Canada’s international reputation slipping under Stephen Harper

Two years ago — during the G8/G20 summits in Toronto — political pundits and analysts were waxing poetic about Canada "punching above its weight" in the international community.

In 2010, Stephen Harper received accolades for persuading his G8 peers to embrace his initiative on maternal health and his government was lauded for its handling of the economy during the worldwide economic slowdown.

Two years later, the situation is distinctly different.

At this week's G20 summit in Mexico, Canada's delegation — led by Harper and finance minister Jim Flaherty — is but a bit player with little or no influence.

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Long-time Globe and Mail columnist Jeffery Simpson recently wrote about Canada's diminishing international reputation.

"Canada under this government failed to win a seat on the UN Security Council, a stinging rebuke. Canada's once-sterling reputation for caring about Africa is over. Canada's reputation in the Arab world is mud, because although ministers never criticize anything Israel does, they never miss a chance to lecture the Palestinians," he wrote in a recent column titled 'Canada is back on the world stage? Hardly.'

"Canada's Commonwealth partners are worried the Harper government might wreck the next meeting in Sri Lanka because of its hectoring of that country's government ... Canada's feeble non-climate-change policy is universally panned ... In the current budget, the government is cutting foreign aid by $319-million," he wrote.

"Hectoring and lecturing undoubtedly appeals to the Conservative Party's core voters. It does not impress other governments, including friendly ones."

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Scott Clark, who was formerly Canada's Executive Director at the IMF and the European Bank For Reconstruction and Development, is critical of the Harper government's "lecturing" to European governments and of its steadfast refusal to contribute to a $430 billion IMF contingency fund to rescue European Union members.

"The Prime Minister and Minister of Finance are absolutely right to be frustrated with EURO leaders in their complete failure to deal with the crisis in a credible manner," he wrote for iPolitics.

"[But] by refusing to join the G20 initiative to augment IMF resources, Canada's credibility within the G20 will be seriously diminished.

It seems that Canada has gone from the penthouse to the outhouse when it comes to international reputation and influence.

What a difference a couple of years make.

(Photo courtesy Reuters)