Tories blame Ignatieff for losing bid for UN seat
After losing its bid for a coveted seat on the UN Security Council to Portugal on Tuesday, the Conservative government responded by defending its campaign and blaming Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff.
"I do not think that this is a repudiation of Canada's foreign policy," Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon told reporters Tuesday afternoon. "Canada ran a campaign based on principle; we ran a strong campaign. Unfortunately, back home in Canada, the leader of the opposition determined that Canada does not speak with one voice.
"In my view, (Ignatieff's statements) were used as an issue to prevent Canada from succeeding to the Security Council."
Ignatieff had accused the Harper government of ignoring the UN during its four years in office.
"This is a government that for four years has basically ignored the United Nations and now is suddenly showing up saying, ‘Hey, put us on the council,'" Ignatieff said in September.
Ignatieff responded Tuesday afternoon by saying it was a "sad day" for Canada and the international community has sent the Conservatives a message.
"This is the first time in sixty years we've failed to secure a seat on an institution that this country helped found," he told reporters, noting the roles in the UN played by former prime ministers Lester Pearson and Brian Mulroney. "This is a pretty depressing story about the government's performance on foreign policy."
Ignatieff called the blame the Tories laid at his feet "ridiculous."
"The responsibility of this lies squarely and exclusively with the Harper government," he said. "Any other proposition is just too ridiculous to entertain. The ‘blame game' is the sign of a government that is unwilling to absorb the lesson of defeat."
Paul Heinbecker, a foreign policy analyst and former Canadian ambassador to the UN, dismissed Cannon's blaming of Ignatieff.
"If they're selling policies that the international community is not sympathetic to, it isn't going to be because the leader of the opposition was for or against those policies," he told CTV News Channel's Power Play.
Heinbecker said Canada likely didn't get enough votes because it had failed to commit to its Kyoto obligations, and shifted foreign aid away from the Middle East and Africa to Latin America.
"We have a series of policies that, whatever their merits are internally, are not vote-getters," he said.
"We followed policies that are frankly and strongly in support of the government of Israel. And again, whatever you think of the merits of the policy -- and I happen to think we're not as fair as they should have been -- they're not vote-getters. There are 57 votes in the Arab and Islamic community."
NDP foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar said the defeat was "devastating for our country's reputation.
"We've lost our credibility, we've lost our reach. If you're on the Security Council you can actually influence the agenda of the United Nations . . . on climate change, employment change, peace and security," he told reporters.
Stephen Staples, president of the Ottawa-based defence think-tank Rideau Institute, called the losing bid Canada's "Hindenburg moment."
"Prime Minister Stephen Harper may regret snubbing the UN for so long. Now we know if you ignore the world long enough – it will eventually notice," he said in a statement.
Canada withdrew its candidacy for the final seat available on the UN Security Council after it appeared Portugal was on track to win the last spot after the second vote. It was the first time Canada lost a bid for a Security Council seat.
Canada's UN Ambassador John McNee made the abrupt announcement after Canada received only 78 votes to Portugal's 113 in the second round of voting for a spot on the Security Council.
Initially, Germany, Portugal and Canada were vying for two non-permanent seats available to pro-Western nations, but Germany got the required two-thirds majority to secure a seat in the first round of voting Tuesday.
Germany received 128 votes, Portugal took 122 and Canada finished with 114 in the first round of voting.
Cannon said he never saw the opposition leaders in those countries speak against their own candidacy.
Shortly after withdrawing, the Tories began to blame Ignatieff.
"I would say a big deciding factor was the fact that Canada's bid did not have unity because we had Mr. Ignatieff questioning and opposing Canada's bid," Dimitri Soudas, Harper's communications director, told The Canadian Press.
"That was a factor that played ultimately against Canada because people outside of Canada were saying, 'Well, Germany and Portugal have a united front, their opposition and their governments seem to be fully, 100 per cent behind this bid.'
"Canada did not have that required advantage. We had an opposition leader that opposed Canada and clearly was not in it for Canada on this one."
When asked if Canada's strengthened support of Israel under the Tory government may had played a role, Soudas said Canada's democratic values were not up for bartering.
Three other countries were elected to the UN Security Council Tuesday -- South Africa, India and Colombia. All were running for uncontested spots.
It was the second international snub for Canada in two days. On Monday, a military plane carrying Defence Minister Peter MacKay and Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Walt Natynczyk was not allowed to land in the United Arab Emirates, the result of a dispute over aviation links.
The dispute means Canada will be forced to withdraw from its formerly secret military base near Dubai.
Canada's surprise announcement was in stark contrast to Cannon's statements in the morning, in which he said he was confident Canada would rejoin the council.
He said Canada's campaign had "gone well."
Canada was believed to be in a good position because it was facing two European competitors.
"There is concern that the Council would be too European-weighed if both Germany and Portugal were to prevail," Michelle Fanzo of the World Policy Institute told CTV News Channel on Tuesday before Canada withdrew its candidacy.
If Canada was successful in its bid for membership, it would have started a two-year term on the Security Council in January. It would have been the seventh time that Canada has served since 1948.
There are 15 members of the Security Council in total.
Five nations have permanent membership: China, France, the Russian Federation, the United States and the United Kingdom.
The remaining 10 seats are non-permanent and are assigned to nations for two-year terms.
With files from The Canadian Press