On Tuesday 14 October, Canadians have to decide whether to re-elect Stephan Harper's Conservative government, which is presently governing with a minority of seats in Canada's parliament. I will take this opportunity to ask what Canada's government has done for the welfare of the international community.
I cannot name a single significant international issue on which Canada -- one of the world's most prosperous and enlightened nations -- has shown any real leadership under Harper.*
I ask: under Stephan Harper, what has Canada done for the world? Searching posts at Jotman and the Internet for some answers, this is what I have come up with:
Positive things coming out of Canada:
- Canada gets angry - Canada supported an aggressive stand on Burma cyclone relief
- Canadian province initiated a carbon tax - good move, but not a Harper government initiative.
- Prime minister's monkey business dashes hope on climate change - Out of 190 countries at the UN Bali climate change conference, only Russia supported Canada's position.
- "After decades of encouraging countries to increase their foreign-aid spending, Canada cut its own, from 0.34 percent of GDP in 2005 to just 0.2 percent last year."*
- "Long a beacon of human rights, Ottawa announced last fall that it would stop advocating on behalf of Canadians sentenced to death in other countries."*
- Canada is now the only Western country that still has one of its citizens held in Guantanamo, but Ottawa has refused to press for his release.*
I believe that those who live in the world's most fortunate countries have the greatest responsibility to advance the common good or at least not stand in the way of progress. It seems to me that on both counts Harper has earned Canada a failing grade. Harper has not only failed to show global leadership, his government has obstructed efforts to solve two of the biggest international issues of the day. This observation is particularly disappointing as -- due to the oil and resources boom -- Harper's tenure as prime minister has largely coincided with an era of almost unprecedented prosperity for Canada.
At present, the people of Canada and other nations of the developed world enjoy most of the privileges of global citizenship, but carry too few of the responsibilities.
It's time for change.
* From "What's the matter with Canada?" by Christopher Flavelle in Slate Magazine.
Update I: I think the election is a chance for Canadians to say to their American neighbors that they are fed up with being governed by men and women who have allied themselves so closely with the Bush administration. By dumping Harper, Canadians send American voters a strong message. Maybe this post, although silly, hints at the deeper root of Canada's uncharacteristic intransigence.
Update II: Wapo has a good report on the election is expected to return Harper to power as leader of another minority government.
Update III: Which is what happened. Results here.