Harper’s International Victory

As reported in the Huffington Post, the oil-rich country of Qatar has recently withdrawn its bid to move the UN agency, the International Civil Aviation Organization (“ICAO”) from its headquarters in Montreal, to Doha, the capital of Qatar.

Apparently, Qatar had been lobbying hard and quietly for many months, (if not years) dozens of UN nations, in expectation of a vote on this matter, to be held in September of this year. Qatar needed the votes of 60 per cent (115 member states) of the 191 UN members to effect the move of the ICAO headquarters from Montreal to Qatar.

Qatar would not have instituted this very public and ballsy diplomatic challenge to Canada if Qatar did not believe that it had already the required UN votes “in the bag.”

There was no public explanation from the Qatar sheikdom as to why it had withdrawn its offer to relocate the ICAO headquarters and all its staff.

Probably because Qatar had grossly underestimated the tenacity, determination and fight of the Canadian side led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Foreign Affairs Minister Baird, Quebec Separatist Premier Pauline Marois, and her lieutenant, International Relations Minister Jean-Francois Lisee and Mayor Applebaum of Montreal.

The insular oil potentates of Qatar also probably grossly underestimated how well Canada and the tough Harper Administration are regarded internationally.

We know that if the feckless Justin Trudeau were Prime Minister, upon learning of Qatar’s attack on Montreal’s ICAO headquarter, he would have spent the summer navel gazing, shaking his manly hair, at potential voters and blaming the Harper Administration for not playing nice with Arab dictators. And then searching for the “root causes” why Qatar, other Arab nations and the UN do not like Canada any more. Basically, all hot air. Content-free policies. No concrete strategy or action. Much like his leadership campaign.

Instead of navel gazing, Team Montreal, led by the very effective tag team of Harper and Baird, immediately secured the support of the Separatist Marois government and the support of Mayor Applebaum of Montreal. Baird then reached out to the Obama Administration and very quickly obtained its support and especially the vocal and public support of US Ambassador to Canada Jacobson.

Then according to the above Huffington Post article, Baird and his people together with the Quebec contingent contacted and lobbied hard over one hundred UN nations and secured widespread international support from countries in Asia, Africa, the Americas and Europe.

Foreign Afairs Minister Baird admitted that he personally contacted 60 foreign ministers to seek their support and many such foreign ministers appeared to be persuaded by Baird and his people. According to Baird, Canada received great support, not unanimous support, but great support nonetheless.

Even such long-time Harper critics as the Marois Pequistes believed that the federal government’s efforts were very impressive and decisive.

The above-noted Lisee, a separatist minister, referring to the successful partnership between Baird and Lisee, praised each other’s commitments and ability to leave politics aside to work for a common purpose.

Lisee also praised the ability of Canada and Quebec to work together in jointly lobbying France on this matter. Specifically, Lisée noted that a good example of the unity they showed was in Paris, where Canadian Ambassador Lawrence Cannon and Quebec’s delegate general, Michel Robitaille, went together to the Quai d’Orsay — France’s foreign office — to press their case for Montreal.

As I wrote in my Huffington Postblogon this matter, the loss of the ICAO headquarters in Montreal would have been a huge financial and political blow for Canada, Montreal and Quebec.

Montreal is the centre of Canada’s aviation industry, and its international reputation as a major player is partly based on ICAO’s longtime residency and the fact that the third largest airplane manufacturer in the world is Quebec-based Bombardier.

The organization also feeds the city’s economy; it employs 534 staff and it generates some $119 million annually and 1,200 direct and indirect jobs.

Over a 20-year period, the term of the lease now being renewed by ICAO and Quebec/Canada, ICAO will generate several billion dollars of revenue for the city of Montreal.

This is not chump change. These are very real and substantial funds that would have been lost for good.

Also Canada would have lost enormous international prestige if Harper and Baird had not stood up and effectively fought back against Qatar’s ongoing attempts at buying international recognition (note Qatar won the right to host the 2022 World Soccer Cup) for itself by deploying its vast natural gas and oil riches.

This is a fight that Harper had to win. And he, Baird and the whole Team Montreal, won decisively. A huge international victory.

Harper not only won the vigorous support of the US, Britain and France, it won the majority support of the 27 European nations and many nations in South America, Africa and Asia. Even the powerful China, backed Canada.

Harper’s international support was so widespread and strong, that Qatar had no choice but to beat a hasty retreat to its oil-rich sheikdom, with its “pathetic tail between its legs.” Utterly and decisively humiliated.

The other big loser in this affair is of course the trust fund dilettante from Outremont, Justin Trudeau. Recall Trudeau took a typical partisan cheap shot at Harper and his government when the Qatar bid for the ICAO headquarters was made public.

Speaking to reporters after question period in early May, regarding the Qatar bid,Trudeau superficially pontificated, “I am concerned about the level of disengagement from multilateral organizations that this government is pushing forward,” Trudeau said, noting Canada’s “traditionally and historically” strong international role. “There is something going very wrong with this government’s approach to international affairs,” he said. “That’s why the move by Qatar to steal or to woo away the important UN regulatory body that’s established in Montreal on aviation is for me another example of the fact that this government is not serious about leadership in the world, which is something that is very important to many Canadians.”

Au contraire, you little pompous pontificator.

The deep and widespread international support for Canada, over the ICAO affair, indicates that Canada’s international standing and influence internationally, when it really counts, have never been stronger.

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