Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Empty Promises

It's gratifying to see the Canadian media notice that Harper's boasts and promises for the last five years about what all that he'll do for Canada's North are just that. From today's Globe and Mail on Stephen's annual northern photo-op: Prime Minister Stephen Harper confirmed Tuesday that Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, will host a new High Arctic Research Station.

The announcement represents incremental progress in a project that has already been studied for three years, and that still has five years of design work ahead before construction actually begins.

More importantly the purchase three armed naval ice-breakers are no longer on Stephen Harper's to do list, having been replaced with six to eight ice-breaking patrol ships, which will not be nearly as effective at breaking ice for commercial vessels, helping to re-supply northern communities, assist in search and rescue efforts, and support in scientific research. Not to mention helping to establish a genuine and indisputable year-round presence -- the smaller patrol ships can only break through a metre or so of ice and so have been dubbed "slush-breakers."

Make no mistake about it there are a myriad of issues (PDF) to be settled in the Arctic and Canada is now effectively in competition for the North, its riches and control over the Northwest Passage. Empty rhetoric and Stephen's promiseswill not sway the tough-minded Russians or our allies the Americans.

Iggy's Ace in the Hole

From the moment Michael Ignatieff became leader of the Liberal Party, the Conservatives went on the attack and pinned a host of labels on him. Not being a politician by trade Ignatieff was slow to fight back. Probably thinking the charges were so ridiculous that who would pay any attention? Sadly that's not how politics, even in the great polite North, works these days. So Michael has had to re-introduce himself to the Canadian public this summer, and has done a creditable job of it.

Witness this report from the Kelowna bclocalnews.com site that echoes what was posted here yesterday about the B.C. leg of his Express tour. “I just wanted to find out what kind of guy he was and whether he can reach the common man,” said attendee Warren Waddell. “I think he came across as a warm and caring Canadian... very much in tune with the country.”

Now I realize it's anecdotal, but the pitfalls of such a tour are far more numerous than the opportunities and he's managed them well. He could very well have been done at the end of this tour. Instead, he's managed to make his way across the country, talking and listening to Canadians and more importantly dispelling some of the characterizations the Tories had made stick up until now.

It remains to be seen if he can be a more effective leader of the opposition but he is giving every indication that he will be.I liked the agressiveness of this statement he made to the people of Kelowna, “If you vote Green, or vote NDP you are getting four more years of Stephen Harper.” If he can follow that up by getting Quebeckers to understand that parking their votes with the Bloc Quebecois is a vote for Harper and make it stick, he has a real shot at turning his party's fortunes around.

Iggy's ace in the hole? He's not Harper.