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Is UN snub 'badge of honour' or punishment for doughnut detour?

Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon and junior minister Peter Kent react after the first round of Security Council voting at UN headquarters in New York on Oct. 12, 2010.


It may have taken 10 days but finally Stephen Harper has vindication. The Conservative government has seized on a positive story in a foreign publication that asserts the Prime Minister's foreign policy is praiseworthy.

The PMO is wasting no time crowing about it, either. This after some tough days during which the government was heavily criticized for failing in its bid to win a coveted seat at the United Nations Security Council.

"Today's Wall Street Journal praises the foreign policy positions taken by our government under Prime Minister Stephen Harper," PMO strategists say in a memo circulated to MPs and supporters.

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Phew. Last week, there was bad news from The Economist. The influential British magazine took Canada and Mr. Harper's foreign policy to task. "In 2003 Bono, a rock star and poverty campaigner, proclaimed that, 'The world needs more Canada,'" the magazine began. "This week, the world decided it didn't."

From there it went on to criticize the Prime Minister for closing embassies in Africa, for coming into power in 2006 skeptical of "Canada's traditional multilateralism" and for choosing to visit "a doughnut innovation centre rather than attend the UN General Assembly" - a swipe at the Prime Minister's decision last year to skip the United Nations in order to attend a Tim Hortons event.

Wednesday's U.S. article (behind a pay wall) is so much better than last week's British take. "The Wall Street Journal states that 'Under Mr. Harper's leadership Canada has avoided the worst of the global recession and emerged with a vibrant banking system and strong currency (now trading near parity to the U.S. dollar)'" the PMO memo says.

The Journal commends the courage of Canada's soldiers in Afghanistan and says that rather than feeling humiliated, Canada should wear the UN snub like a "badge of honour" because "Canada seems to have annoyed a sufficient number of Third World dictators and liberally pious Westerners to come up short in a secret General Assembly ballot."

The PMO neglected to include that last part in its memo to supporters. But Mr. Harper's strategists did add: "Our government makes foreign policy decisions based on what's right, not what's popular. We will continue to do so."

Michael Ignatieff's Liberals, meanwhile, are not impressed with The Wall Street Journal's analysis.

"For five decades before Mr. Harper, Canada was able to walk and chew gum - steadfastly supporting Israel, having a courageous presence of soldiers and peacekeepers in the world, showing leadership on the environment and human rights, and yet still succeeding in earning the world's vote for a seat on the Security Council," a senior Ignatieff official told The Globe.

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"While Mr. Harper may wish to wear the UN snub 'as a badge of honour' ... Canadians see our potential as a global leader and a global citizen and no excuse or attempt to pass the buck will change the fact that responsibility for this loss lies squarely with his government."

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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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