Harper uses Haiti speech to note his mil­i­tary spending has made a dif­fer­ence


LEOGANE, Haiti — Dur­ing a tour of Haitian dis­as­ter zones, Prime Min­is­ter Stephen Harper touted his gov­ern­ment’s mil­i­tary pur­chases and cited cur­rent re­lief ef­forts as ev­i­dence his ap­proach worked.

The prime min­is­ter used an ad­dress to sol­diers in the town of Leogane, vast swaths of which were re­duced to rub­ble a month ago, to stress his re­fur­bish­ment of the mil­i­tary.

He sin­gled out the pur­chase of C-17 trans­port planes for par­tic­u­lar praise, say­ing those new ve­hi­cles helped fly troops and sup­plies to Haiti al­most im­me­di­ately.

Harper de­liv­ered that speech af­ter tour­ing the ru­ins of a col­lapsed school that was about to be de­mol­ished Tues­day. No­body in the build­ing died in the quake, which is be­lieved to have killed 200,000 peo­ple.

“ The en­tire planet has been able to wit­ness that Canada is now a ma­jor ac­tor when it’s time to in­ter­vene in nat­u­ral dis­as­ters,” Harper said in Tues­day’s speech.

“Every­one saw that Canada has the equip­ment, the know-how, the ca­pac­ity, and the per­son­nel to in­ter­vene quickly and ef­fi­ciently.

“And Canada now has a con­sid­er­able ad­van­tage — a fleet of C-17s. Thanks to this multi-pur­pose air­plane, Canada no longer has to hitch-hike its way to for­eign de­ploy­ments.”

He went on to ad­dress his crit­ics, say­ing some of them had ar­gued against pur­chas­ing those cargo planes as in­con­sis­tent with Canada’s “soft-power needs.” Harper said, how­ever, that his gov­ern­ment bought them “for the hard­power re­quire­ments of to­day’s world.”

Mil­i­tary an­a­lysts agreed the new C17s played a key role in the speedy Haiti de­ploy­ment. But one in­ter­viewed by The Canadi

an Press de­scribed most of the Harper gov­ern­ment’s so-called “ hard-power” pur­chases — like tanks for Afghanistan — as ir­rel­e­vant to a mis­sion like Haiti. At least one other pur­chase nixed by Harper’s gov­ern­ment, a sup­ply ship, could have been es­pe­cially use­ful to those aid ef­forts.

Harper got a close glimpse of that hu­man­i­tar­ian work by Cana­dian sol­diers and civil­ians Tues­day at the end of his two-day visit to Haiti.

Af­ter wak­ing up on a Navy ship, Harper toured the an­ces­tral home­town of Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean. The colour­ful colo­nial port of Jacmel was se­verely dam­aged by Haiti’s earth­quake.

Harper strolled from one med­i­cal tent to an­other, joked with sol­diers, and chat­ted with pa­tients in the mil­i­tary clinic where Cana­dian Forces medics were work­ing.

He ex­changed a few words with a male pa­tient, and posed for pic­tures with two lit­tle girls be­ing treated at the makeshift clinic.

He also sipped wa­ter at a pu­rifi­ca­tion fa­cil­ity set up by the Cana­dian Forces.

But, Harper joked, there were some things he wouldn’t be try­ing dur­ing his visit. When he passed by the area where sol­diers were build­ing la­trines, the prime min­is­ter quipped: “I don’t think I’m go­ing to do the test run.”

The Cana­dian Forces and civil­ian vol­un­teers have han­dled much of the med­i­cal care in parts of south­ern Haiti since last month’s earth­quake.

The neigh­bour­hood by Jacmel’s port was trans­formed into heaps of rub­ble by the Jan. 12 temor.

It was in this port’s mil­i­tary clinic that a Haitian baby girl was re­cently de­liv­ered, and named Monique-Lu­cie by her par­ents af­ter the two Cana­dian medics who as­sisted in her birth.

Harper chat­ted with Maj. An­nie Bouchard, the mil­i­tary doc­tor who su­per­vised that de­liv­ery and who has overseen the other med­i­cal ser­vices be­ing pro­vided in tents by the shore.

Af­ter his stop in Jacmel, the prime min­is­ter vis­ited Leogane where he de­liv­ered his one ma­jor speech of the trip.

Harper be­gan his trip by an­nounc­ing that Canada would spend $12 mil­lion to build a tem­po­rary home for Haiti’s na­tional gov­ern­ment. Many pub­lic build­ings in the cap­i­tal were de­stroyed, bring­ing Haiti’s gov­ern­ment to the verge of col­lapse.

Harper wit­nessed the dev­as­ta­tion dur­ing a he­li­copter ride over Port-auPrince, where he hov­ered over the smashed pres­i­den­tial palace and sur­round­ing gov­ern­ment build­ings now in ru­ins.

He was set to re­turn to Ottawa on Tues­day.

In his Leogane speech, Harper told his au­di­ence that Canada’s sol­diers, civil­ian work­ers, diplo­mats and politi­cians might all have signed up to serve their coun­try, but they never en­vi­sioned scenes like the ones in Haiti.

“I think we all have some­thing in com­mon to­day,” Harper said.

“ When we chose a ca­reer in pub­lic ser­vice, in ser­vice of our coun­try, none of us ex­pected to see such a cat­a­strophic scene.

“I know a lot of you have been to Afghanistan. Some of you have been in the Balkans. Some of you have been to places where, for most peo­ple, mere sur­vival is the high­est hu­man as­pi­ra­tion.”

The Cana­dian Press

Prime Min­is­ter Stephen Harper talks with a Haitian man re­ceiv­ing treat­ment at a Cana­dian med­i­cal clinic in Jacmel, Haiti, Tues­day.

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