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Foreign Policy: Harper's Downfall? by Michael Byers
Description: On Kyoto and Afghanistan, he backed Bush. What if the US attacks Iran?
Date: 04 June 2006
Source: The Tyee
On Kyoto and Afghanistan, he backed Bush. What if the US attacks Iran?

"George W. Bush won" -- that's how Melanie Kirkpatrick of the Wall Street Journal described the outcome of the Canadian election in January.

Stephen Harper has always supported the Bush administration. In March 2003, he co-authored an article in Kirkpatrick's paper criticizing the Canadian government's decision to stay out of the Iraq war. The following month, in a speech to the House of Commons, he said:

We in the Canadian Alliance support the American position today on this issue because we share its concerns and its worries about the future of the world if Iraq is left unattendedĦIn an increasingly globalized and borderless world, the relationship between Canada and the United States is essential to our prosperity, to our democracy and to our futureĦ

Of course, many reasonable people believed Iraq possessed at least some chemical and biological weapons. And few Canadians would question the desirability of good relations with the United States. What was most striking about Harper's speech was not its content but its evangelical tone, which comes through -- even on the written page -- in the closing sentence:

Mr. Speaker, in the days that follow may God guide the actions of the President of the United States and the American people; may God save the Queen, her Prime Minister and all her subjects; and may God continue to bless Canada.

The "new" Stephen Harper

During the past year, Harper has eschewed such rhetoric and portrayed himself as a moderate and secular conservative -- one who supports mainstream Canadian values and institutions, including social tolerance, environmental protection and public health care. He has muted the fundamentalist Christians within his caucus. And he has continued the strategy, first deployed during the election campaign, of dominating the news agenda with a daily drumbeat of clear, relatively innocuous and easily-attained objectives. With the Liberals leaderless and incoherent, Harper's only real opposition is the NDP -- who've only 29 seats and few resources.

Harper clearly believes he'll win a majority in the next election, which is probably just eight to 10 months away. But such confidence is misplaced -- if only because foreign policy could dominate the next campaign...

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