Saturday, December 22, 2007

Harper: Economic Slowdown Likely

The entire article is at Globe and Mail.

On Afghanistan it seems that Harper is not well briefed. Karzai is clearly and unequivocally interested in negotiating with the Taliban even to the point of offering them positions in the government. Here are two passages from this site.
If a group of Taliban or a number of Taliban come to me and say, 'President, we want a department in this or in that ministry or we want a position as deputy minister ... and we don't want to fight anymore,' ... If there will be a demand and a request like that to me, I will accept it because I want conflicts and fighting to end in Afghanistan," Karzai said.
and then also:
KABUL, Afghanistan - Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai on Saturday offered to meet with the Taliban leader and give militants a government position only hours after a suicide bomber in army disguise attacked a military bus, killing 30 people - nearly all of them Afghan soldiers.

Strengthening a call for negotiations he has made with increasing frequency in recent weeks, Karzai said he was willing to meet with the reclusive leader Mullah Omar and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a former prime minister and factional warlord leader.
"If I find their address, there is no need for them to come to me, I'll personally go there and get in touch with them," Karzai said. "Esteemed Mullah, sir, and esteemed Hekmatyar, sir, why are you destroying the country?"

"I wish there would be a demand as easy as this. I wish that they would want a position in the government. I will give them a position," he said.

The US Embassy in Kabul has said it does not support negotiations with Taliban fighters, labeling them as terrorists,

So Mr. Harper there seems to be a clear difference between you and Karzai and I expect Brown as well. You are with your US buddies on the issues. Karzai's position is clear and unequivocal and not what you say it is.

Economic slowdown likely, PM says

Globe and Mail Update

December 20, 2007 at 5:00 PM EST

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Stephen Harper is warning Canadians to brace themselves for a possible economic slowdown in 2008 that will restrict government spending and limit tax cuts.

In an interview with the Globe and Mail earlier this week, the Prime Minister moved to dampen any expectations of big spending on the horizon as he and the cabinet hammer out the contents of the upcoming spring budget.

"Although the fundamentals of the Canadian economy are strong, although we have taken our budget actions very early this year to position ourselves, the fact of the matter is Canada — as an open trading economy — cannot be immune from the growing uncertainty we see in the U.S. economy and the global economy," Mr. Harper said in the year-end conversation.

"There's likely to be a more challenging economic year ahead."


• The Prime Minister responded for the first time to a report his government commissioned to examine polling practices under the previous Liberal regime. Though the Liberals originally decried the appointment of former Parti Québécois cabinet minister Daniel Paille to lead the probe as a "witch hunt," Mr. Paille's report concluded the Tories are actually spending more on polls — averaging two per working day.

"It shows we're doing a massive amount of polling, far more than we should be doing," Mr. Harper told the CBC. "We're going to take some steps to reduce that."

• On the Nuclear Safety Commission, the Prime Minister said the regulator showed "appalling judgment" in shutting down the Chalk River reactor for failing to follow orders.

"I don't believe the actions of Nuclear [Safety] Commission were motivated by partisan considerations," he told the CBC. "I do believe the course of action contemplated was extremely ill-advised; an appalling use of authority and judgment and one that the government had to deal with."

• On the controversy over former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney's financial cash payments from Karlheinz Schreiber, Mr. Harper said it would be inappropriate for him to comment and will wait for the advice of University of Waterloo President David Johnston on the terms of reference for a public inquiry.

However, the Prime Minister hinted in several interviews that he would be open to a recommendation against a public inquiry.

• On Afghanistan, The Prime Minister rejected a Radio-Canada reporter's question as to whether he will simply extend the mission again in 2010.

"No," he replied. "For the population and for the government and for the Canadian Forces, there has to be limits to our participation."

He also commented on recent remarks by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, which Mr. Harper said were falsely characterized as calling for peace negotiations with the Taliban.

"It seems to me what Gordon Brown has said, what this government has said, what the American government, what the Afghan government has said are all the same, which is the ideal solution here is for all elements in Afghanistan to lay down their arms and to participate in a constitutional, democratic, political process," Mr. Harper told the CBC. "And [Afghan] President Karzai has from time to time made efforts and had some success in converting ground level commanders or ground level officials to the cause, as has Canada in Kandahar. It's not a general rule. But I think that's a big difference between negotiating with the Taliban as an intact insurgency versus trying to convert some or all of the Taliban to the political process."

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