"If any Canadian woke up this morning," Robert Silver wrote in yesterday's Globe and Mail, "still under the mistaken impression that Stephen Harper is some kind of political strategic genius, surely to God the result of the UN Security Council vote has put that once trendy canard to rest once and for all."
Canada was rewarded yesterday with the same kind of shrug Mr. Harper has shown the United Nations during his entire time in office. His two speeches in the last couple of weeks marked the first time he had addressed the UN since he first came to office in 2006. During the last UN Climate Conference he was conspicuously absent. And he has pointedly let it be known that his time is better spent chatting up the locals at a northern Tim Horton's.
The Harperites reacted to their defeat by claiming the members of the General Assembly are less "principled" than the Government of Canada. But, once again, Silver had their number:
I say other than unwavering support for Israel and indifference towards Africa, can you articulate those unpopular but principled positions? Moreover, did those principled positions suddenly become popular in the last 24 hours in a quickly shifting public opinion environment? Surely Harper had some clue before the vote that Canada's foreign policy couldn't carry two thirds of the countries?
And that is the point. The Prime Minister didn't see it coming -- just as he didn't see the Great Recession coming. When he was re-elected, he forecast a "small surplus." On the day Canada's bid for a Security Council seat failed, Jim Flaherty announced the biggest annual deficit in Canadian history -- $55 billion. And historians pointed out it was 63 years ago to the day that Lester Pearson was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for helping to defuse the Suez Crisis.
The day after the Security Council defeat, Allen Gottlieb -- who served both Conservative and Liberal prime ministers in Washington -- noted how the Foreign Affairs Department, located in the building which bears Pearson's name, has slipped into obscurity during the Harper years:
In Ottawa, power and influence have shifted away from the Department of Foreign Affairs to the Prime Minister's Office and the Privy Council. Afghanistan and climate change are handled by agencies outside of Foreign Affairs. Three deputy ministers report directly to the Prime Minister on foreign and national security affairs.
And, of course, the Harperites blamed Michael Ignatieff for the loss. "Not being able to speak with one voice as a country had a negative impact on Canada's bid," said Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon. That statement completely ignored the letter which Harper sent to The Wall Street Journal after Jean Chretien politely refused to join George W. Bush's Coalition of the Willing: "For the first time in history," Harper wrote, "the Canadian government has not stood beside its key British and American allies in their time of need." He was certain that Canadians were on his side; they were, he said, "overwhelmingly with us." Such was not the case. Once again, he missed the boat.
The Tory propaganda machine has told us repeatedly that the Prime Minister is blindingly brilliant. It becomes more apparent with each passing day that Mr. Harper is simply blind. The General Assembly served notice yesterday that they get it.