Canada Foreign Policy
Thursday, May 31, 2007
  From the 1st Pacific Economic Summit: Green Governor and “Liars”

California’s Arnold Schwarzenneger, already dubbed by media ‘the green governor,’ is in Vancouver on 31 May 2007 for meetings with Mayor Sam Sullivan and BC Premier Gordon Campbell. The environment has arrived, and is now a very real element in bilateral if not international relations.

Schwarzenneger’s meeting with Campbell is likely to place environmental issues atop the agenda, as both leaders have indicated the topic must be accorded the highest priority. The ex-Terminator is saying his intention is to announce at least a few climate-friendly initiatives which shall almost certainly receive Campbell’s endorsement. For his own part, the BC Premier has gone on record numerous times with his own various pledges. The Premier, who has grown into a vocal advocate of alternate fuels, promises that by the 2010 Olympics Vancouver and Whistler Village will be linked up by a “hydrogen highway.”

Schwarzenneger also observed that politicians must be held accountable for their environmental promises. The surest way to find out if a public figure is a “liar,” he noted, is to catch him or her saying they are doing all that can be done for the environment. It is a “good thing” for politicians to want to do more and more for the environment, and it is “good” for the public to make more and more demands, added the governor [Schwarzenneger’s remarks reported by CKNW Radio News, 31 May 2007].

But what must Ottawa be thinking about all this? He is not Minister of Development. Nor is he Industry Minister, though perhaps some members of the public may be excused for believing he is. Rather, John Baird is Tory Environment Minister. Just this past month he attacked the Kyoto Treaty, arguing that if serious effort were made in meeting all targets, the price of gasoline could spike so high an economic meltdown so severe would result, that no one could live with that eventuality. Then on 30 May 2007 Baird again made headlines when in committee he described the Ontario Premier’s green plans as a cynical vote-getting ploy: “Federal Environment Minister John Baird accused Ontario [Liberal] Premier Dalton McGuinty of dishonesty in order to ‘get votes’ when he promised to shut down the province's coal-fired electricity plants... ‘This is a perfect example of another Liberal making a promise on greenhouse gases and on reducing smog and pollution that you can't deliver,’ said the environment minister. ‘We're not going to tell people what they want to hear to get votes’” [cited in Allan Woods’ ‘Baird Attacks McGuinty Promises,’ The Toronto Star, 30 May 2007. Story posted at].

Just yesterday PM Harper agreed to a photo-op with a lowly governor, but one with a pedigree in film superstardom. So undoubtedly there was going to be commentary about chemistry, and some observers found things going on. For his part, Harper cultivates the image of one strongly believing that all environmentalists cling to the pedigree of destructive, radical tree-huggers. The PM “is an economist who frets about the fiscal impact on industry of change not directly driven by the marketplace.” And so their photo-op pairing reveals a most “Odd Couple”: “What do an extroverted, muscular California politician and a slightly flabby, straight-laced Canadian prime minister have in common? Not a lot” [quotes from Barbara Yaffe’s ‘Harper and Schwarzenneger an Environmental Odd Couple,’ CanWest News Service, 31 May 2007. Story published by the Vancouver Sun and posted at].

Posted by Stan Markotich
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Wednesday, May 30, 2007
  How much does it cost?

Posted by Stan Markotich
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Monday, May 28, 2007
  Is There Any Good News?

It was a very big deal when it first happened. Now, sure there was some notice, but hardly anywhere near the attention the first time around. Back after he won election, The PM generated headlines for days after making a historic visit to Afghanistan; a move, at least in part, designed to shore up troop morale.

Just last week, he did it again. Harper traveled to Afghanistan, stayed a couple of days, and announced that Canadians may need to prepare themselves for having to stay in the strife-ridden nation well past any planned 2009 evacuation date. Media dutifully reported the event, but just as soon as it was over, coverage and analysis vanished.

If the PM hoped to use the trip as a means of whipping up public support for the Tories, or for any of his policies, the exercise must be called an abysmal failure. Many recent polls hint that the legacy Harper may yet share with his predecessor is that of a propensity for blundering his party out of office. If recent surveys prove accurate, Harper is extremely unpopular. But if there is any positive news for the Conservatives, polls seem to suggest their main rival, Liberal leader Stephane Dion, is also the target of a popular mood that may in the near future have a distinct voting bias in favour of NONE of the ABOVE. According to Angus Reid, “Many adults in Canada appear dissatisfied with the country’s main federal political leaders... 41 per cent of respondents think neither Stephen Harper nor Stéphane Dion would make a good prime minister, up nine points since late March” [‘Canadians Disappointed with Harper and Dion,’ Angus Reid Poll, Angus Reid Global Monitor, 28 May 2007. Story and data published at]. And when it comes to the specific issue of Afghanistan, both Harper and Dion find themselves still in the same boat. Angus Reid continues: “On May 25, Harper discussed Canada’s military commitment in Afghanistan, saying, ‘The mission there has been long, hard and difficult, (...) but we have racked up an impressive list of accomplishments. The men and women of the Canadian Forces have conducted themselves with the utmost degree of professionalism and demonstrated exceptional bravery and skill on the battlefield.’ Dion declared: ‘Like all Canadians, we remain steadfast in our support for our troops as they put their lives on the line to provide us with a safe and secure world.’ 42 per cent of respondents think Canada is on the right track, while 37 per cent disagree” [Cited in ‘Canadians Disappointed with Harper and Dion.’].

There is lately more and more coverage given over the what’s going wrong with Afghanistan. If one source is anywhere near accurate, then Canadian reconstruction efforts are decidedly and utterly ineffective if not downright counterproductive. In his piece, reporter Murray Brewster observes: “The Canadian International Development Agency is making no headway in rebuilding Afghanistan and should be relieved of its duties, an international think-tank said Monday...In its latest report, the Senlis Council says the federal development agency should be replaced with a special envoy, who has the authority and money to get things done...The development agency currently has two case officers working out of the provincial reconstruction team base in Kandahar City. But since the death of Canadian diplomat Glyn Berry in January 2006, civilian staff are rarely allowed to venture beyond the heavily fortified compound” [Murray Brewster, ‘International Think-tank Says CIDA Should be Relieved of Afghan Role,’ The Chronicle Journal, 28 May 2007. Story posted at].

New Democratic Party leader Jack Layton, perennial critic of how things are managed in Afghanistan, is again making headlines by calling for a re-think of Central Asian policy: “Citing the rising costs – both human and financial – Mr. Layton said multibillion-dollar purchases of tanks and helicopters could have been avoided if the military was not engaged in a ‘search and destroy mission.’... ‘I think many Canadians are asking themselves whether Mr. Harper hasn't lost track of the priorities of Canadians,’ said Mr. Layton” [Cited in Sean Patrick Sullivan, ‘Layton Says New Approach Needed in Afghanistan,’ CP, 26 May 2007. Story posted at].

Is any news good news for the Tories?

Posted by Stan Markotich
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Monday, May 07, 2007
  Somebody's Intelligence dollars hard at work...

Posted by Stan Markotich
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A discussion of geopolitics and Canada's role in the world. A series of essays to examine the components of Canadian foreign policy making. Psychological, sociological, historical, and cultural variables impacting Canada's perceptions of the world.

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