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The Hamilton Spectator
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Saturday July 11, 2009
Stephen Harper's visit with Pope Benedict XVI could have capped a triumphant diplomatic and political foreign excursion - if not for his disastrous partisan attack on rival Michael Ignatieff, a political analyst said Sunday.

Canada's prime minister won praise from musician-activist Bob Geldof at the conclusion of the G8 summit in central Italy after Harper vowed that Canada, as host of the 2010 summit, will press countries such as Italy to stop breaking their promises on development assistance.

``To have Bob Geldof endorsing a Conservative prime minister - it doesn't get any better than that,'' said Fen Hampson of Carleton University's Norman Patterson School of International Affairs.

Harper, by focusing on the world hunger crisis, could also have given Canadians a refreshingly different perspective on Canada's foreign policy - long viewed as being entirely focused on the bloody Afghanistan war.

But all that was largely buried in the media furor after Harper questioned Ignatieff's patriotism for allegedly suggesting Canada shouldn't be in a beefed- up G8. Harper then quickly apologized after realizing the allegation, provided by an aide, was baseless.

``He missed an opportunity to rise above the political fray and be a statesman,'' Hampson said. ``Even though he said and did some great things in the summit, they were completely lost.''

Harper tried to get back on track Saturday with a meeting at the Vatican with the Pope.

Harper - an evangelical Protestant whose 2006 election breakthrough has been linked to his success in winning over traditionally Liberal-voting, church- going Catholics - discussed world affairs with the Holy Father. Continued....

Harper's smooth G8 performance scuttled by gaffe
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