For the better part of the past 13 years, Canada has suffered under ineffective leadership. With Prime Ministers Chrétien and Martin it was often difficult to comprehend what they were thinking from what they said, and difficult to understand where they were leading since they spent much time trying to ascertain what the people thought (through polling, focus groups and pollsters) so that they could follow them. Luckily, Prime Minister Harper does not have these weaknesses.
As Beryl Wajsman of the Montreal Institute of Public Affairs wrote: "A remarkable thing happened on the last day of the 'La Francophonie' summit in Bucharest. After years of hearing government after government lie to us that our middle power status afforded us no other role than nuanced and balanced positions in foreign affairs, Stephen Harper showed we can play with the big boys and stood up to France, Egypt and a host of others and proved that principle beats pandering." As Wajsman put it: "For perhaps the first time in a generation there is a political will breathing life into those words in our national anthem that we are 'the true north strong and free'."
The summit was thrown into a fearful fit when Harper refrained from taking his seat on what was supposed to be the closing news conference because he opposed an Egyptian-led and French-supported resolution expressing concern and sympathy for Lebanese civilian victims of the recent Middle East war, without mentioning the Israeli civilian victims of a naked aggression launched from Lebanese soil that precipitated the conflict. While French President Chirac argued that our PM's position flew in the face of the great majority of the 53 member states at the Conference, he did not say Harper was wrong but implied that what he proposed was not "expedient". As the diplomats scrambled to figure out what to do in the face of Harper's conscience and character, he simply stood his ground. His position and Canada's position therefore was "the Francophonie cannot recognize victims according to their nationality." There was no double-talk, no consulting focus groups, just plain-speaking by Harper. The result was that the other participants went back into a closed-door session where they agreed to "deplore the consequences for all civilian populations". Even the expedient French and the neutral Swiss finally supported his position. Canada is once again the conscience of the world!
From his first week in office when he refused to curry favour with the Ottawa Press Gallery bullies, Harper has set out a bold vision for Canada which restores our national pride and purpose. In his clear and courageous speech at the United Nations, he made it clear that Canada would not stand idly by while liberty was compromised. Further, he made clear our understanding that this current war on terror is a litmus test of the ability of Western civilization to endure and flourish and emphasized that we will not be broken by adversity, nor demoralized by the blood spilled in the wake of evil actions by terrorists.
In recent weeks in the House of Commons, the Opposition Liberals, NDP and the Bloc have opposed Canada taking a firm stand with NATO in support of the newly elected government of Afghanistan against the armed attempts by the Taliban to restore their feudal regime which ignores rights for women and denies the rights of children to be educated. They want to water-down our national will and have us whine with more "nuance", more "proportionality", more "balance" while the forces of terrorism again attempt to subdue the elected government and people of Afghanistan.
I agree with The Globe and Mail's conclusion that, with two calculated speeches, Harper has "reclaimed Canada's role as a world player" and articulated a "coherent vision of Canada's expanding international role". At the Economic Club of New York, he spelled out what Canada brings to the U.S. and what it expects in return. He reminded his listeners to "make no mistake, Canada intends to be a player". As The Globe and Mail concluded, no one "could misunderstand his intention which is to put Canada's interests in the forefront".
Harper made it clear that Canada will contribute to the battle against terrorism with troops on the ground in Afghanistan and with close to $1 billion ear-marked for aid and technical assistance. He further explained to the U.N. that Canada is doing its part abroad and expects respect at home which includes the waterways of the Northwest Passage. He said: "We will defend our sovereignty over all our territory, including over the islands, waterways and resources of the High Arctic, even if that conflicts with American claims."
The Globe and Mail concluded that these two speeches constitute a realistic approach to a formidable world with "no doubt that Canadian interests are central".
The record of the Harper government since January makes it clear that Harper understands, as William Jennings Bryan once enunciated, "Destiny is no matter of chance. It is a matter of choice. It is not a thing to be waited for; it is a thing to be achieved."
The Hon. John C. Crosbie, P.C., O.C., Q.C., is a former Federal Minister of Finance, the author of 'No Holds Barred' and a lawyer with Patterson Palmer. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of
Atlantic Business Magazine.