Monday, July 14, 2008

Will we really care what leaders come to the Vancouver games?

I like to think I love a chance to rip on Stephen Harper just as much as the next guy, if not even more, but I’m having a hard time caring much about whether or not Harper attends the opening ceremonies for this summer’s Beijing Olympics:

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is resisting growing pressure to attend the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games in Beijing this summer, but his Trade Minister Michael Fortier insisted yesterday that the Prime Minister's absence would have no lasting impact on bilateral relations.

Sure, reversing course and going may be the real politik thing to do, and with the leaders of France and the U.S. attending he’d have plenty of cover for a decision to go. Harper has insisted from day one it’s a scheduling and time decision and not message-sending on human rights. It’s probably a little of both I suspect. But I find it difficult to believe whether or not our Prime Minister goes to the opening games will have any impact one way or the other on our bilateral relationship.

I really think Bob Rae goes over the top here though with his release and comments on the topic:
Mr. Rae has called on the Prime Minister to reverse course and attend the Games' opening ceremony, saying Canada will "pay a price" for the snub.

Mr. Rae said Mr. Harper seems to be suffering a "hang-over" from the Cold War, when Conservative parliamentarians were courted by Taiwan and were staunch critics of Red China.

"I think it is ironic that Chiang Kai-shek's followers in Taiwan are quite prepared to seek a rapprochement with China, but Chiang Kai-shek's followers in the Conservative cabinet are not," he said.

Alrighty then. The Harper policy on China has been decidedly lacking in nuance and tact. But if relations with China are frosty it’s for a myriad of reasons. We have some legitimate beefs with their government, from its treatment of its own citizen to its treatment of some of ours. On some issues, a firm hand by the Canadian government has been appropriate. In other cases, we’ve overplayed our hand for domestic consumption, wanting to be seen as being tough in certain communities at home, and it has cost us.

Harper’s attendance at the games shouldn’t be the issue. The issue should be is the government’s wider China policy serving our dual interests to advance both trade and human rights. It can be a difficult balancing act to be sure.

But as for the games, who cares. Any ill feelings in Beijing won’t be cured by Harper’s being in the stadium. And I really doubt we’ll be seeing headlines in two years about this leader or that snubbing Vancouver by not showing-up at BC Place, and the Canadian government planning retribution. I think then Prime Minister Stephane Dion will know better... frankly, I could care less which leaders come to Vancouver and which don’t.

Except for President Barrack Obama. He’d better be there, or we’re cutting off the oil.

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1 comment:

R said...

Bob Rae? Over the top? Talking a lot about little? Shock, horror (and yes, I am a Liberal, just see Bob the Orange for what he is).