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Is Harper's double-double or Ignatieff's trash talk to blame for UN debacle?

Brian Gable/The Globe and Mail

1. Foreign-policy spin war. The commentary, rhetoric and blame game being played around the Harper government's loss of a Security Council seat Tuesday makes for entertaining reading. Here's a taste; decide for yourself who won.

Liberal foreign affairs critic Bob Rae says the Prime Minister's double-double diplomacy backfired: "Mr. Harper will have to take some responsibilut (sic) for the loss at the Security Council. Maybe going for that chocolate glazed and the double double rather than speaking at the UN wasn't such a great idea," Mr. Rae said on Facebook, referring to Stephen Harper's decision last year to attend a photo op at Tim Hortons rather than the UN General Assembly.

The Rideau Institute's Steven Staples added: "We can't get a Security Council seat from Tim Hortons. ... Prime Minister Stephen Harper may regret snubbing the UN for so long. Now we know if you ignore the world long enough - it will eventually notice."

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Conservative strategists, meanwhile, circulated a memo to MPs and supporters within minutes of having abandoned the vote at the UN. And they put the blame squarely on the Liberal Leader's shoulders.

Under the headline "Ignatieff Costs Canada a Seat at the United Nations Security Council," Conservatives strategists write: "In the lead-up to the United Nations Security Council vote, when given a chance to support Canada's bid for a seat, Michael Ignatieff chose to undermine it by falsely stating that Canada 'ignored the United Nations' and asked 'has this government earned that place [on the Security Council]'"

Or this: "Canada faced internal opposition to its bid because Michael Ignatieff saw an opportunity to score political points by opposing Canada."

And if you don't buy the scenario that Canada was sunk by the Opposition Leader, try this one on for size: "Moreover, we were also trying to win a seat in an EU dominated Bloc and we are not an EU country."

The memo also noted that it was the first time in history "Canada was not united in pursuing a seat on the Security Council."

As the note went out, Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon was speaking the same words to reporters at a post-losing-the-vote press conference: "Our opponents could point to the fact that for the first time in Canadian history, Canada was not united in its bid."

Mr. Ignatieff, however, dismissed the criticism: "The blame game is a sign of a government that is unwilling to absorb the lessons of defeat."

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2. Bad press on base feud. National Defence officials are circulating an article from the Gulf News, which is not complimentary to Canadian diplomatic efforts regarding the request by the United Arab Emirates for more landing slots in Canada.

Defence officials are said to be very disappointed about the PMO's handling of the negotiations, which broke down and resulted in Canada being kicked out of Camp Mirage - a strategic and important airbase in the UAE that the military has used as a stopover point on the way to Afghanistan.

Under the headline " UAE disappointed with Canadian actions," the report says: "The UAE said Tuesday it was disappointed over the Canadian government's attempts to leak distorted information about commercial landing rights and described them as 'fear tactics'."

It goes on to quote a "UAE official source" saying: "This deliberate leak with misinformation reminds us of the policies of fear tactics of the Neo Cons of not so distant past."

The report comes after Defence Minister Peter MacKay and Chief of Defence Staff Walt Natynczyk were prohibited from flying over UAE airspace and landing at Camp Mirage when they were making their way back from Afghanistan on Monday. The pair had been in Kandahar, spending Thanksgiving with the troops.

A senior defence official said the article is a commentary on how people in the UAE are looking at the incident. "This is why they reacted with anger," the official told The Globe. "They knew that the information leaked by PMO about the negotiations were BS. Very clumsy undiplomatic behaviour."

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3. 'I don't like him at all.' A new book is out about Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams' battles with Ottawa on the Atlantic Accord.

Former provincial politician and popular radio talk-show host Bill Rowe was dispatched to Ottawa to represent the province's interests. Mr. Rowe kept a diary and now he has written a book: Danny Williams: The War with Ottawa.

In it he explains the Premier's view of his main federal opponent, Stephen Harper: "'I don't like Harper very much,' Danny said to me during a tête-à-tête in Ottawa one day. 'In fact, I don't like him at all.'"

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About the Author
Ontario politics reporter

Jane Taber is a reporter at Queen’s Park. After spending three years reporting from the Atlantic, she has returned to Ontario and back to writing about her passion, politics. She spent 25 years covering Parliament Hill for the Ottawa Citizen, the National Post and the Globe and Mail. More

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