You could see just that hint of the smile Stephen Harper reserves for questions he doesn't agree with, as he waited out one such query during a media session this week with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Why, the reporter wondered, would Harper not attend the opening of the UN General Assembly as other Canadian prime ministers have done?
The smile disappeared as Harper dispatched the question. What he said can be summed up something like this: other prime ministers didn't attend regularly, and he has better things to do while in New York this week to promote Canada's economic agenda and his own foreign policy priorities.
What are those things?
On Wednesday, the prime minister attended a panel discussion on the UN's maternal and child health initiative, which he co-chairs. It's now a $20-billion fund, and, more importantly for the prime minister, it's had a demonstrable impact on reducing the death rate among mothers, newborns and children in the developing world.
He plans to follow that up on Thursday by chatting with a well-heeled gathering of the Canadian American Business Council. That has become a regular gig for this prime minister, taking questions about his government's economic record, pushing his own prescription of how the world must continue to eschew protectionism and tax increases.
He leaves debating the wisdom of not attending the UN's annual opening to others who, it just so happens, are more than happy to oblige.
In fact, questioning Harper's views of the UN is becoming as much a regular event as the prime minister's streak of missing its annual opening session, even though he's been in New York at the same time for the last two years.
Academics, retired diplomats and the opposition parties insist he's making a huge mistake by, at best, ignoring the UN, or at worst, denigrating its role and importance in a world increasingly fractured by civil war, terrorism and inequality.
Carolyn McAskie is part of a group of very accomplished foreign policy experts who released a booklet this week entitled "The United Nations and Canada: What Canada has done and should be doing at the United Nations.''
A former assistant secretary-general for peacekeeping at the UN from 2006-2008 and career diplomat, McAskie insists the Harper government misrepresents what the UN does.
"If there are problems, and there are always problems, then we as a member state have a responsibility to fix it, '' she said at a news conference.
"We walk out of meetings because North Korea is in the chair. The reason you go to these meetings is so that you can engage all 193 states.
"You go, you play the game. If you're not at the table, you don't have a voice.''
Others who contributed to the booklet accused Harper of pouting ever since Canada failed to win one of the rotating seats on the Security Council in 2010; of contributing just 56 of the 83,000 UN peacekeepers deployed around the world; and of being a laggard in paying Canada's fees to UN agencies.
This country, they say, is losing influence where it counts the most.
''Canada couldn't get elected dogcatcher at the United Nations today,'' said Ian Smillie, an academic, author and former aid worker, and another contributor to the booklet.
It all adds up to some pretty damning stuff. Except for one thing.
Harper is unmoved, and generally uninterested in what the critics have to say about his approach to the UN.
John Baird, once again, will represent Canada before the General Assembly, where he is scheduled to speak first thing Monday morning.
It's not an ideal slot, coming several days into the session. And nearly a week after U.S. President Barack Obama served his own notice — that the UN's credibility is at stake if it refuses to hold Syria accountable for using chemical weapons.
"If we cannot agree even on this," the president said in his speech, "then it will show the United Nations is incapable of enforcing the most basic of international laws."
Harper maintains a similarly dim view of the UN's effectiveness. The only real difference is that he doesn't bother to lecture the world from inside the assembly hall.
For the record, the prime minister has gone twice. His maternal health initiative is partnered with the UN's World Health Organization. On Wednesday, Baird acted as co-host for a new UN program to end the practice of child and forced marriages.
Plus, Harper will still rub shoulders with like-minded world leaders in New York.
But when it comes right down to it, Harper clearly prefers Bill and Melinda Gates (whose foundation is a key contributor to Harper's initiative to improve the health of women and children in the developing world) and North America's business elites to the leaders of countries that don't share his democratic values.
In other words, his disinterest in speaking to the General Assembly is deliberate.
Conservatives are irritated by the UN's bloated bureaucracy, its perceived bias against Israel and willingness, for example, to allow states such as North Korea, Cuba and Iran membership on the UN Human Rights Council.
Harper believes other multilateral agencies accomplish far more, and provide Canada with a much greater influence over world affairs.
He sees the G8 group of leading Western industrialized nations plus Russia as the right forum for dealing with issues of global security and peace. (His maternal and child health initiative came out of the 2010 G8 summit in Huntsville, where the prime minister committed $1.1 billion to the cause.)
