Canada intertwined itself ever more deeply in the reconstruction of Haiti as Prime Minister Stephen Harper began a two-day visit to the country on Monday, announcing cash to build a temporary headquarters for the Haitian government.
With the visit, Harper sought to become the most visible foreign presence in the earthquake-shattered country, landing here before the leaders of Haiti's other big donors, including the United States, France and Brazil.
After a meeting with Haitian President René Préval, Harper said even though Canada, with a record deficit, is facing budget challenges, "we can have priorities, and Haiti is a priority."
The strategy, though it has garnered Harper praise both at home and abroad, carries risks. It's inevitably tied to a Haitian government that has historically been both inept and corrupt.
The Canadian government will spend up to $12 million to build and support a temporary administrative base for the Haitian government for up to a year, Harper said.
In addition to $85 million in immediate aid from Ottawa, Canadians have donated $154 million to the relief effort, $128 million of which will be matched by the federal government. Canada is the second biggest donor to Haiti overall, and "by far" the biggest per capita, according to federal officials.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy plans a brief visit on Wednesday, while Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva will arrive Feb. 25.
Harper, who first visited Haiti in 2007, returns to Canada Tuesday evening. Source...