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October 13, 2010

Harper's Canada gets two black eyes

Reuel S. Amdur

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Last week the United Arab Emirates, unhappy that Canada refused to provide a number of new landing rights for Emirates Airlines in Dubai and Etihad Airways in Abu Dhabi, forbade Canadian flights to and from Camp Mirage. Canada was already scheduled to leave by November 2.

Camp Mirage is a base, supposedly secret but with the secret well out of the bag, which serves as a transit point and supply depot for troops and supplies en route to and from Afghanistan.

Cutting off access will force Canada to rely on alternatives such as Cyprus and Germany; alternatives which will make Canada reduce the number of flights.

Canada may have to begin winding down the Afghan mission sooner rather than later in order to meet next year’s announced deadline for withdrawal as a consequence. 

The UAE was not satisfied with its temporary closing of access to Camp Mirage.  It also took the occasion to apply a biting humiliation to Canada: It refused to allow Defence Minister Peter MacKay, Veterans Affairs Minister Peter Van Loan, and General Walter Natynczyk permission to land there on their return from Afghanistan. 

In fact, they were even denied permission to fly over the Emirates. 

Since then, the UAE has reopened access to the base.  It had to if it wants Canada out by November 2. How else could Canada withdraw?

The Emirates ambassador to Canada, Mohammed Abdullah Al-Ghafli, charged that the refusal of the additional landing rights was a disservice to the 27,000 Canadians in the Emirates.  Air Canada strongly opposed giving the two UAE airlines the additional flights, fearing the competition.

Well, that was only the first black eye that Harper suffered this month. 

The other was handed to him on October 12, when the UN General Assembly turned Canada down for a non-permanent seat on the Security Council, the first time that Canada was turned down when it was running for a seat. 

It was a three-country race for two seats, with Germany and Portugal as the other two countries. 

The second round of voting left Canada so far behind that our UN Ambassador John McNee simply withdrew in the face of the inevitable.  Germany, of course, was a shoo-in.

This seat was much sought after, with Stephen Harper making two trips to the General Assembly to put Canada’s case. 

He told the members of the General Assembly about all the great things Canada was doing to contribute to global welfare.  Apparently they did not buy it. 

Why did Canada fail to get a seat? 

There are various factors.  While the ballot for the seats was secret, one can make some good guesses.

In the first place, Portugal, as a Latin country with a former South American colony, Brazil, likely got support from some if not all the South and Central American countries. 

The new members of the European Union also in all likelihood would have voted for Portugal. 

Island countries, concerned about their survival in the face of global warming, would undoubtedly be less than impressed by Harper’s foot-dragging on global warming. 

Then there are the Muslim countries. 

Harper’s strong tilt in the direction of Israel certainly dissuaded them from supporting Canada, even Turkey, which had had good relations with Israel but which is now still smarting from the killing of nine of its citizens on board one of the boats in the flotilla to Gaza.

Then we come to the African countries.  The Harper government has chosen to redirect foreign aid from Africa to South America.  So there go some African votes.

One suspects that Harper’s foreign policy in general and its foreign aid policies in particular were just not that popular, especially with Third World countries.

Harper, true to form, found the responsibility for his own failures to be in the Opposition.  It was all Michael Ignatieff’s fault.

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