Bob Rae, who was named Canada’s next ambassador to the United Nations on Monday, says he rejects any notion that Canada’s international reputation was harmed by its failed bid for a Security Council seat.
Mr. Rae, a former Liberal MP and Ontario premier, will succeed Marc-André Blanchard, who oversaw the campaign. Canada lost to Norway and Ireland in June, nearly five years after the Trudeau government declared winning a seat on the UN’s most powerful branch a top foreign policy priority.
Mr. Rae, who assumes his role on Aug. 4, said it would be a mistake to think there is “some permanent stain” on the country’s reputation.
“I don’t share the perspective that says this is some deep ominous message for Canada. I don’t believe it for a second,” Mr. Rae told reporters in Ottawa on Monday, hours after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced his appointment.
However, critics argue the loss raises significant questions about the Liberal government’s foreign policy.
In a statement Monday, Conservative Deputy Leader Leona Alleslev said she finds its “disconcerting” that Mr. Rae “appears to be unwilling to address the Liberal government’s repeated foreign policy failures that resulted in this loss and have damaged Canada’s reputation around the world.” She said the loss must be seen as a “wake-up call” for the Liberal government.
NDP foreign-affairs critic Jack Harris said Canada has long needed a foreign policy review to examine everything from its relationship with superpowers such as Russia and China to its foreign aid, which continually lags behind the UN spending target.
Writing for The Globe and Mail last month, former prime minister Brian Mulroney said Canada’s “middle power” reliance on key multilateral institutions can no longer be guaranteed in a “tumultuous, unpredictable world” post-COVID 19.
June’s Security Council election marked the second time in a decade that Canada has lost its run for a spot on the multilateral body. The former Conservative government withdrew Canada from the 2010 race after it became clear it would lose to Portugal.
Mr. Rae, whose father served as Canada’s ambassador to the UN from 1972 to 1976, is no stranger to representing Canada on the world stage. He was named Canada’s special envoy on humanitarian and refugee issues in March, in addition to his role as the government’s special envoy to Myanmar – a position he has held since 2017, when hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees began fleeing violence in the country. In his 2018 report on the crisis, Mr. Rae urged Canada to lead an international effort to investigate “clear evidence” that crimes against humanity were committed against the minority group.
Speaking to reporters alongside Mr. Rae on Monday, Mr. Blanchard said he decided to leave the post so he could spend more time with his family in Canada. The high-powered Quebec lawyer and long-time Liberal has held the job since April, 2016.
Less than a month after Canada’s loss, a new survey shows Canadians are split on how important a Security Council seat is for the country. A Nanos poll, commissioned by The Globe and Mail, found that nearly one in two Canadians say it is important (17 per cent) or somewhat important (31 per cent) for Canada to have a seat on the body, while 29 per cent say it is unimportant and 16 per cent say it is somewhat unimportant; 7 per cent say they are unsure.
The poll surveyed 1,049 Canadians through phone and online surveys between June 28 and July 2; the margin of error is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. The results were statistically weighted by age and gender using the latest census information and the sample is geographically representative of Canada.
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