January 30, 2006

Steyn Channels Bennett: Is Harper Listening?

In my recent post on the Canadian elections I said, in part:

He should make sure the Canadian troops in Afghanistan are decorated in a visible and public ceremony, exactly what has been denied to them to date...And perhaps he might even consider a surprise visit to the forces in Afghanistan.

In foreign policy, he and his external affairs minister can do a lot to change the tone without legislation.  Rather than being conspicuously closer to Bush, (which the media is waiting to jump on him for) he should become buddies with John Howard of Australia and to a lesser extent Tony Blair (while inviting the new British Tory leader Cameron to Ottawa for a visit. Cameron might spend some time thinking about why his party is now the only major Anglosphere right party to be out of power.)

On January 26th Mark Steyn wrote in the Wall Street Journal:

Unlike his hollow predecessor, Stephen Harper is a thoughtful man who understands the gulf between self-mythologizing and the harder realities. You can't change a free country unless you persuade free people to change their minds, and he will at least start that tough job. He doesn't have to be George Bush's best friend, and he may even be more effective at opposing him on trade and agriculture disputes. But he could try being Tony Blair's and John Howard's best friend and reconnecting us with other traditional pals from whom Canada's become increasingly estranged. He could honor our small but brave contribution to Afghanistan by flying out and meeting them on the ground.
Michael Barone also has some nice things to say about my post.

Since then Harper has been "following" our advice (not that it took a rocket scientist to come up with it, actually). He has made headlines in Canada by picking a fight with the US ambassador over the issue of sovereignty over the passages between Canada's arctic islands, over which Canada claims sovereignty and the US maintains are international waters. Ironically, on this issue the US is upholding the generally-accepted consensus of international law, while it is Canada who is being the unilateralist cowboy flying in the face of world opinion.

Not that there's anything wrong with that, of course.

Posted by James C. Bennett at January 30, 2006 03:57 PM

Harper is of course just burnishing his credentials as one who will stand up for Canada's interests, while quickly and efficiently disarming his opponents of every issue they can use against him. This man is the most serious conservative politician we have ever had, and he's going to do everything possible to solidify the gains made thus far. Not only is Harper cerebral, he is politically shrewd. In little more than two years on the job, his erstwhile opponents, Stockwell Day, Joe Clark, Jean Chretien, Peter MacKay, Belinda Stronach and Paul Martin are no longer the federal leaders they were or wanted to be, and Gilles Duceppe is right about now really, really worried about his medium term future. Trust me: Harper is going to be prime minister for many years to come.

Is Harper listening? I think he knows what to do instinctively. With leftist governments winning in South America and rightist governments winning in the Anglosphere, common cause on free trade with ANZAC is the greater no-brainer. Howard was one of the first leaders he chatted with, and I'd be surprised if mutual interest issues like an FTA didn't come up in their conversation. I mean what else substantively would they have talked about?

Posted by: Michael J. Smith at January 30, 2006 09:00 PM

Is Harper listening? I think he knows what to do instinctively.

Yes, as I said, it didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out those steps.

Posted by: Jim Bennett at January 31, 2006 12:18 AM

I sure hope that Mr. Smith is right.

Posted by: Lex at January 31, 2006 07:37 AM

The toughest obstacle in the way of Harper's quest for power was always the scary hidden agenda attack, the bogus charge that people need to be wary of what this "ultra-conservative" might do as prime minister. Hence, the hesitation of the electorate this time around.

Thankfully, it'll be the Liberals and their new leader who will have to face the "not ready for prime time" assertions in the sequel two or three years from now, as they pitt themselves against a provincially friendly prime minister with growing experience. Odds are that Harper will be a formidable incumbent, particulary given his inroads into Quebec and the huge upside potential there for knitting back together the final piece of Mulroney's former coalition.

Posted by: Michael J. Smith at January 31, 2006 08:25 AM
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