He considers the G20, which includes the emerging economic powers such as India, Brazil, China and South Africa, as the world's pre-eminent economic forum, and looks at Canada's participation in other multilateral gatherings, specifically the Francophonie and Commonwealth, as historic alliances to be tolerated if not respected.
So don't expect Harper to change his approach to the United Nations.
It's simply not on his list of places where things get done.
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You Eat Half, And I'll Eat Half
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Prime Minister Stephen Harper waves after going for an ATV ride as he visits a farm for a campaign event in Wainfleet Ont., on Monday, April 4, 2011.
Nom Nom Nom
Prime Minister Stephen Harper eats maple taffy as he visits a sugar shack in Norbertville, Quebec on Tuesday, April 5, 2011.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper gives his wife Laureen a kiss following a day of G-20 meetings in Toronto. June 27, 2010. Source: <a href="http://www.pm.gc.ca/eng/media_gallery.asp?media_category_id=938&media_category_typ_id=6#cont" target="_blank">Pm.gc.ca</a>
Can I Keep Them?
Prime Minister Stephen Harper plays with foster kittens at 24 Sussex. May 1, 2010. Source: <a href="http://www.pm.gc.ca/eng/media_gallery.asp?media_category_id=900&media_category_typ_id=6&media_id=5512" target="_blank">Pm.gc.ca</a>
Conservative Leader Stephen Harper throws a small snowball at photographers after talking with reporters at a campaign stop in Guelph, Ontario Saturday, Jan. 21, 2006.
Thank God You're Not Wearing Overalls
Prime Minister Stephen Harper gives Taylor Swift the book "Maple Leaf Forever" before her concert at Scotiabank Place in Ottawa. May 20, 2010. Source: <a href="http://www.pm.gc.ca/eng/media_gallery.asp?media_category_id=900&media_category_typ_id=6&media_id=5512" target="_blank">Pm.gc.ca</a>
Stephen Harper <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/10/23/harper-wedding-photos-ottawa_n_2006374.html" target="_blank">surprises an Ottawa couple on their wedding day</a> in 2012.
Yep, Definitely A Cat Person
Laureen Harper laughs as she holds a husky dog with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper as they tour Caribou Crossing, Yukon, south of Whitehorse Monday August 20, 2012.
Stephen Harper, his children Ben and Rachel, and wife Laureen cross Abbey Road in 2009. Source: <a href="http://on.fb.me/12OfGXN" target="_blank">Facebook</a>
Prime Minister Stephen Harper hams it up with Bonhomme Carnaval in the Prime Minister's Centre Block Office. November 25, 2010. Source: <a href="http://www.pm.gc.ca/eng/media_gallery.asp?media_category_id=1238&media_category_typ_id=6#cont" target="_blank">Pm.gc.ca</a>
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, far left, watches a third round match between Agnieszka Radwanska, of Poland, and Serbia's Jelena Jankovic with his children Rachel, center, and Benjamin, right, at the 2012 US Open tennis tournament, Saturday, Sept. 1, 2012, in New York.
Psst! I Like Your Hat
Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, speaks with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper during Canada Day celebrations on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on July 1, 2011.
Whoops, How Did This Get In Here...
Part of a painting of Prime Minister Stephen Harper fully nude, by Kingston artist Maggie Sutherland, is shown at the Central Kingston public library in Kingston, Ont. on May 18, 2012.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his son Ben watch a bloopers show while attending the Calgary Flames NHL hockey game against the Edmonton Oilers in Calgary, Saturday, April 11, 2009.
In The Key Of C Major
Prime Minister Stephen Harper practices a few chords after arriving at home from work. February 19, 2011. Source: <a href="http://www.pm.gc.ca/eng/media_gallery.asp?media_category_id=1457&media_category_typ_id=6#cont" target="_blank">Pm.gc.ca</a>
Love You, Mom
Conservative leader Stephen Harper gets a hug from his mother Margaret during a visit to his campaign office in Calgary, Saturday May 29, 2004.
