Stephen Harper isn't so smart, after all.

All he had to do was show up at the 16th International AIDS Conference in Toronto, shake a few hands, voice a few platitudes, then sit back and enjoy his improved polls in urban ridings. But no, his angle seems to be a Bushesque "I stand by my principles" 'thing'. And since his 'thing' doesn't seem to include reaching out to the gay or ethnic communites, he isn't going.

I was terrified that he would, in a last minute publicity stunt similar to his Cyprus airlift photo op. But he couldn't make himself do it, even though his presence would reassure nervous Ontario and Québec voters that he is not the mouth-breathing, bible-thumping neanderthal that many continue to suspect he is.

From the Globe and Mail:

Forty million people worldwide are living with HIV-AIDS. The disease is crippling sub-Saharan Africa, and concern is emerging about epidemics in Russia, India and China. In Canada, one-third of all new HIV infections occur in aboriginal populations. Thousands of conference delegates are discussing profound issues of access to treatment. They rightly expected Mr. Harper, as political leader of the host country -- one of tremendous wealth and prestige -- to likewise participate or, at the very least, to welcome and wish them well.

Canadians are engaged in all the struggles of the world around them, not just the military ones. By playing against type, Mr. Harper could have lit up the room. Instead, he is being roundly roasted. "I think part of the problem is that he's ignorant about the issue," said Laurie Edmiston of the Canadian AIDS Treatment Information Exchange. "Mr. Harper, you have made a mistake that puts you on the wrong side of history," said Mark Wainberg, conference co-chair and director of the McGill University AIDS Centre. "It's a lost opportunity to tell the world how Canada feels about this pandemic," said Stephen Lewis, United Nations special envoy for HIV-AIDS in Africa.


Anonymous said...

Past Liberal leaders didn't attend either.

PALGOLAK said...

True. However, they didn't have to convince central Canadians that they were not, in fact, right-wing wackjobs.

Anonymous said...

Conservatives don't change...

"An election is no time to discuss serious issues."

Kim Campbell, 1993

"Unfortunately, the issue has been so politicized this week that this is probably not the time for us to make additional announcements."

Stephen Harper, 2006

PALGOLAK said...

I think some conservatives CAN change, though. Look at the evolution of Maurice Cauchon!

The Commentator said...

Bush had poured more money into fighting AIDS than any leader in the Western world through the Millenium Fund. Bono and Geldoff admitted that the Americans are putting their money where their mouth is. Still, when it comes to AID on a per capita basis America (and Canada) still lag Scandinavia and other Euro nations. In this sense, Harper is different than Bush. Bush recognized the problem and pledged money towards it. The guy deserves credit.

PALGOLAK said...

I was unaware of these under-the-radar caring gestures by our planetary leader.

I was given to believe that he was one of those "christians" that supported the "abstinence" approach.

Ie. any talk of preventative measures in family planning would result in the Great Satan cutting off funding.