Canada failed in its bid to win a seat at the United Nations Security Council on Tuesday, losing out to Germany and Portugal. In the second round of voting, Portugal was so far ahead that Canada withdrew in the face of certain defeat.
As The Globe's John Ibbitson and Joanna Slater write in Wednesday's paper, this "presents Stephen Harper with a choice: acknowledge this rebuke from the global community and rethink how his government presents Canada to the world, or ignore it and accept an outsider status unique in this country's history."
Observers chalk up Canada's loss to a several host of things, Mr. Ibbitson and Ms. Slater write, including the Conservative government's unflinching support for Israel, perceived indifference to Southeast Asia, reduction in the number of African nations receiving aid, foot-dragging in creating a carbon market and a diminished role within the UN.
Globe parliamentary bureau chief John Ibbitson took your questions earlier.
Jill Mahoney: Hello, everyone. I'm Jill Mahoney, a reporter at The Globe. We'll get under way shortly.
In the meantime, please start submitting your questions.
Jill Mahoney: Thanks for joining us today, John. Let me start by asking for your thoughts on why Canada failed yesterday in its efforts to win a seat at the United Nations Security Council.
Jill Mahoney: Click here to read a piece by John and Joanna Slater on the vote.
John Ibbitson: We failed because of profile and values. Our profile diminished in the years of minority government, as domestic priorities came to the fore, and the Harper government's four-square support for Israel cost us among Muslim states.
Jill Mahoney: What do you make of the Conservatives placing the blame on Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff for killing Canada's chances?
Jill Mahoney: Click here to read a Globe editorial on the blame game.
John Ibbitson: Blaming Michael Ignatieff was foolish. It made the government look petulant, and it was clear it didn't contribute to Canada's rejection. That said, Mr. Ignatieff's comments were ill-advised. Partisanship should end at the border. Canada's foreign policy is to all intents and purposes bilateral. After all, what do the Conservatives and Liberals actually disagree about, when it comes to the country's role in the world?
Sophie: What will be the political fall out, if any, of loss of seat, as well as blame being put on Mr. Ignatieff?
John Ibbitson: Both Australia and India were rejected in votes in the 1990s, and they survived the pain. Canada will, too. But it means we won't be at the table during the debates over the future of Afghanistan and how to confront Iran's nuclear ambitions, both of which are very large issues in which Canada has strong interests.
Tulsi Regmi: What are your thoughts on how this seemingly humiliating defeat for the government will impact on voting intentions amongst the electorate?
John Ibbitson: I doubt it will have any real impact on the next vote. The people who already oppose this government are those most affronted by this affront. Mr. Harper lost their votes long ago. Think of it this way: if you wouldn't vote for Stephen Harper because he failed to land a seat for Canada at the security council, then he probably already lost your vote over the census controversy, or prorogation, or whatever. As for the base, they're probably cheering. They don't think much of the UN anyway.
Shades of Grey: Mr. Ibbitson, I enjoy your informative columns. Has Mr. Harper spoken in public since withdrawing from the vote. Would it not have been appropriate and gracious to congratulate Portugal on winning the seat?
John Ibbitson: That's very good of you, Mr. or Ms. Grey. Mr Harper is making remarks at 4 p.m. on the 40th anniversary of Canada's recognition of China. We are hoping to ask him questions at that time. Doubtless, the security council vote will be at the top of reporters' minds.
Todd: Steven Harper spoke twice to campaign for votes. That Canada still lost should be viewed then as a personal failure for Harper. How will this play out?
John Ibbitson: Certainly the failure to land the seat despite a strong campaign will damage the Conservative brand, as it were. That said, this is not the sort of ongoing controversy that corrodes support for a government. I suspect that most readers and voters will take note of this embarrassment and move on. But then, I though it was "devilishly clever" of Mr. Harper to prorogue Parliament last December, as Liberals continually like to remind me.
Elgoog: Is it your understanding that the diplomats and govenment representatives thought that they had enough support going into the voting? Or are they really surprised?
John Ibbitson: There was real surprise. They thought they had the votes, though they knew it would be close. The government fell prey to a "Flora factor," named after Flora MacDonald, who got fewer votes in the 1976 Conservative leadership convention than there were people pledged to vote for her. Than and now, some pledged votes switched, especially on the second ballot. That happens when it's a secret ballot.