Not any more

Vote for the maple leaf in the Big Apple

In Canada on September 23, 2010 at 20:19

Canada is an excellent candidate for a seat on the Security Council of the United Nations. Stephen Harper was not explicitly campaigning for votes when he spoke to the General Assembly on Thursday, but he acknowledged Canada’s willingness and readiness to serve, as it has done successfully six times previously.

In the past two years, this country has added a worldwide reputation for financial and fiscal competence, to its history of peacekeeping and the relief of suffering across the world. Financial integrity has not hitherto been recognized at the UN as one of the cardinal virtues, but after the first truly global financial crisis and recession, the good record of Canadian banks – and of their regulators – has stood out in a highly interdependent international economy. At present, Portugal, which has not fully emerged from being in danger of a sovereign default, seems to be Canada’s chief rival for a Security Council seat. Indeed, apparently prudent Germany – which is likely to win a council seat on the first round of voting – turned out in 2008-2009 to have its full share of excessively leveraged banks, in spite of solid government finance.

Canada has also gone beyond its tradition of peacekeeping to carry a disproportionate burden in the military mission in Afghanistan, a task performed with great skill, courage and sacrifice – and to take a part there in nation-building that ought to continue after 2011 .

Mr. Harper may have struck a somewhat different note from a few of his most idealistic predecessors, but he set out solid and convincing evidence of Canada’s current accomplishments in helping other countries. He took up again the concept of “enlightened sovereignty” that he advanced last January at the World Economic Forum, a variation on the theme of enlightened self-interest. But Mr. Harper also drew upon biblical passages for vigorous, unambiguous expressions of altruism. “Who, seeing his neighbour distressed,” he asked, alluding to the good Samaritan, “will pass by on the other side of the road?” Similarly, paraphrasing the Book of Judges, he spoke of the inadequacy of a world “where every person does what is right in his own sight.”

The speech was packed with evidence that Canada continues to provide a great deal of foreign aid, from Haiti to Afghanistan. For example, the new focus on Latin America has not prevented a doubling of aid to Africa.

The Canada of today is true to its Pearsonian legacy, but has found fresh strengths as well. It deserves a seat at the Security Council’s table.


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