In my recent travels and discussions with seasoned foreign policy experts and politicians in the U.S. and Europe, I haven't met one who took Canada seriously anymore, expect as a posturer, a poseur, a political game player. And these are people who remember a different kind of Canada, and a better approach to diplomacy and politics.
Nobody does trade with North Korea. No political leader anywhere in the world, even China, takes the successive Kims seriously. The only reason people give in to North Korea's insistence on not taking "no" for an answer is because they have actual weapons of mass destruction.
But Kim Jong-Un himself is a joke, a cartoon villain parodied by media all over the world. And because of his tight control of information, that's the end of the story. The millions who suffer daily in North Korea under his information-starved, authoritarian rule are pretty much ignored. But hey, inside their borders, they know it doesn't matter what the rest of the world thinks, anyway - their leader has told them as much.
I know there are people who like Stephen Harper's approach to unions, "special interest groups" and Opposition Parties; he's the boss, they're the problem, good for him for putting those who would undermine our country in their place through whatever means necessary. There are equally those who relish the soundbites they get of their PM, talking tough to Barack Obama or sternly reproaching European leaders for their economic policies. Take that, former colonial powers!
Alas, those aren't the people who decide whether to sign trade deals with Canada, whether to relocated businesses to Canada or to listen to Canada on issues ranging from security to poverty reduction.
Schoolyard politics makes for good fundraising letter fodder, but poor international relations. People don't trust Harper; a man so willing to put his partisan interests first that he'll snub his own country for the benefit of an ally can't be counted on to act responsible in trade negotiations.
There was a time when Canada knew what it stood for and the world knew why we mattered. Canada's best destiny was and still is as the adult on the world stage, always reliable and always trusted to build bridges and find solutions.
We can lead again - but not until the petulant approach to foreign policy favoured by Harper is discarded.
Until then, we're not punching above our weight - instead, we've become the punchline.