Lawrence Cannon

If you didn’t think Prime Minister Stephen Harper really despised social democrats, then consider for a moment this factoid from yesterday’s news columns:

Only two days after Socialist François Hollande was elected president of France, Harper named Lawrence Cannon Canada’s ambassador to Paris. Indeed, it’s possible that Cannon will be on the job in the City of Light by the time Hollande takes power on May 15.

Canadians will remember Cannon as the prime minister’s sometime Quebec lieutenant and the man who hilariously lectured the now-departed government of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak for letting his thugs beat protesters in the streets of Cairo six months after law-ignoring Canadian police beat protesters in the streets of Toronto.

The difference, presumably, was that Cannon reckoned the Canadian protesters deserved it.

Mind you, detecting irony was never a strong suit of Canada’s Conservatives as a class, even before the humourless Harper took over as the party’s Great Helmsman, and it certainly doesn’t seem to be among the former foreign affairs minister’s repertoire of party tricks.

Cannon, also the former MP for the Quebec riding of Pontiac, is apparently being rewarded by the PM for managing to get his butt kicked out of office by a hitherto-unknown karate black belt from the NDP’s Quebec wing.

Back in November 2010, alert readers will recall, he was busy lecturing us Canadians about how there was no flexibility whatsoever in Harper’s promise-of-the-day to pull Canada’s troops out of Afghanistan at the end of their “training mission” in March 2014.

“We might be pressured obviously, but I think the prime minister has made this perfectly clear,” the appropriately named Cannon earnestly told Canadians, echoing one of the favourite phrases of Richard Nixon, another conservative politician who promised to withdraw from a difficult and foredoomed war according to a tight schedule. “March of 2014 is when we will be leaving,” he vowed. (Cannon, that is, not Nixon.)

As Alberta Diary observed at the time, mindful of the fact that up until then Prime Minister Harper had been unequivocally promising Canadians our troops would leave Afghanistan lock, stock and barrel by 2011, a year that has now passed with Canadian boots still on the ground in that benighted country, “‘Canada’s end date of March 2014’ is not firm. We will be pressured, as Cannon acknowledged, and our prime minister will fold like a tent.”

Since then, of course, Harper has folded precisely as predicted. Now the firm 2014 withdrawal date Cannon was so determined about is fading too, with the prime minister accusing the New Democrats of being soft on Adolf Hitler because they had the cheek to suggest his government (Harper’s, that is) should live up to its commitments to Canadians.

The government will now make “the decision that is in the best interest of country,” Harper harrumphed in Parliament last month, meaning, if past performance in this area is any guide, that the government intends to make the decision that is in the worst interest of the country.

Well, never mind that. The bilingual Cannon is off to Paris, where he can presumably lecture Hollande on the need to leave French troops in Afghanistan.

The French president-elect vowed on the campaign trail to get the French army the heck out of the rapidly unraveling Afghan war — a promise to voters that unlike his Canadian counterparts he is presumably committed to keeping despite growing pressure from the Americans and their Canadian sidekicks.

Paris is clearly the perfect posting for anyone with experience in foreign affairs, speaking of which, Hollande’s former wife is former French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s former opponent in the former French presidential election.

What’s more, for Cannon, an ambassadorial post may be a better fit than a Parliamentary one. After all, diplomats are expected to be economical with the truth as part of their job description.

This post also appears on David Climenhaga’s blog, Alberta Diary.

David J. Climenhaga

David J. Climenhaga

David Climenhaga is a journalist and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with the Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. He left journalism after the strike...