Canada's inability to win a seat on the United Nations Security Council represents a "major diplomatic failure" on the part of the Conservative government, the Official Opposition charged Monday.
Liberal foreign affairs critic Bob Rae levelled the accusation during the first Question Period since Canada abandoned its UN bid last week.
Government House Leader John Baird shot back, saying the Conservatives have nothing to apologize for. Mr. Baird said Canada's foreign policy is based on principles that will not be compromised.
The bitter exchanges flew across the floor of the House of Commons as MPs returned after a one-week break. Portugal beat Canada last week for the second of two available seats on the powerful UN body.
It was the first time Canada lost a bid for a temporary, two-year term on the Security Council since the UN was created after the Second World War.
Mr. Rae asked: "When will the government take responsibility for a major diplomatic failure?"
Mr. Baird repeated what has essentially become mantra for the Conservatives since the defeat: "Our government is very, very proud of the principled foreign policy positions that we've taken 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."
But Mr. Rae cited what he said were series of failures by the Harper government on the world stage. The Liberal MP said Canada lost because it snubbed China, cut aid to some African countries, froze its entire aid budget for years to come and has shown "a complete abnegation" on climate-change policy.
Mr. Baird said Canadians should be proud of the "great leadership" that Prime Minister Stephen Harper has exhibited this past year, which included hosting the G8 and G20 summits.
"Since when was incompetence a matter of principle?" Rae retorted. "We're faced with sheer incompetence."
The Liberals and NDP also raised Canada's dispute with the United Arab Emirates over the use of a military base in the Persian Gulf state as another example of how the government has hurt Canada's foreign interests.
NDP foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar said Canada has "squandered" its relationship with a key Middle East ally.
Peter Kent, the junior foreign affairs minister, said the UAE deal was "not in the best interest in Canada."
The UAE wanted landing rights for its commercial airlines in Canada in exchange for Canada's continued use of the base, which has been the key staging ground for Canada's military mission in Afghanistan.
The UAE dispute has complicated the Canadian Forces' planned withdrawal from Afghanistan, which begins next year.