4 former prime ministers, 4 rebukes of Stephen Harper’s foreign policy

(Editorial cartoon by Gareth Lind)I'm told that there used be a time when former presidents and prime ministers didn't criticize their successors.

It doesn't look like that unwritten rule exists anymore, at least not in Canada and at least not when it comes to foreign policy.

Over the past week, Jean Chrétien has been on some sort of media tour 'celebrating' the tenth anniversary of his decision not to send troops to Iraq.

[ Related: 10 years later Jean Chrétien talks about his decision not to send Canadian troops to Iraq ]

He's also taken the opportunity to chide the current regime's record.

"I'm travelling the world. The image of Canada today is not what it was," Chrétien told Global News on Sunday.

"You know [Justin Trudeau] will be fiscally responsible and he will be socially preoccupied like a Liberal is. And he will want Canada to be what we were in the world under [Lester B.] Pearson, under his father [Pierre Trudeau] and under myself."

Chrétien isn't the only one trash-talking.

Last autumn, Postmedia News interviewed a series of ex-prime ministers.

Paul Martin said that Canada was no longer "well-positioned" to be a player on the international stage and put the blame on Harper.

"[The United Nations is] going to be looking for countries that have a role to play internationally," he told Postmedia.

"Well, if you have walked away from Africa, if you have walked away from climate change, you’re not going to have a great deal of influence in the rest of the world."

Kim Campbell said this:

"We have pulled back a little from our effort to be serious players, and I’d like to see us do more."

And Joe Clark recently told students at McGill University that it's clear that the "strong and positive traditions" of the Progressive Conservative Party have been forced aside.

"It's certainly clear in international affairs, where its focus has been very narrow on the military and on trade," he said according to the McGill Daily.

"Much of the emphasis upon CIDA, which had been upon actual development dealing with poverty, has been replaced now by a supportive role [in] trade arrangements, not necessarily in the poorest countries.

"Our relations with many parts of the world where we had historically strong partnerships have deteriorated."

To be fair to Harper, Brian Mulroney has been very complimentary of the current government’s foreign policy, Campbell and Clark were considered ‘Red Tories’ while the other two mentioned above are obviously all-out Liberals.

[ Related: Brian Mulroney ‘was a great prime minister filled with blarney and bluster’ ]

The question of whether former prime ministers should publicly criticize current ones is up for debate. It might not be the most 'classy' move.

Nevertheless, the high profile rebukes are clear evidence that the Harper government is taking us down a very different path when it comes to foreign policy.

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