OTTAWA—There are 10 non-permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, and there were at least that many reasons offered this week for Canada’s failure to obtain one of those seats. Here are the top 10 reasons (excuses) put forward for the rebuff. More surely to come in the days and weeks ahead:
1. It was Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff’s fault.
“I would say a big deciding factor was the fact that Canada’s bid did not have unity because we had Mr. Ignatieff questioning and opposing Canada’s bid,” Dimitri Soudas, Harper’s communications director, said in the immediate aftermath of the vote. “That was a factor that played ultimately against Canada because people outside of Canada were saying, ‘Well, Germany and Portugal have a united front, their opposition and their governments seem to be fully, 100 per cent behind this bid.’ . . . We had an opposition leader that opposed Canada and clearly was not in it for Canada on this one.”
2. No wait. It was because of “principles.”
“Our engagement internationally is based on the principles that this country holds dear; it is not based on popularity,” Prime Minister Stephen Harper said on Thursday.
3. Or maybe ballot secrecy is the issue.
“We take our positions based on the promotion of our values — freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law, justice, development, humanitarian assistance for those who need it. Those are the things we are pursuing and that does not change, regardless of what the outcome of secret votes is,” said Harper, also on Thursday.
4. It was Israel.
“Canada’s increasing ties with Israel and its defence of Jerusalem have cost it a seat on the United Nations Security Council, diplomats here are saying after days of manoeuvring by Arab countries, Brazil, and Cuba in which the U.S. had nearly disappeared,” journalist Ben Avni wrote in the New York Sun.
5. Then again, maybe it was Africa.
Canadian Press reported this week: “African ambassadors, in particular, pointed to a series of Canadian stances on issues ranging from African debt relief to the Conservative government cutting funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency and accusing it of having terrorist links.”
6. Or it could be President Barack Obama’s fault.
Richard Grenfell, a Republican commentator on Fox News in the United States: “I find it offensive that the Obama administration chose not only not to get involved with the Canadians, but to instruct all of the diplomats around the world to not get involved in helping the Canadians,” he added, citing sources with the U.S. mission to the UN and the State Department.
7. Or was it India?
“When the time came for Canada to count its friends in its bid for a seat at the United Nations Security Council, India wasn’t there,” The Globe and Mail reported this week.
“Those with a close knowledge of how nations voted in the General Assembly say India supported Portugal over Canada in the contest (for a seat).”
8. Maybe the United Arab Emirates scuppered the bid.
From an Associated Press story this week: “The United Arab Emirates lobbied against Canada’s bid for a U.N. Security Council seat in the latest blow to relations that soured after disputes over airline routes, a UAE official said Thursday. The Gulf country’s opposition followed harsh complaints about Canada’s refusal to open more flights for the fast-growing carriers Emirates and Etihad.”
9. Has anyone seen International Trade Minister Peter Van Loan lately?
On the eve of the vote at the UN, Van Loan put out a press release touting a bid to boost trade with Israel. From a PostMedia report: “Some government insiders expressed surprise Monday at the timing of Van Loan’s announcement — even as they welcomed the substance of the initiative . . . Others expressed privately that Van Loan’s office might have waited a day or two.”
From the Economist: “He (Stephen Harper) came to power in 2006 skeptical of Canada’s traditional multilateralism (“a weak-nation strategy,” he said) and of the U.N. itself.
Last year, Harper raised eyebrows by choosing to inaugurate a doughnut-innovation centre rather than attend the UN General Assembly.”