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Rae calls Harper’s snub of Olympics a ‘missed opportunity’

Liberal MP Bob Rae attacked Stephen Harper’s decision to snub this year's summer* Olympics during a campaign stop in Vancouver last night.

“He is a prime minister who has failed to maintain his relationship with the people and the government of China in failing to go the Olympic Games,” the former NDP premier of Ontario told around 1,000 Liberal supporters at a fundraiser for Vancouver-East candidate Ken Low.

Clusters of red balloons filled a corner of the Floata Seafood Restaurant and the evening’s activities were preceded by a rousing rendition of ‘Oh Canada.’

But Rae and Low were clearly trying to filter their national message to what was largely a Chinese audience. The two strode into the room on the heels of colourful dragon dancers as loud Chinese percussion boomed and clashed.

And Rae’s message was clear:

“In failing to deal courteously and diplomatically with the government of China, (Harper) has let our own people down.”

Speaking to reporters after he descended the stage, Rae said that the Prime Minister missed an opportunity to engage with a rising power that wields increasing influence on political, economic and environmental issues.

He added that China and India are set to become world leaders in upcoming decades because of their huge economies and massive populations.

“They’re going to be enormously important players,” he said.

But when not taking stabs at Harper’s foreign policy, Rae downplayed any criticism that his current cross-country campaign tour would overshadow the efforts of Liberal leader Stephane Dion. He said that his presence on the national circuit was meant to bolster support for the federal grits, not draw attention to himself.

“Running a government is not a one man team,” he said. “It’s an orchestra – you need lots of people.”

*Corrected at 7 p.m., Sept. 21, 2008

Geoff Dembicki is a staff reporter for The Hook

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