We Can't All Grow A Pirate 'Stache Like Trudeau
Prime Minister Stephen Harper holds up a moustache scarf to kick off the start of ‘Movember’, November 1, 2012 Source: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/pmharper/8146161138/in/photostream" target="_blank">Flickr</a>
The Sweet Side Of Politics
Senior Legislative Assistant, Katherine Locke, left, and Government House Leader Special Assistant, Zoe Lawson, show off their House of Commons gingerbread house to Prime Minister Stephen Harper in his office on Dec. 16, 2010. The gingerbread house was filled with rows of gummi bears as members of Parliament. Source: <a href="http://www.pm.gc.ca/eng/media_gallery.asp?media_category_id=1355&media_category_typ_id=6#cont" target="_blank">Pm.gc.ca</a>
Prime Minister Stephen Harper waves to tourists as he walks on the beach after the closing of the VI Summit of the Americas on April 15, 2012 in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper plays a game of table tennis with Team Canada's Mo Zhang at Canada House in London on Tuesday, June 5, 2012.
Whaddya Mean It Doesn't Fit?
Prime Minister Stephen Harper tries on an old hockey helmet at he tours the Yukon's Hockey History exhibit at the McBride Museum in Whitehorse, Yukon on Thursday, August 25, 2011.
Stephen Harper, his son Ben, and Wayne Gretzky watch the men's ice hockey team's gold medal game at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Source: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/pmharper/8457917081/in/photostream" target="_blank">Flickr</a>
Who Said Politics Can't Be Fun?
Stephen Harper and his son Ben hit balloons into the crowd after his speech at the party's three-day policy convention in Montreal on Friday March 18, 2005.
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Prime Minister Stephen Harper, looks up from dishing out pancakes at Stampede breakfast in Calgary, Alta., Sunday, July 10, 2011.
I Spy Something Cute
Stephen Harper welcomes two Chinese pandas at Toronto's Pearson Airport on March 25, 2013. Source: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/pmharper/8588948719/in/photostream" target="_blank">Flickr</a>
A young Stephen Harper.
Just Smile And Back Away Slowly
Clowns ham it up with Prime Minister Stephen Harper at the IAAF World Junior Championships in Moncton, New Brunswick. July 19, 2010. Source: <a href="http://www.pm.gc.ca/eng/media_gallery.asp?media_category_id=1037&media_category_typ_id=6#cont" target="_blank">Pm.gc.ca</a>
Prime Minister Stephen Harper, left, throws Senator Gerry St. Germain's cowboy hat into the crowd after presenting him with a new one as his wife Margaret St. Germain, right, laughs during a barbecue at St. Germain's ranch in Surrey, B.C., on Monday August 6, 2012.
Thumbs Up, Up And Away
Prime Minister Stephen Harper gives the thumbs up from the cockpit of his campaign plane as he arrives in Ottawa,Tuesday May 3, 2011.
He's A Belieber
Stephen Harper presents Justin Bieber with a Diamond Jubilee Medal on Nov. 23, 2012. Source: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/pmharper/8212520594/in/photostream" target="_blank">Flickr</a>
I'm With Him
Stephen Harper and Wayne Gretzky, joined by students on an outdoor ice rink in Saskatoon on Feb. 5, 2010. Source: <a href="http://on.fb.me/ZTlKy6" target="_blank"> Facebook</a>
Shhh... This Is The Best Part
Stephen Harper, wife Laureen and Suraksha, Grade 10, visit an IMAX theatre in Bangalore, India on Nov. 8, 2012.
Umm... This Is My Costume
Prime Minister Stephen Harper poses for a photograph with Halloween trick-or-treaters at his official residence in Ottawa, Wednesday, October 31, 2012.
Is It Cold, Or Is It Just Me?
Prime Minister Stephen Harper bundles up in a parka as he tours Frobisher Bay in Iqaluit, Nunavut on Thursday, February 23, 2012.
One Of Harper's Many Hats
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I Can Totally Take You
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Prime Minister Stephen Harper drives a dog sled after meeting mushing teams at the Arctic Winter Games in Yellowknife, N.W.T., Monday, March 10, 2008.
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Does This Mean I'm In The Band?
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Stanley's Not Going To Be Happy About This
Met with Constable Dan Allen of the Child at Risk Response Team (and Cagney the dog) while in Calgary. Source: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/pmharper/8640427193/in/photostream" target="_blank">Flickr</a>
Say, 'Happy Halloween!'
Prime Minister Stephen Harper points out the camera to baby Grayson, dressed up as a giraffe, during his first time trick-or-treating at 24 Sussex. Source: <a href="http://on.fb.me/10ppG5w" target="_blank">Facebook</a>
Stephen Harper hugs his daughter Rachel Hugging Rachel as results come in after the 2011 election. Source: <a href="http://on.fb.me/15WI2TY" target="_blank">Facebook</a>