Justin Trudeau to bring his ambitions for seat on Security Council to UN

Justin Trudeau will use his speech to the United Nations General Assembly next week to present his plan for a more prosperous and peaceful world — positioning Canada as worthy of a seat on the UN Security Council.

PM's speech to UN General Assembly will focus on how prosperity can lead to peace

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is expected to present himself as a significant progressive leader on the world stage, making the case that the Security Council needs Canada's perspective around the table. (CBC)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will use his speech to the United Nations General Assembly next week to present his plan for a more prosperous and peaceful world — positioning Canada as worthy of a seat on the UN Security Council.

During two days of meetings in New York City, Trudeau will focus heavily on the global refugee and migrant crisis. Trudeau will arrive armed with a track record of successfully welcoming more than 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada and a commitment to send Canadian troops to join UN-led peacekeeping efforts, most likely in Africa.

All of that fuels one of Canada's main goals during this trip — to present Trudeau as a significant progressive leader on the world stage and make the case that the Security Council needs Canada's perspective around the table.

Ireland and Norway are Canada's competitors in a three-way battle for two seats on the Security Council. The seat Canada has targeted becomes available in 2021-22, with the election being held in 2020. But the campaigns to secure a seat can run for a decade, so Trudeau — who announced his intentions to seek a Security Council seat in March — is playing catch-up.

A seat on the Security Council will allow Canada to return to a position of international influence it last held in 1999-2000.  The former Conservative government tried to get a seat in 2010, but withdrew its candidacy when it became clear Canada would not get enough votes to win.

'A more prosperous world is a more peaceful world'

When the prime minister speaks to the UN General Assembly on Tuesday, the focus of his speech, according to an official who spoke on background, will be Trudeau's view that "a more prosperous world is a more peaceful world." It will touch on many of the themes Trudeau has used domestically when selling his economic agenda to grow the middle class and ensure that growth is more inclusive.

He won a high-profile endorsement for that approach this week from Christine Lagarde, the head of the International Monetary Fund, who expressed hope that Canada's economic approach can become a global trend.

Trudeau shakes hands with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon at the UN headquarters in New York back in March. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

"I really very much hope that Canadian economic policies can actually go viral," Lagarde said in the foyer of the House of Commons after meeting with Trudeau on Tuesday. "And that this energy, and this passion for openness, can be sufficiently contaminating, including for the European Union."

Trudeau will deliver his message of greater global engagement at a time when populist politics has fuelled anti-trade and anti-immigrant sentiment across Europe and is playing a prominent role in the U.S. presidential election. That dynamic leaves ample space for Trudeau and Canada to occupy the progressive space internationally, something that is certain to appeal to progressive voters here at home.

No major refugee announcement

After already relocating 25,000 Syrians to Canada, and promising to accept at least 10,000 more, Canada isn't expected to make a major refugee announcement while in New York.

Instead, a top official said, Trudeau is expected to announce a series of specific measures to help refugees successfully integrate into their new homes.

The official also cautioned there will be no more details on Canada's promise to join UN peacekeeping efforts beyond the $450 million and 600 troops pledged last month. Canadian officials are in Africa assessing mission options, but a final decision is still months away.

Trudeau waves as he wraps up his remarks during an event at the UN headquarters in March. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Still, Canadian officials think that the peacekeeping promise, the response to the Syrian refugee crisis and the progressive themes of Trudeau's speech will make a compelling pitch to the UN delegation. This will be woven into a series of formal bilateral meetings with other countries and smaller "pull aside" chats in the hallways and meeting rooms of New York.

The Trudeau government likes to say "Canada is back."

It would love to say Canada is back on the United Nations Security Council.

About the Author

David Cochrane is a senior reporter in CBC's Parliamentary bureau. He previously wrote for CBC Newfoundland and Labrador.


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