The federal Conservatives have begun suggesting quietly that Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff will be to blame if Canada does not win a seat on the United Nations Security Council.


Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said Wednesday that Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff put 'the interests of his political party' ahead of Canada's by questioning its commitment to UN goals. ((Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press))

The UN's 192 ambassadors will vote Tuesday to decide which two countries will win two-year seats on the 15-member Security Council.

Germany is considered a shoo-in for one of the seats; Canada and Portugal are vying for the other.

On Wednesday, Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon suggested the Liberals were trying to scuttle Canada's chances of winning. Speaking to a group of foreign ambassadors in Ottawa, he accused Ignatieff in particular of being "unable to put the interests of this country above the interests of his political party."

"One of the few persons who believes that Canada should not sit on the Security Council, unfortunately, is the leader of the Opposition, Mr. Ignatieff," he said.

Cannon's parliamentary secretary, Deepak Obhrai, echoed that sentiment Thursday.

"We are fighting for Canada, not on an individual basis," Obhrai told reporters on Parliament Hill. "This is the time when partisan politics should not be around."

Commitment to UN questioned

Canada has lobbied hard to win the seat for a decade. At the UN General Assembly on Sept. 23, Prime Minister Stephen Harper made a speech to reinforce Canada's suitability for the position, retracing its long involvement in UN initiatives.

But Ignatieff has questioned whether the Conservatives have earned a place on the Security Council, suggesting the party is not truly committed to UN goals.

"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 on Sept. 20.

"Don't mistake me. I know how important it is for Canada to get a seat on the Security Council, but Canadians have to ask a tough question: Has this government earned that place? We're not convinced it has."

Canada has been on the Security Council six times, roughly once a decade since the 1940s. The country's last term ended in 2000.

The permanent members of the Security Council are the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China.

The council also includes 10 non-permanent members. Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Gabon, Lebanon and Nigeria began their two-year terms on Jan. 1. The terms of Austria, Japan, Mexico, Turkey and Uganda run out at the end of 2010.

The council members are divided by regional groups, with Canada, Germany and Portugal in the "Western Europe and others" group. The other groups cover Asia, Africa and Eastern Europe, and Latin America and the Caribbean.