Stephen Harper is in Wales today, bellowing at the Russian bear. NATO will discuss the necessity of increasing defence spending to meet the challenge from Russia -- something which Stephen Harper has flatly rejected. He has an election to win and tax cuts to deliver. Jeffrey Simpson writes:
Mr. Harper has cut defence spending hard in the past two years, attempting to balance his budget so that he can offer Canadians tax cuts and targeted spending in next year’s pre-election budget. He’s not going to take on any potential spending commitments, however vague, that might be used against him politically.
By now, the international community knows who Mr. Harper is:
Traditional allies are getting accustomed to Canada being an outlier under Mr. Harper’s leadership. But they are especially frustrated at the gap between the Prime Minister’s rhetoric about countering Russian aggression and Mideast terrorism while his government slashes military spending.
He came to power promising to end a "decade of darkness" for Canada's military. What he didn't say was that he would spend money in praise of Canada's past battles -- like the War of 1812:
To put matters aphoristically, Mr. Harper’s government likes the idea of the military more than it likes the military itself.The idea of the military means history, monuments, medals, ceremonies, parades and repeated rhetorical praise. The military itself means buying equipment, deploying it, dealing with veterans and wrestling with a budget that always seems to go up unless the political masters get tough.
NATO is discovering what Canada's veterans and First Nations have known for a long time. Mr. Harper takes perverse pleasure in serving up warm rhetoric. But the Cowboy from Etobicoke is all hat and no cattle.