we often served there — on issues respecting arms control, the environment, human rights and international development. But Canada operated as effectively from a seat at the side, becoming trusted as a reliable, respected and responsible partner, and building concentric circles of influence on issues from defence, to development, to conciliation, to trade. Perhaps to a fault, we were known for our quiet and constructive work. By contrast, the Harper government’s performance in international affairs has shown more interest in the podium than in the playing field.
Most problematic is Mr. Harper's "megaphone diplomacy." He doesn't engage in the world -- he lectures it. That kind of behaviour is dangerous:
During the Cold War, the Secretary-General of NATO, Lord Peter Carrington, urged the superpowers to avoid what he called “megaphone diplomacy.” That was defined as “diplomacy based on assertion through the media rather than on discussion,” and Lord Carrington considered it a dangerous practice between nuclear-armed superpowers. It is as counterproductive today, especially for a country like Canada, which has real skills and assets in diplomacy, when we apply them.
Clark suggests that Canada's foreign policy is deeply rooted in the prime minister's psyche. He doesn't like to talk to people -- either at home or abroad:
The government has indicated its preference for bilateral discussion where, by definition, the number of factors and actors is limited and easier to predict, if not control. That seems to be a strong personal instinct, and extends well beyond international policy. It may be why he avoids the federal-provincial conferences and co-operation at home which have been key to critical Canadian accomplishments — from health care to the free trade agreement, the environmental round table to the Kelowna Accord.
If Stephen Harper abandons his "most valuable" people, it's no wonder he chooses to abandon the world.