This week, the Harper government approached the NATO conference in Wales with reservations about spending more money on foreign commitments. However, in true Canadian style, they agreed to give more after all—not too much, mind you. Prime Minister Harper gave a roughly twenty minute interview, during which he made some startling statements, statements which would give Preston Manning cause to do a double-take. Or maybe a double-think? Although Mr. Harper’s assurances about being frugal (read: cheap) with the increased expenditure for this mission come as no surprise, but our Prime Minister also had a few words about the causes of the mission, along with some domestic issues in the United Kingdom.
In the interview, Harper described that NATO was trying to look at the societies which are experiencing turmoil, then look at societies (like Europe and the Americas) where turmoil has already occurred in order to figure out what is causing these disruptions and how they can be prevented. He said, “what are the things about the society itself for democracy to take root?” It is a strange quote to come from Harper who, not a week ago, dismissed a distressing situation in Canada as a nothing more than a crime, rather than something to be understood—a sociological phenomenon, if you would. His infamous remarks about missing aboriginal women enraged many Canadians. The Conservative party also has routinely bashed Justin Trudeau’s “weak” stance on crime and terrorism. Not even a year ago, Trudeau said of the Boston Marathon Bombings that examining the causes of terrorist attacks was crucial. “We have to look at the root causes,” Trudeau said specifically. Harper, of course, denounced the statement and argued for a typically Harperesque shoot first AND shoot later attitude on all things crime and terror. Yet isn’t our Prime Minister proposing that NATO is dealing with a sociological/anthropological issue here? One whose deeper causes and needs must be understood? Goodness, he almost sounds like a Liberal! Or at least a Progressive Conservative!
The interviewer also pried into Harper’s opinions on the upcoming referendum—in Scotland, not Quebec (don’t worry you haven’t missed out on something local!). The gentleman related that Harper was on the forefront of the winning side in 1995. Harper responded, “there’s a lot I can say about that!” Apparently, Harper was the saviour of Quebec in 1995—not Chretien or Charest or Trudeau. Not the thousands of Canadians who poured into Montreal the weekend of the referendum. Not the student voters or “money and the ethnic vote.” Not anyone who participated in the actual campaign on the No side. Harper drafted the Reform Party’s strategy on the Referendum, and was an ardent supporter of decentralization of the country. He apparently felt that the No side was a worst-case scenario! Sounds almost like a Quebec separatist! Wait, why was he being asked how to keep a country United, when he was in favour of de-uniting Canada? Maybe they missed that part on his bio…This one time opponent of federalism went on to say that Quebec now has the strongest mandate for federalism in 40 years…I guess he didn’t count Bourassa’s win of 92 seats in 1989 as significantly federal enough! Granted, it was Bourassa and, at a time with Separatists in the governing Progressive Conservative party, it would be understandable if he didn’t want to count it.
He decided to weigh in on Quebec and Canada’s behalf with “our” (really his) thoughts on Scottish separation. He now dismisses separation as an option in Canada, the UK, or anywhere in the developed world. The question he poses is a poignant one: “will separation actually solve the problems that we face?” However, for the foreign head of a country that has nearly split apart to tell another state that they should stay together is rather unsettling. Especially doing so without checking with the country you’re speaking for! Look what happened to Marois when she spoke for the Independence side! Some media speculated that the snub she received from “Mr. Salmon” as she pronounced the Scottish Premier’s name (Alexander Salmond). Salmond had the fortitude to not want to “upset” the Canadian government. But Harper is half Scottish so maybe he’ll be forgiven!
Harper is flip-flopping on his positions, trying to make himself appeal to a wider range of voters than his normal narrow band of supporters. Smells like an election is coming soon to a country near you!