Stephen Harper will soon join an exclusive club of statesmen and respected world leaders, even as pressure grows over a Senate expense scandal that is currently dominating headlines.
On Wednesday, Harper tweeted that he has been invited to address the British Parliament in June.
“I am honoured to have been invited to deliver an address to the British Parliament on June 13,” he wrote.
The honour has been called one of the highest that British lawmakers can bestow.
Heritage Minister James Moore announced the news in question period on Wednesday and suggested the invitation is further proof of a “broad and deep” relationship between Canada and the United Kingdom.
“For the first time since Prime Minister Mackenzie King had the privilege in 1942, our prime minister will be speaking to both Houses of the U.K. Parliament to advance Canada's interests in Europe and work together with the U.K. on our prosperity and security together,” he said.
According to the U.K. Parliament, only 48 foreign leaders or dignitaries have addressed the Parliament since 1939, including Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, Ronald Reagan, Mikhail Gorbachev, Pope Benedict XVI and the Dalia Lama.
The Harper government has shown unflinching support of the British monarchy and sought to strengthen relations with the United Kingdom, particularly since the government of Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron came to power in 2010.
Barely a year later, Cameron was given the opportunity to address the Canadian Parliament.
“We are two nations, but under one Queen and united by one set of values,” Cameron told Canadian parliamentarians. “Let us fear no foe as we work together for a safer, better world.”
The invitation probably couldn’t have come at a better time for Harper, who is in Peru this week for trade talks.
Conservatives are described as being in a “very dark period” thanks to a number of different scandals, gaffes and errors in recent weeks. Harper may hope that being the first Canadian to address the U.K. Parliament in 70 years may help him change the channel.
King, Canada’s longest-serving prime minister, spoke in the Palace of Westminster’s Royal Gallery on May 11, 1944 – just four weeks before D-Day.
In his diary, King said that when he finished speaking the “applause lasted for a considerable time.”
Harper is likely hoping history can repeat itself.
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