Skip to main content
Canada’s most-awarded newsroom for a reason
Enjoy unlimited digital access
$1.99
per week
for 24 weeks
Canada’s most-awarded newsroom for a reason
$1.99
per week
for 24 weeks
// //

A poll came out last week that showed just how rock-solid is the Conservative Party's hold on 30 per cent of the electorate.

Asked who was responsible for Canada's humiliating third-place finish in the three-country competition for the United Nations Security Council, 30 per cent responded: Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff.

The Conservative spin machine blamed Mr. Ignatieff for that defeat. The charge was blatantly untrue, as every UN observer, including a string of former ambassadors, attested. That 30 per cent of the electorate swallowed the distortion illustrates that group will believe just about anything from the party, and thus constitutes one irreducible bloc of voters in Canadian politics.

Story continues below advertisement

Canada lost not because of Mr. Ignatieff's comments that perhaps Canada didn't deserve a seat, given the way the Harper government had conducted foreign policy. Yes, Portugal circulated his remarks as part of its highly successful campaign. But interviews with diplomats indicate that Canada lost support in many parts of the world for a variety of reasons, all linked to the way the Harper government approaches the world.

After all, it logically follows that, if Canada had always won a Security Council seat in the past but lost badly this time, the only explanation must be the way Ottawa sees the world, as reflected by the Security Council vote.

No one will ever precisely know all the dynamics that led to defeat, since the ballot was secret, countries notoriously tell white lies to each other and a bevy of UN ambassadors are free to vote as they see fit, rather than according to instructions from their governments, and thus subject to blandishments ranging from free trips to free sex.

What happened?

It's one thing for Canada to support Israel, as it should, and as the election winner, Germany, always does for historical reasons; it's quite another to be so unreconstructed in that support as to alienate the entire Muslim world, which is what the Harper government did.

You could see that unreconstructed view at work before the vote. The United States and the European Union both publicly urged Israel to maintain the temporary freeze on settlements so negotiations could begin with the Palestinians. Canada remained silent. Whereas previous Canadian governments had always supported Israel, they had done so in a way that tried to maintain a semblance of understanding for the other side. When that stopped, Canada paid a price.

Meantime, Canada's international reputation on climate change is well known to be abysmal. That reputation cost Canada among Pacific island states and other countries with shorelines at risk of disappearance, to say nothing of hurting in parts of Europe where governments take climate change seriously.

Story continues below advertisement

Southeast Asian countries - Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and the like - assumed Canada had lost track of them on the map. China and Turkey had been provoked by the Harper government - in China's case by three years of indifference, in Turkey's by Canada's wading in on Armenia's side in the emotional minefield of the Armenian "genocide" during the First World War.

In Africa, Canada suffered a major erosion of support. The Germans and Portuguese worked hard on the continent. Canada's African aid had gone up, but it's now set to decline as part of the deficit-reduction campaign. Concentrating aid in fewer countries might make policy sense, but it alienated those countries from which it was being withdrawn. More broadly, there was a sense that the Harper government just isn't interested in Africa, and that sense hurt Canada badly.

And despite Canada's apparent focus on Latin America, Ottawa didn't sweep the continent as it had hoped, in part because Brazil worked hard for Portugal, and the Portuguese played up their "Iberian" connections. Portugal also argued that, as a small country, the Security Council didn't need two more G8/G20 countries.

So Canada lost for many reasons, but certainly not because of anything Mr. Ignatieff said. That 30 per cent of Canadians believe he was responsible shows how reflexively supportive these voters are to any messaging from their party.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies