Prime Minister Stephen Harper was in New York City Thursday night to receive an impressively named award — the World Statesman of the Year — bestowed by a U.S.-based inter-faith group.
In a speech salted with reminders about Canada's partnership with the United States and other "like-minded" nations, Harper told a black-tie crowd he was accepting the honour not for his own qualities, but "on behalf of the unique and magnificent country I have the privilege of leading."
But while Harper was being honoured in the U.S., he was facing criticism at home. Opposition politicians say if Harper truly was a statesman, he'd make time during his trip to New York to speak at the United Nations.
World leaders have been addressing the UN General Assembly this week. Everyone from U.S. President Barack Obama to Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has taken the podium to address the world. But when Canada’s turn to speak comes up, Harper won’t be there.
The job of representing Canada will fall to Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird.
The prime minister has only spoken to the General Assembly twice since taking office in 2006. To the opposition, it’s a clear sign the prime minister simply doesn’t like the UN.
"He’s going to New York to receive an award. That's nice. I'm happy for him," said NDP foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar.
"But his responsibility as a prime minister — one of his responsibilities — is to go to the UN to explain what our foreign policy is. Particularly now. We have no shortage of issues to deal with."