Trade Minister Ed Fast announced last week that, under the Harper government, the Foreign Affairs Department would focus on "economic diplomacy." Michael Harris writes that Preston Manning understood Stephen Harper's limitations:
Former mentor and Conservative guru Preston Manning remembered this of Harper’s time as a Reform MP: “One thing that did surprise me about Stephen … He had no interest in international stuff. We simply couldn’t get him to travel.”
Harper, Manning said, had a one track mind:
“The economy, the economy, the economy … The way into his head is the economy. It is the most open door.”
Harper's narrow focus helps explain his monumentally stupid approach to foreign affairs:
Harper has made thunderingly ill-informed judgements on many countries and international issues, none more egregious than in the Middle East. At a time when the rest of the world is moving towards peace with Iran, Canada closes its embassy, slanders the new government in Tehran, and contributes nothing to the negotiations but immature cynicism.
Then there is the Harper stand — virtual silence — on illegal Israeli settlements on Palestinian territory, the demolition of Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem, and the ongoing siege of Gaza, “all of which violate the Geneva Conventions that Canada signed and ratified.” Those are the words of Canada’s former ambassador to the United Nations, Paul Heinebecker, in his recent book, Getting Back in the Game.
And that narrow focus explains why we will be sharing the rent with British diplomats, where a more mature leader would choose another tact:
Won’t that be image-building for Canada: bunk-mates in Myanmar with the same country that gave the indigenous population all those fond memories … annexation with India, the looting of oil, teak and rubies and three brutal Anglo-Burmese wars stretching over 60 years.
Mr. Harper is all about business. This Christmas, he could use a ghostly visit from Jacob Marley, who would remind him that, "Mankind was my business!'