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The Globe and Mail

Canada won’t run for UN Security Council seat in 2014

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird

OLIVIER JEAN/The Globe and Mail

Canada will focus on other priorities rather than mount a fresh campaign for a spot on the United Nations Security Council, says Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird.

Baird's disclosure that there's no new campaign in the works comes after Canada's failed 2010 campaign to win one of the two temporary two-year, non-veto-wielding seats on the UN's top body that were available at the time.

Portugal and Germany won that campaign, marking the first time in the six-decade history of the UN that Canada had failed to win a seat for which it made a bid.

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Critics pounced on the loss as the consequence of Canada's foreign-policy approach to the Middle East and support for Israel.

At the time, Baird suggested the defeat wasn't about that but about the tough stance Canada has taken on issues such as gay rights in Africa and human rights in Iran.

Baird, who suggested at the time he didn't see another bid on the horizon, found himself addressing the question again Tuesday while testifying before a House of Commons committee.

The next time a seat will open up for Canada is in 2015, with the election for that spot expected in the fall of 2014. Seats will also open up next year, but they're only available to countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

It was Canada's plans for 2014 that formed the meat of a testy exchange between New Democrat foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar and Baird — although neither appeared entirely clear about the timelines.

"Why are we not putting forward a campaign for the security council seat in 2014?," Dewar asked.

"We're focusing on other priorities," Baird responded, later adding, "You don't launch campaigns on a few months notice."

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Campaigning for the 2015 seat is expected to begin next year.

In the 2010 campaign, Canada withdrew from voting after the second ballot with Portugal far ahead in the votes.

NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair said Canada has lost credibility at the UN.

"We didn't withdraw it because we thought we would lose, we withdrew it because we knew we were going to be humiliated," Mulcair said.

"And we weren't losing to dictators, to use the term Mr. Baird threw at the United Nations the last time he was down there. We lost to countries that are longtime allies like Portugal and Germany who wanted nothing to do with the Canada that Stephen Harper and John Baird are projecting onto the world stage."

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau said he's concerned about the level of disengagement from multilateral organizations on the part of the government.

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"We have traditionally and historically had a very strong role to play internationally, including through the UN," he said.

"And the sort of ... collective shrug by this government at the fact that for first time in the history of the UN we didn't win a seat on the UN Security Council, means that there is something going very wrong with this government's approach to international affairs."

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