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Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff delivers a speech on foreign policy to the Canadian Club of Ottawa on Sept. 14, 2009. (CHRIS WATTIE/Reuters)
Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff delivers a speech on foreign policy to the Canadian Club of Ottawa on Sept. 14, 2009. (CHRIS WATTIE/Reuters)

Ignatieff blasts Tory foreign policy Add to ...

Michael Ignatieff took on Stephen Harper's government in a major foreign affairs speech Monday, criticizing it for tying Canada's aid to trade and moving it away from Africa.

"The Conservatives are giving up on Canada's place in the world," Mr. Ignatieff told the Canadian Club of Ottawa.

"We have a Prime Minister who thinks so little of foreign affairs that he changes foreign ministers the way he changes shirts. We've had four in just three and a half years. They come and go with the seasons."

Mr. Ignatieff said a Liberal government would return Canada's aid focus to Africa and make ending poverty a top priority.

He said that, if elected, the Liberal would "engage" China and India, saying Mr. Harper has turned "a cold shoulder" to the two emerging economic superpowers. And he vowed a Liberal government would bring back the Team Canada trade missions that were trademarks of previous Liberal governments under Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin.

The Liberal Leader's speech comes just two weeks after he announced to his caucus in Sudbury that his party would no longer support the Tory minority government, precipitating a possible fall election.

Since then, the Liberals have moved into an aggressive pre-election mode, featuring election-style television ads. The Liberal's second ad, on employment issues, was broadcast Sunday. The Liberals expect to be bringing out new theme ads each week.

Monday's speech is another piece of that pre-election strategy as Mr. Ignatieff is under fire for not articulating his vision for the country. Speaking to the luncheon crowd, the Liberal Leader emphasized a constant theme of his - that Canada needs to be a strong voice in the world.

That same theme formed the first election-style Liberal ad, which was released just after Labour Day.

There is a view among Liberals that the Harper government has changed its focus on aid to Africa, concentrating more on Latin America. Mr. Chrétien and Mr. Martin had directed most of their efforts at Africa, which is languishing under grinding poverty and the AIDS epidemic.

Mr. Ignatieff also spoke about reaching out to China and India. He has been critical of the Harper government's policy as the Prime Minister has not yet visited Beijing.

The Liberal Leader was to travel to China last week but cancelled his visit after his announcement that he would no longer prop up the Conservatives in the House of Commons.

As he did at the caucus meeting in Sudbury, Mr. Ignatieff also spoke Monday about the G20 and a commitment if he forms the government to bring a permanent secretariat to Canada for the G20.

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