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Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff delivers a speech to the Montreal Council on Foreign Relations in Montreal, November 2, 2010. (Shaun Best/Reuters/Shaun Best/Reuters)
Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff delivers a speech to the Montreal Council on Foreign Relations in Montreal, November 2, 2010. (Shaun Best/Reuters/Shaun Best/Reuters)

How Liberals and Tories differ on foreign policy Add to ...

In a wide-ranging address Tuesday afternoon, Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff displayed just how sharply the Liberals and Conservatives now differ on key aspects of foreign policy.

The speech came in the wake of this country's failure last month to secure a seat on the UN Security Council.

"The world forced us to look in the mirror," Mr. Ignatieff asserted, "and we don't like what we see."

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The Liberal solution is to bring Canada's foreign policy back to where it was when Jean Chrétien was prime minister. So how sharply do the two parties disagree on Canada's role in the world? Take a look.

Peacekeeping

Liberals

Mr. Ignatieff would shift Canada back to its former role as a major supplier of peacekeepers. "Canada must wear the blue beret again," he said Tuesday. Under a Liberal government, Canada would also campaign for the banning of cluster bombs, as it did in the 1990s for an end to land mines.

Conservatives

Under the Conservatives, the Canadian military budget has burgeoned, as the army got new equipment to better fight in Afghanistan and the air force acquired a heavy-lift capability. Next up: a new fleet of F-35 fighter jets that the Liberals say cost too much. As for peacekeeping? The Harper government turned down a UN request for help with the troubled mission in Congo.

The Middle East

Liberals

Would rebalance the Harper government's virtually unqualified support for Israel by pushing harder for "a viable, secure and democratic Palestinian state."

Conservatives

The Tories also favour a two-state solution. Who doesn't? But Mr. Harper is more focused on protecting the safety and security of Israel, which he sees as a democracy under threat from all sides in a hostile region.

Climate

Liberals

Would renew Canada's commitment to limit global warming to within 2 degrees Celsius, although the previous Liberal government promised action on climate change but failed to deliver.

Conservatives

Insist it is pointless for Canada to act before the Americans, and also want buy-in from emerging heavy emitters such as China and India.

Africa

Liberals

"Canada must return to Africa," Mr. Ignatieff maintained, criticizing the Conservatives for cutting off aid to some African states.

Conservatives

Point out that aid to Africa has actually increased under their watch, but they prefer to concentrate aid on key states where they believe substantial investment would do more good.

On many issues, such as expanding trade with China and India, fighting terrorism and defending Arctic sovereignty, the Liberals and Conservatives actually agree, though neither prefers to admit it. Nonetheless, the Conservatives and Liberals are farther apart on foreign policy than the two parties have been in many a year.

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