Harper's 'toothpaste' remark shows Egypt stumble: MPs
CTV.ca News Staff
Published Sunday, February 13, 2011 8:21PM EST
Prime Minister Stephen Harper's analogy on Hosni Mubarak's resignation -- that Egyptians are "not going to put the toothpaste back in the tube" -- showed the government is out of touch on foreign affairs, opposition MPs said Sunday.
Mubarak stepped down Friday after three weeks of protests on the streets of Egypt, and world leaders hailed Egyptians for effecting change in their country.
Speaking in St. John's, N.L., moments before Mubarak's resignation was confirmed, Harper told reporters that "transition is taking place in Egypt."
"I think the old expression is: ‘They're not going to put the toothpaste back in the tube on this one,'" he said.
NDP foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar said Sunday that the toothpaste comment "was so tone deaf and out of touch with what was going on."
"I think it's indicative of how this government treats foreign affairs," Dewar told CTV's Question Period. "Most importantly, on this file, we just had the parliamentary secretary talk about the importance of democracy. We had democracy happening on the streets and overthrowing repressive government, and this government talks about toothpaste and doesn't talk about the people of Egypt in its statement."
Prior to Dewar's criticism, Conservative MP Deepak Obhrai, parliamentary secretary to the foreign affairs minister, denied suggestions that the federal government was reluctant to publicly celebrate the events in Egypt and said the cornerstone of its foreign policy is "promoting democracy, rule of law and human rights around the world."
"We made it very clear that it's the Egyptian people who would make the decision, and Mr. Mubarak was forced to make the decision on the basis of what happened on the street," Obhrai told Question Period. "This is exactly what should have happened. The people of Egypt spoke, and the changes took place."
When asked what role Canada hopes to play in Egypt as it begins its baby steps toward democratic reforms, Obhrai said the federal government will "assist the Egyptians in whatever capacity they demand in the promotion of democracy."
The opposition charges the government will have little, if any, role to play in helping Egypt's transition from under 30 years of autocratic rule. Liberal MP and foreign affairs critic Bob Rae said the government "really kind of missed the boat" and failed to engage in what could have been a significant foreign policy initiative.
"I think that it's clear to me after watching this government for several years now as foreign affairs critic that this government doesn't really get foreign policy," Rae told Question Period.
"They really only see it as a place in which to practice domestic politics. Whether that works for them or not, I don't know. I can only tell you that as far as the world is concerned I think we're punching well, well, well below our weight, well below our capacity, and well below our traditional strength as a country."