An online dictionary defines the word diplomat as a person who can deal with people in a sensitive and effective way.
The definition hardly describes John McCallum, the former federal cabinet minister and now former ambassador to China, which begs the question, why did he get the job in the first place?
During his many years as a cabinet member, McCallum didn’t really distinguish himself in any of the portfolios he held; in fact, in 2017, Trudeau removed him from the cabinet and shortly afterward, shuffled him off to China as Canada’s ambassador.
It’s no secret that the Canadian government places a high priority on building a strong economic relationship with the Chinese government while being cognizant of the questionable human rights and trade practices of that government.
But, with little to no knowledge or experience of that culture, was McCallum qualified to handle such a delicate posting?
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His performance in the last few weeks suggests not.
A diplomat’s role is to echo and defend his or her government’s policies (another dictionary definition is “an official representing a country abroad”) and beyond that, leave the decision-making to the decision makers.
It stretches credulity to think that McCallum didn’t understand that, which suggests that he thought it more important to freelance his own opinions, which has resulted in throwing gasoline onto an already fiery diplomatic problem.