This week Harper's foreign affairs minister, John Baird, announced plans to share embassy/consulate space and resources with Britain in what is being described as a cost cutting arrangement. According to a Globe and Mail article this will include "... not just sharing real estate, but working together in other areas – representing civilians abroad, providing passports and visas, and dealing with emergencies such as revolutions, disasters and evacuations."
To describe this as a mere pragmatic measure overlooks the bizarro regressive vision that drives Harper's rendezvous with history. There is unmistakable symbolism associated with this move. There is also the matter of perception. Countries with a troubled history of colonial rule might understandably take the view that the embassy arrangement links Canada with the old colonial power in ways that go well beyond consular affairs.
The recent news follows on earlier instances of Harper's creeping Anglophilia, for example the directive to give portraits of the Queen more prominence in Canadian embassies. There is also the resurrection of the British connection in the Canadian military, adding "royal" to the names of the navy and air force - a redundant piece of 'nostalgia symbolism' if ever there was one. Canada's British heritage isn't one that is uniformly celebrated by all Canadians. Citizens of First Nation, French and other ethnic backgrounds with little affection for the old colonial overlord are more likely to view Harper's 'upgrades' as an insult.
In other ways Harper's quaint retro-vision is badly off-base. British royalty - aristocracy of any sort - is an anachronism these days for obvious reasons. It reflects values that run counter to our more inclusive, egalitarian societies.
In going over the top with his attachments to Britain, and for that matter Israel, Harper doesn't signal strength so much as insecurity. He seems to feel the need of extramural identity add-ons for a Canada he has long had issues with. Much of the Trudeau legacy he views with contempt. At one time he was all for putting a firewall around Alberta. There was also the very odd "Harperization" of government communications. Documents obtained under the Access of Information Act indicate bureaucrats were instructed to replace 'Government of Canada' with 'Harper Government' in departmental news releases.
If Harper could change the flag to a Union Jack with a small maple leaf in the corner as a polite afterthought, he would probably be right onto it.