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'Let’s make one thing very clear here. This is not a time for campaigning. This is a time to fight the coronavirus and to fight this pandemic and to win the war against this pandemic,' Canada's UN Ambassador, Marc-André Blanchard, seen here in New York in 2016, said in a phone interview from his Toronto home.Michael Falco/The Globe and Mail

Canada’s Ambassador to the United Nations says now is not the time to campaign for a Security Council seat.

Marc-André Blanchard, Canada’s top UN envoy, said he and his team are instead focusing their efforts on the country’s international response to COVID-19. Although the race is still technically underway, he said it’s “all hands on deck” in the fight against the coronavirus.

“Let’s make one thing very clear here. This is not a time for campaigning. This is a time to fight the coronavirus and to fight this pandemic and to win the war against this pandemic. This is not about campaigning for the Security Council,” Mr. Blanchard said in a phone interview from his Toronto home, where he is working remotely after leaving New York to join his family in Canada during the outbreak.

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Meanwhile, Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne and International Development Minister Karina Gould say Canada’s voice is needed more than ever on the UN’s most powerful branch as the world responds to the pandemic and its eventual aftermath. The ministers made the comments in separate interviews with The Canadian Press last week.

“It just demonstrates why it is important for Canada to sit on the UN Security Council. That campaign carries on, but in a different way,” Ms. Gould said.

Mr. Champagne said Canada has “a voice that is much needed in the world where we need to co-operate, co-ordinate and work together. I think Canada brings something unique to the table."

The UN Security Council campaign has not come up in any of the minister’s recent conversations with his foreign counterparts, Mr. Champagne’s office later told The Globe.

Mr. Blanchard said he is on the same page as the ministers, noting that they used different words to communicate a similar message: Canada is well-placed to contribute to a coordinated international response to COVID-19.

Canada is running for one of 10 rotating, non-permanent seats on the UN’s Security Council in 2021-22. The vote is supposed to take place in June, but the President of the General Assembly recently said he is monitoring the impact the coronavirus might have on the race, and will make a scheduling decision in May.

The campaign is "way beyond” what he thinking about right now, Mr. Blanchard said. For him, "it’s a question of doing the right thing in the world.”

“What’s top of mind is to make sure that, first of all, we win the war against this virus in Canada and second, that we ... make a difference and leverage our resources and our capacity to help the world win this war, regardless of the campaign.”

Canada has pledged $50-million to help vulnerable countries prepare for and respond to COVID-19 as part of the government’s greater response package.

The ambassador is particularly concerned about the virus’ affect on developing and small island countries, which have told him they anticipate food security and cash-flow problems. He said one small island state, which he did not identify, warned its GDP would be “wiped out” in three months if the pandemic continues because its tourism sector will be devastated.

Canada’s run for a Security Council seat has a been a cornerstone of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s foreign policy. The country faces stiff competition from Ireland, which outshines its competitors on the peacekeeping front, and Norway, which excels on the international aid front.

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