Wednesday, January 12, 2011

I wonder if Bob Rae paid $250 for his visitor's visa

So the opposition MP (and subject of the most underwhelming celebrity spotting of my life, to date – my friend did not even look up from her ice cream when I said "there's Bob Rae!" in Toronto's Eaton Centre some time in the early 2000s) stopped in the UAE for meetings about this whole sorry situation – which seems to have been greatly exacerbated by Prime Minister Stephen Harper's comments last week of the "give me a break" variety. (This is where the vast cultural divide comes in folks. That sort of comment, like water off a duck's back in the Western world, would resonate deep and wide over here where the concept of losing face is very serious).

Mr Rae added some fuel to the dispute, domestically, by writing about it on his blog. He has a lot of good things to say, namely that the two countries need to start talking again, "this time without a megaphone". Accusations that by making the trip he was disloyal, he said, "are patently ridiculous".

One thing Mr Rae's trip did accomplish was to clear a bit of the radio silence on the issue from the UAE side, although what he claims "they" said is quite troubling:

I wanted to hear the views of the UAE first hand, so made a point of stopping in Dubai during a personal visit to the Middle East.  My first sense is that they are genuinely baffled by their experience of the last while – no meetings of substance with Ministers, promises that “better offers” are coming on the landing rights issue, and a final “take it or leave it” proposition that was worse than the status quo, a sense that Canadian Ministers had no real authority to discuss anything, and the one Minister who was said to be “carrying the file” refusing any face to face discussions.

1 comment:

rosh said...

He is spot on, with the points below - very unwise (and so unlike the UAE I know)

"It left the UAE open to the argument that it was confusing a commercial dispute with the broader effort to fight violent extremism, something in their interest as much as Canada’s. It also deprived them of any future leverage for their longer term project, expanding landing rights for both Emirates and Etihad Airlines, currently operating at three flights a week each between the UAE and Toronto"

Hope this settles well, and soon.

And you are absolutely correct Anne - losing face is very serious issue in the ME world. It gets personal.

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