Principled PM to sell more LAVs to dictators?

Canadian-made LAV enters Bahrain: Take that, you dictators!

Prime Minister Stephen Harper treated Canadians to a self-righteous description of his government’s “principled” foreign policy stance at the recent Conservative Party convention (Steven Chase, “Canadian foreign policy needs to be more independent: Harper,” Globe and Mail, 10 June 2011; see also Elizabeth Thompson, “‘We still have more to do …’: Harper vows to woo Quebecers,”, 10 June 2011):

We also have a purpose – and that purpose is no longer just to go along and get along with everyone else’s agenda. It is no longer to please every dictator with a vote at the United Nations.

And I confess that I don’t know why past attempts to do so were ever thought to be in Canada’s national interest. Now we know where our interests lie and who our friends are. We take strong, principled positions in our dealings with other nations – whether popular or not and that is what the world can count on from Canada.

Stirring words.

Unfortunately, one of those strong, principled positions appears to be that we will continue to try to please those dictators who have the money and will to buy large numbers of expensive goods, notably weapons, from us.

Witness the fact that Prime Minister Principles has failed to prevent the delivery of 724 Canadian-made Light Armoured Vehicles to the very well-heeled dictator who runs Saudi Arabia, even though that same dictator has been using previously delivered Canadian LAVs to help the dictator of Bahrain suppress public demands for democracy in that country.

Now the dictator of Saudi Arabia would like to buy even more LAVs.

(Wondering why it is listed as a U.S. sale? As in previous sales to Saudi Arabia, Canada will export the LAVs to the U.S., which will then export them to the Saudis. Our principled government doesn’t think such sales are worth reporting to Canadians, so if it weren’t for U.S. government reporting, chances are we would never even hear about them.)

Canada has made billions of dollars selling LAVs to the Saudis. If Prime Minister Harper is truly confused as to why previous governments have considered pleasing dictators to be in the “national interest” he might consider that those dictators have often been backed by some of Canada’s closest allies for their own reasons of “national interest”. Or perhaps he should just consider the cash.

But surely he knows all this.

What’s more confusing is why he should think any of us would believe his government’s policies toward “dictators” are any more “principled” than any previous government’s.

Tags: Arms trade, Bahrain, Canadian foreign policy, Light Armoured Vehicles, Misc..., Prime Minister Principles, Saudi Arabia, Stephen Harper