Canada and UN Security Council seat 2021

Canada is facing a UN battle — with Bono

OTTAWA—U2 frontman Bono might think the world needs more Canada but he’s singing the praises of his Irish homeland now as Ireland launches a bid for a spot on the UN Security Council — marking a formidable competitor to Ottawa’s own aspirations for a council seat.

Ireland rolled out Bono’s star power as it kicked off its campaign in New York on Monday to win a seat on the influential body for the 2021-22 term.

U2’s Bono has been drafted by Ireland into the fight for a Security Council seat.
U2’s Bono has been drafted by Ireland into the fight for a Security Council seat.  (MICHEL EULER / AP)

Ireland’s attempts to win over the UN crowd began the night before when U2 played to a packed house at New York’s Madison Square Garden — with more than 150 UN diplomats invited as special guests.

Bono pointedly took a few minutes during the performance to lavish praise on the United Nations.

“If the United Nations didn’t exist, we would have to invent it. That is the truth. It’s the one place we can all meet. It’s the one place that puts peace on the negotiating table first,” he said.

The Irish rocker said that at a time when international institutions are under attack, the United Nations is needed more than ever and his country — with its history of conflict and violence — is well-suited to help.

“If you look at the agenda of what the Security Council will be called on to address over the coming years, doesn’t it look a lot like us? We’d like to think Ireland’s experience of colonialism, conflict, famine and mass migration give us a kind of hard-earned expertise in these problems. And, I hope, an empathy and I hope humility,” Bono said.

The singer acknowledged that UN diplomats could vote for Canada and its “truly remarkable leader … That Canada is nice is the worst thing I can say about them.”

People gather at the General Assembly, prior to a vote on Dec. 21, 2017, at United Nations headquarters in New York. Canada is setting its sights on a seat at the UN Security Council.
People gather at the General Assembly, prior to a vote on Dec. 21, 2017, at United Nations headquarters in New York. Canada is setting its sights on a seat at the UN Security Council.  (MARK LENNIHAN)

Bono has sung Canada’s praises in the past.

But now Canada finds itself in a tough competition with what Bono calls a “tiny rock in the Atlantic Ocean” and Norway, too, in a three-way race for the two seats that will come open on the 15-member council.

Justin Trudeau declared in 2016 that Canada would seek a Security Council seat, part of the Liberals’ vow to “restore Canadian leadership in the world.”

Democracy, inclusive governance, human rights, development and international peace and security were the among the priorities highlighted at the time.

“We are determined to help the UN make even greater strides in support of its goals for all humanity,” Trudeau saidduring a visit to UN headquarters that year.

Canada has served six times on the Security Council, the last time ending in 2000. The vote will be held in June 2020, after the October 2019 federal election.

The council has five permanent members — China, United States, France, United Kingdom and Russia — and 10 elected members. Each year, the general assembly elects five of the 10 spots for a two-year term.

Canada’s own campaign has been low-key so far. Cabinet ministers raise the topic in their meetings with politicians from other countries. And foreign affairs officials are plotting now how best to officially launch its bid.

But the campaign carries risks.

Losing would be humiliating for the Liberals — if they are still in power after the 2019 election.

The Liberals castigated Stephen Harper’s Conservatives for their failure to win a Security Council seat in 2010. At the time Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff called it a “clear condemnation” of the Conservatives’ foreign policy priorities.

But winning carries risks, too.

Colin Robertson, a former Canadian diplomat, cautions “be careful what you wish for,” noting that a spot on the Security Council would put Canada in the hot seat for the world’s most difficult crises.

“Being on the Security Council there are going to come a whole pile of complications,” said Robertson, a vice-president and fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute.

That could include being at loggerheads with the U.S., one of the council’s permanent members, and President Donald Trump, if he seeks and wins re-election in 2020.

“It’s going to require an awful lot of effort. Is that effort worth it?” he said.

