Whooee! Well, friends an' foes, Pryminister Harper is off to Haiti today. The official announcements say he's going there to assess the relief effort. Over at Steve V's Far and Wide, there's a lot of skepticism and at least one commenter who says Harper's visit will bolster troop morale.
Surprise visits to troops deployed in faraway locales is a trademark of tinpot heroes like Dick Cheney. I wonder where Harper got the idea he could bolster the troops -- and maybe his sagging poll numbers -- by paying a surprise visit?
Two years ago, Haitians were rioting for food and eating dirt patties to fill their empty bellies.
The food shortage was spurred by high commodities prices which the World Bank attributed mainly to biofuels. Canada was riding high on a crest of grain prices and federal and provincial "environmental" policies mandated 5% - 10% ethanol content for motor fuel. Harper and McGuinty denied the effect of their policies on world markets while thousands starved.
Today, the situation is compounded by the quake. Desperate reports from those on the ground are revealing a situation where food and water are stockpiled and people are starving.
They don't need Stephen Harper or Angelina Jolie or John Travolta scrambling for self-serving photo-ops. Harper can manage things just as well from Ottawa or Vancouver. If the troops need bolstering, he can do it via video link.
What are Harper's qualifications regarding the delivery of disaster relief? Do his medical qualifications go beyond his expertise in nuclear medicine? Where was he when they were eating dirt?
Haiti is headed for more grief. Their planting season begins in March and by all accounts, they need seeds, fertilizer, agricultural equipment and expertise to avert yet another round of starvation and desperation. Yet, little of this type of aid is reaching Haiti.
The first reports of Harper's trip said he would be sleeping inside the Canadian embassy and reporters should be prepared to sleep in tents outside the building. After a bit of negative reaction to the photo op started cropping up, the PMO quickly came out with new details. Harper will be flying in on an aid transport plane (read: white horse) and sleeping aboard a Canadian battleship anchored offshore.
Just how high does Haiti really rank in Harper's priorities? We have more troops serving as security detail for the Olympics than we have serving in Afghanistan. We have more than twice as many in Afghanistan as we have in Haiti.
If only our pandering news media would simply refuse to send anyone to cover this obvious play for approval. If only...
(Most of this post was originally written as a comment at Far and Wide.)