A Nanos poll this morning shows that "Canadians are more likely to trust Stephen Harper over other federal leaders in his ability to manage key issues." Notably, however, the key issues on which Mr. Harper holds a wide lead (other than in Québec) do not include his management of international relations.
Some Canadians will agree with the Prime Minister's controversial decision to have our Foreign Minister walk out on Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at the United Nations yesterday, siding in effect with the view expressed by Shirin Ebadi in today's Times of London. Ms. Ebadi, an Iranian human-rights lawyer and Nobel Peace Prize winner, says that "her worst fears were confirmed when she saw the British Ambassador at President Ahmadinejad's inauguration," and she has called for "the downgrading of Western embassies, the withdrawal of ambassadors and the freezing of the assets of Iran's leaders."
Perhaps this is what Michael Ignatieff had in mind, when he said in a written statement in reaction to yesterday's events: "Boycotting President Ahmadinejad's speech is absolutely the right thing to do - just as it was the right thing to do at the Durban Review Conference back in April. I question, however, why Stephen Harper has refused to take action in Canada to hold the Iranian regime to account."
Other Canadians will agree with today's Globe editorial, which argues that "if Canada is truly concerned about [detained Canadian journalist Maziar]Bahari and has decided publicity is harmful, it would not have walked out on Mr. Ahmadinejad." And some Canadians so hate the Prime Minister that, as Joe Clark used to say, if Mr. Harper walked across water they'd say he couldn't swim.
Strictly in terms of ordinary language, however, it's difficult to deny that Canada has exercised leadership after about a dozen other countries - including the United States, Great Britain and France (one of whose citizens is also being detained in Iran) - followed in our footsteps yesterday. As it was to deny that Canada exercised leadership after dozens of western ambassadors walked out of the UN Durban II racism conference last April - a meeting that we were first to boycott.
Unless, that is, you're among those - a not inconsiderable number, alas - who believe that the world is run by an international Jewish conspiracy. In which case, you'll see yesterday's walkout as further evidence of the view expressed by President Ahmadinejad from the General Assembly podium:
"It is no longer acceptable that a small minority would dominate the politics, economy and culture of major parts of the world by its complicated networks, and establish a new form of slavery, and harm the reputation of other nations, even European nations and the U.S., to attain its racist ambitions."