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Making us a somebody

Apparently our government is politicking hard to raise our countries stature on the world stage. According to this Globe article by Doug Saunders whose articles I think I will start following from now on, our government has two international campaigns underway.

Harper wants Canada to be elected to a seat on the UN Security Council again, starting in January 2011 when the current terms for the non-permanent members ends. If successful this would be our seventh two year term with the last one ending on December 31st 2000.

Unfortunately, similar to the 62% of Canadians who voted in the last election, the international community is also questioning the motives of our prime minister.

The problem in this case (Canada’s attempt to garner UN votes) is not the method, but the nature of Canada's ambition. In the past, this country has sought and won seats on the Security Council as a means to something: an approach to peacekeeping, a nuclear-arms-control drive, a post-Cold War reconciliation.

This time, many international observers feel that the tail is wagging the dog. It looks to many as if Canada is using its few actions in the world — our big sacrifice in Kandahar, our outspoken commitment to the prosecution of Sudanese leaders — as pretexts for our aspiration to prominence in international institutions. Beyond that goal, our foreign policy seems to be one-dimensional and withdrawn.

A similar reaction is being felt to our governments other campaign to have our defense minister Peter MacKay appointed as the next Secretary-General of NATO, this coming July. MacKay has been on tour in Europe and unfortunately as least to some has been flaunting Canada’s sacrifice in Afghanistan. Many Europeans found McKay’s message that if Afghanistan goes sour, it will spell the end of NATO as we know it, somewhat distasteful.

If the old Vietnam motto was "We had to destroy the village in order to save it." Canada's Afghanistan motto appears to be "We had to destroy the village in order to save the sprawling campus of one-storey buildings on the outskirts of Brussels." one paper wrote.

It would appear that the same confrontational approach our conservative government tries to get away with in our parliament will not be accepted by the majority of European politicians either. Sadly we are turning into the other arrogant North America nation.

Of course one could blame this solely on the arrogance of our prime minister, but I am starting to believe that Harper truly has an inferiority complex when it comes to Canada. From his earliest days at NCC he has seemed embarrassed about Canada’s historic reputation on the world stage.

Being a nation known for peacekeeping, a country that spent more on the social safety net, than military expenditures, a country that tried to bridge the conflicts of the cold war ignoring the rhetoric of our largest trading partner, a country of rational, polite, people (well except for hockey) who were quietly respected around the world were not characteristics that Harper found appealing.

Instead Steve wants the world to know that we are a major oil producing country, that unlike the rest of the world our financial regulations have protected our economy and that because of the sacrifices our military has made in Afghanistan, our first military action since Korea, the rest of the world should follow our leadership in environment, finances, and I assume now international relations. We are a somebody.

However not a somebody that I like, but maybe, I am deceiving myself and the old Canada is gone. Being a closeted utopian liberal I believe we should quietly take the high road on major international issues while we focussed on the providing both the means for internal prosperity and socialized support mechanisms for those of us who needed it. A country run by a government that could understand both sides of an issue and then act in the most principled manner. A country run by a government where every decision is not based on a preset ideology, press releases or a popularity poll for the next election and the continuation of political power.

Unfortunately, I don't see this type of leadership with the new Liberal party either, at least not yet, and to some extent I don't really understand why. Right now the Liberals would still get my vote, after all I live in the 905, but the ABC argument is truly getting as old as maybe my vision of Canada is.



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