Does Harper's UN General Assembly no-show hurt Canada's reputation?
Published Sunday, September 29, 2013 12:34PM EDT
Critics say Prime Minister Stephen Harper's decision to skip the opening of United Nations General Assembly for a second-straight year hurts Canada's international reputation, while his defenders say the absence is "absolutely normal."
Harper, declined an invitation to address the UN General Assembly last week, sending Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird to represent Canada there instead.
NDP Foreign Affairs critic Paul Dewar told CTV's Question period that Harper is conducting "empty-chair diplomacy."
"He had the opportunity to speak and address the world at the UN General Assembly and he refused to do it," Dewar said, adding that he has "no idea" why Harper declined again, given that he was in New York City at the time.
"I think that says a lot about this government and its lack in confidence, perhaps, in its own foreign policy. Or perhaps really what it's about is that they really don't care about the UN, and that's unfortunate."
Harper was in New York City at the time, announcing $203 million in funding for maternal and child health at a UN panel, and touting the cross-border Keystone XL pipeline at a Canadian American Business Council meeting.
But Harper’s Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Chris Alexander said the prime minister’s actions aren't in any way a "snub" to the UN.
"Let's be clear on what's actually happening: for Canada, as for most leaders, foreign ministers do the job much of the time," Alexander said.
He added that German Chancellor Angela Merkel, U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron and Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott did not attend this year's opening of the UN General Assembly either.
"Canada's profile in terms of that special debate at the General Assembly is absolutely normal," he said.
He added that more attention needs to be paid to the government’s announcement of funding for maternal and fetal health.
According to Liberal Foreign Affairs critic Marc Garneau, while it's true that other Canadian Prime Ministers and world leaders have not attended the UN General Assembly every single year, Harper could be "doing better."
"I think Mr. Harper is disdainful of the United Nations," Garneau told QP. "You show up, you don't just always send your foreign minister… you actively participate so that you can do something constructive.”
Let us know in the comments: Do you think Canada’s reputation suffers from Harper’s decision not to address the UN General Assembly?