Jean @ the UN

Jean Chrétien addressed the UN early today. All the news coverage I’d seen leading up to it in the Canadian news suggested that this was to be a response, or a continuation of Dubya’s speech of last week, and as such the topic would be all about Iraq (perhaps calls for more evidence, perhaps suport for the US, etc). Indeed, there was an advert for an upcoming (perhaps now passed) Global News ‘Special’, which would examine whether the US could still ‘count on’ Canada as an ally, and mentioned the upcoming UN address.

Instead, the PM was addressing the UN at a special session of the UN General Assembly to discuss Africa, and specifically, NEPAD (New Partnership for African Development) (terrible acroynym, fairly interesting idea, based, apparently, on the Marshall Plan (if you don’t know what that is, go back to high school and take History 10 or 11 over again)). In an interview on CBC, Chrétien had said

“I do think that the Western world is getting too rich in relations to the poor world,” he said in the CBC interview. “And necessarily, we’re looked upon as being arrogant, self-satisfied, greedy and with no limits. And the 11th of September is an occasion for me to realize it even more.”

This is the statement that got Stephen Harper in such a tizzy, but is one of those rare gems that leave Chrétien’s mouth every once and a while that make me think he means well, despite his actions. At the speech, he re-iterated his point:

“We have seen right here in New York the tragic consequences that can result from failed states in far away places,” Mr. Chrétien said. “Simply put, we can’t afford not to address these issues. This is the time to act.”

This public call for massive political change is suddenly the modus operandi of our PM. While you should quite rightly criticize NEPAD for any lack of concrete figures, I would not be at all surprised to hear Chrétien announce some sort of new initiative in the next few weeks here in Canada. Beyond just being ‘green’, I suspect that Chrétien’s intended legacy is to be seen as a consumate globalist. Not a corporate globalist whose interests lie in finding benefits for Canadian industry, but one who on paper looks like he is trying to find ‘a better way’: protecting vast swaths of the Canadian Wilderness, Signing on to Kyoto, Aid/equality for developing Nations, resisting the warmongering of our southern neighbours as much as possible (he will of course eventually side with the US. Voicing opposition and doubt is enough of a stretch at this point). What’s next? Perhaps some propsed change to GATT at an upcoming meeting? Perhaps, in light of the Romanow report, massive changes to our healthcare, but keeping, or extending the socialist aspects of it? I’m beginning to think so.

All of his actions are of course far more watered down than I would like to see. Chrétien has long been a consummate politician and centrist. These few moves away from the center are small, baby steps, but they’re good to see all the same.