Politics

Tories slammed over UN seat 'failure'

Opposition MPs returning from a week's break are calling on the Conservative government to take responsibility for its failed bid for a United Nations Security Council seat.

Baird defends government's 'principled' foreign policies

Opposition MPs returning from a week's break are calling on the Conservative government to take responsibility for its failed bid for a United Nations Security Council seat.

Liberal Foreign Affairs critic Bob Rae led Monday's question period by saying the defeat last week at the UN represented a "major diplomatic failure" for Canada and its international reputation.

Rae also slammed the government's blaming of Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff and members of the UN general assembly after Canada came behind Portugal in a vote last Tuesday at UN headquarters in New York.

Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe told the House Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government has not "learned its lesson" from the UN vote and shouldn't continue its policies on the environment and aboriginal rights that he said "go against the orientations of the international body."

But Government House leader John Baird replied that the government is proud of the "principled" foreign policy decisions it has made over the past five years.

"Our government makes foreign policy decisions based on what's right and not what's popular, and we have nothing to be apologetic about," Baird told the House.

Rae said the Tories have performed a "complete abdication of responsibility" on climate change, while also freezing the budget of the Canadian International Development Agency and slicing aid to several African countries.

1st time Canada failed in bid for seat

"It has nothing to do with principles," Rae told MPs. "It has to do with incompetence."

Meanwhile, NDP Foreign Affairs critic Paul Dewar said the Conservatives "snatched defeat from the jaws of victory" and demanded the government explain how it plans to rehabilitate Canada's international image.

Last week's vote marked the first time that Canada has failed in its bid for a Security Council seat. Canada has been on the Security Council six times, roughly once a decade, since the 1940s.  

Some observers believe the Harper government's foreign policy is largely responsible for the outcome, including its pro-Israel stance on the Middle East, cutting foreign aid to Africa, and also the move away from UN peacekeeping and toward the mission in Afghanistan.

Following the UN vote, Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said the lack of support from Ignatieff for Canada's bid helped scuttle it, an assertion the Liberal leader called "ridiculous." 

Canada had campaigned for nine years — since its last term on the council — for a seat. In the days leading up to the vote Tuesday, Canada wined and dined diplomats, offering them gifts of Canadian beer and maple syrup.