Our Embassy in the North

Canada’s ruling (and somewhat disgraced) Liberal Party is facing a special election to determine whether it will keep its control of the government or not. It’s a very testy time in Canada, and not the sort of moment for an American Ambassador to wade into another country’s domestic politics.

But that, of course, is exactly what the Bush administration’s man in Ottawa, David Wilkins, has done, calling out Canada’s incumbent Prime Minister, Paul Martin, for criticizing U.S. policies, and suggesting that the U.S. won’t remain a punching bag for much longer. (Martin has not held his tongue on Iraq or, perhaps more seriously, the long-going softwood lumber controversy.) Josh Marshall and Matt Yglesias have more, with both making the point that, since the Bush administration is so despised around the world, this could paradoxically end up helping out the Liberal incumbents.

While that dust-up has gotten a good deal of attention on the other side of the border, and a smattering of play down here, there an admittedly smaller indication that our embassy has forgotten that diplomatic is synonymous with delicate, judicious, polite, politque, etcetera. Curt Stone, the U.S.’s environmental counselor in Canada, has also managed to write off Canadian opposition to U.S. drilling in ANWR as electorally motivated by asking “Is it Really About the Caribou?”—and making it pretty clear that he thinks it is not. The left-leaning Toronto Star wrote up the controversy last month:

“I am surprised a diplomat would do this,” said [Canadian] Environment Minister Stephane Dion. “It is not according to the rules.

“I am surprised a diplomat would express such cynicism.”

Ottawa has long opposed oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska because of its feared effects on migrating caribou on which Canadian Gwitchin First Nations depend for food and clothing.

A bilateral agreement to protect the caribou was signed in 1987. The Canadian position has remained unchanged.

It seems that Stone stopped blogging after Thanksgiving, but not before attacking the Kyoto Protocol and other climate change measures. Of course the U.S. Embassy claims that Stone’s writings only represent himself. But isn’t that a rather flimsy cover? He’s a diplomat, for chrissakes—by definition he represents the entire United States.