Play the blues and go: Farewell, Steve Harper, we barely knew ye!


Inkless hopes to be on the Montreal-Ottawa train in an hour. Yes, I’m leaving the Harper tour, or it’s leaving me, eastward bound to Halifax or some such. For the next week, we’ll be based in Ottawa doing work that is harder to do on the land-scrum-file-fly schedule of a campaign. Readers of macleans.ca will, however, be able to get their trail mix from Aaron Wherry with the Jack Layton tour; and John Geddes, our newest little blogger (and so cute! And we’re so proud!) on the Dion campaign trail. I’ll keep blogging from Ottawa and, probably, occasional events in the Kingston-Montreal corridor.

In the meantime, from yet another fine edition of the Maclean’s print magazine publication thing, here’s the interview I did with the prime minister while his jet was speeding eastward from Winnipeg.


Play the blues and go: Farewell, Steve Harper, we barely knew ye!

  1. Seems he gave you a preview of the “Dion and the Green Shift are bad for Canadian unity” message he rolled out today.

    After watching Dion in action in Saint John this morning, the level of clarity and competance between the two leaders is remarkable.

  2. Gotta admit, he’s a damned good politician. Talks a good game and it’s so tempting to believe him.

    Then I think about it a bit more. Saw the direction the parliament was going? Who handed out the book of dirty tricks to set that up Stephen?

    Not a sound economic policy? What’s yours? Saving me 2 cents on a sandwich I can’t buy because it’s infected with listeria due to the resultant cuts in food inspection? Cutting taxes on diesel that the consumer will never see except in the form of increased smog? Giving away a billion dollars of the BC lumber industries money to our American Competitors and shackling our guys to prevent them from competing efficiently? And given that every promise he makes, he’s quite willing to turn around on on a dime, how sound is any policy the guy comes out with? They all strike me as pretty hollow now.

    What’s that, you’re giving the Canadian Military a fixed election date from Afghanistan? Oh.. sorry.. fixed exit date. Yeah, I’m sure that’ll stick.

    But he’s still a very good politician.. in the worst sense of the word.

  3. An excellent interview and right to the point one of the many things I lkie about Harper is that he doesn’t talk down to you like a lot of other party leaders and as well he gets to the point no prevarication and few prefab ideaslogans like Dion does which quite frankly makes any interview or speech he gives become almost a chore to endure rather than an exercise to get any information as you spend too much decoding what was just said.

  4. T. Thwim, I agree with you, more in sorrow than in anger. I had hopes for Harper after Paul Martin’s performance as a rudderless gasbag.

    Right now I’ m a voter without a home.

  5. Are you SURE this is a good idea? The window of oppotunity for interaction is very limited. Once the election is over, Harper snubs you media guys like nobody’s business.

  6. Another Lyin’ Brian.


  7. Boy, our media types are suckers, again.

  8. I come to Macleans.ca so exclusively for the blogs that when Paul mentioned a print article I thought to myself “I wonder what publication that was in.”

  9. Sorry you’re going to miss a visit to the Least Coast. I think you would enjoy the zaniness of Maritime politics and the incredible lightness of being from having a perspective that doesn’t matter.

  10. How do you feel about the interview Paul? You’ve been quite critical of Harper of late (and I don’t take issue with that), and asked him some very hard questions. I thought he gave thoughtful answers. From your book, I take it you spent a fair amount of time with him on the last campaign. I guess what I’m asking is whether you can provides some follow-up musings on the interview.

  11. From a distance the Harper campaign looks a bit silly and prone to gaffes.
    But we’re getting nothing but ‘a triumphal march across Canada by the Great Man’ from Fife, even Travers and the rest of the reporters.
    What’s the party doing to keep you people so well massaged and always on message?

  12. Matt: Your questions are, I think, covered in my column, which also appears somewhere on our vast and sprawling website, even though we won’t at all mind if you buy the magazine instead.

  13. Perhaps I should add that maybe Harper is just getting good at it, really good.
    Look forward to your article in the mag.

  14. T Thwim: my judgement from your comment is that you search for reasons not to vote for Harper so that you may confirm your pre-existing decision not to vote for him. You are not searching for reasons to make a decision, you are searching for reasons to confirm your pre-existing decision.

    Not a single of those things you mentioned is true, as far as I am concerned, and in fact some of them seem ridiculous to me.

    For instance, your characterization of the softwood lumber agreement seems ridiculous to me since it completely ignores most of the context, most of the history and most of the facts.

  15. No, these reasons are some of the reasons why I’ve chosen not to vote for Harper, and now I bring them up, repeatedly, in the hopes that other Canadians will understand what it is they may be voting for if they choose to go that way.

    And while they may not be true “as far as you’re concerned” the fact remains that aside from the concern about Harper sticking to a fixed end date to something, they are all quite true. Now I will admit, that the fixed date is merely supposition based on.. oh.. precedent.

    Since you mention softwood lumber specifically, let’s look at the facts for that one then.

    I’ll even give your support for Mr. Harper the benefit of the doubt, and we’ll look at the facts as described by Mr. Harper, himself: “Friends, the facts of the softwood lumber case are well known. Before and since the 1980s, the United States’ lumber industry has been complaining that low stumpage rates for Canadian lumber constitute an unfair subsidy. But case after case, before GATT, the WTO, and NAFTA have found in the end that Canada is not illegally subsidizing its forest industry, and will find so again.

    Yet Canada’s strong legal case has not prevented the US from imposing countervailing duties and anti-dumping duties. In 2002, 27% duties were imposed on all softwood crossing the border. Although reduced slightly to 21% in 2004, $5 billion in duties have now been collected from Canadian mills.

    The Americans have engaged in a series of appeals to delay the application of international rulings. Most recently, a NAFTA Extraordinary Challenges Panel ruled that there was no basis for these duties. Most disturbingly, American officials gave indications that the United States would not accept such an outcome. It has now indicated a desire to use a soon-to-be-released WTO ruling to further delay the inevitable.

    Let me be as clear as I can. The NAFTA panel process is supposed to be binding. It is supposed to trump domestic American politics. The danger of a failure to uphold this decision goes far beyond the impact it will have on towns dependent on the lumber industry in British Columbia, Quebec, Ontario, Nova Scotia or anywhere else.

    If U.S. industry is able to pressure the government not to return duties when it has lost its last NAFTA appeal, it does not matter if most trade is dispute-free. If the rules are simply ignored, then the very basis of a rules-based trading system threatens to come unraveled, and the future of all Canadian-American trade relations could be profoundly affected.

    Obviously, illegally collected duties must be returned to the Canadian softwood industry. That is what our treaties and laws demand.

    It is at least now established that the Prime Minister and President will speak about the softwood issue in the hopefully-not-too-distant future. If I were Prime Minister at that time, what would a Conservative Prime Minister say in that conversation?

    First and foremost, I would seek a clear commitment of the United States to comply with the NAFTA ruling. If the Canada-U.S. trade relationship is to remain a fair, stable, rules-based system, then the United States has a moral obligation to return those duties to Canadian lumber companies.

    There can be no question of Canada returning to a conventional bargaining table, as the U.S. Ambassador has suggested.

    You don’t negotiate after you’ve won.

    The issue is compliance.

    And achieving full compliance should be the objective of the Prime Minister.”

    Seems pretty clear what the facts were, and what the promise was. But hey, if you want to say that Harper doesn’t know what he was talking about, that’s your perogative.

  16. Funny that the Montreal-Ottawa train has gotten so much better, and more investment to come, considering that many would have expected VIA to come under renewed pressure from a Tory government. But then, anything that goes in the direction of Quebec must be improved, right?

Sign in to comment.