Robertson speculates that with Ireland and Norway in the running, Canada is unlikely to garner many European votes. So it will have to look for support in other parts of the world — the Asia-Pacific region, the Caribbean, the Americas and Africa.

“I think we’ll run as a constructive middle power but there aren’t enough middle-power votes to carry the day so we have to appeal to smaller places,” he said.

Canada has the advantage of being a G7 and G20 country but otherwise, he said, the three countries in the running are almost “interchangeable” in terms of their priorities and vision for the world.

“It’s like campaigning against mirrors of yourself,” he said.

Indeed, at the campaign launch, Leo Varadkar, Ireland’s Taoiseach or prime minister, highlighted themes that could easily be Canada’s own goals.

“We support a rules-based order in international affairs. We have acted as a voice for the disadvantaged and defenceless, promoting freedom and defending human rights,” Varadkar said.

“In areas such as peacekeeping, disarmament, sustainable development, human rights and humanitarian assistance we have matched our words with our actions,” he said.

NDP MP Hélène Laverdière predicts the campaign will be “very difficult.

Canada already has a lot of strikes against its bid,” said Laverdière (Laurier-Sainte-Marie).

She noted Canada lags behind Norway and Ireland in foreign aid. According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, Canada’s aid spending in 2016 was 0.26 per cent of gross national income, compared to 0.32 for Ireland and 1.12 per cent for Norway.

Canada also lags behind both countries in military personnel deployed on UN peace missions. According to UN data to May 31, Canada had just 40 personnel assigned to peace missions compared to 542 for Ireland and 66 for Norway. But Canada’s numbers are set to rise as it deploys 250 military personnel to Mali on a yearlong mission to provide helicopters to support the UN mission there.

Conservative MP Erin O’Toole said Canada’s priority should be to help reform UN institutions, such as peace operations, even if it means forgoing a seat on the Security Council.

“We should never sacrifice taking principled positions at the UN for the sake of garnering votes. That becomes the challenge,” O’Toole said.

He said Ireland will be a challenge and will likely win the support of other European nations. “I’m not sure we can compete with Bono … He’s a hard brand to compete with so the Irish are certainly going for it,” O’Toole said.

“Maybe we should trot out Drake,” he said, referring to the Canadian superstar rapper.

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Trudeau in Washington

Washington rolls out red carpet for Justin Trudeau

White House prepares to fete Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with Oval Office visit and state dinner, the first in almost two decades for a Canadian prime minister.

The two leaders had a formal meeting in November on at the APEC summit in Manila. It was a relaxed meeting and U.S. President Barack Obama spoke effusively about Justin Trudeau, praising the “incredible excitement” the prime minister stirred with his election campaign.

Susan Walsh / AP file photo

The two leaders had a formal meeting in November on at the APEC summit in Manila. It was a relaxed meeting and U.S. President Barack Obama spoke effusively about Justin Trudeau, praising the “incredible excitement” the prime minister stirred with his election campaign.

OTTAWA—Washington is preparing to roll out the red carpet for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and wife Sophie Grégoire Trudeau to fete a Canadian leader in a way that hasn’t been done for almost two decades.

Thursday’s state dinner at the White House — a chic and relatively rare event — promises to grab the spotlight when Trudeau visits with U.S. President Barack Obama.

But it’s the symbolism of the state dinner and the substance of Trudeau’s Oval Office meeting with Obama scheduled for earlier that day that together signal the president’s interest in making the visit a success, observers say.

“It’s really clear that the president has invested in this visit,” said Paul Frazer, a former Canadian ambassador who now works as a consultant in Washington.

“He wants this to be a success for the prime minister and for Canada-U.S. relations.”

Indeed, Trudeau’s first visit to the U.S. capital since winning office last fall is seen as a chance by both sides to repair the strained relations that marked the latter years of Stephen Harper’s time as prime minister.

In his short time as prime minister, Trudeau has created a buzz south of the border, appearing in a photo shoot with Vogue magazine, being declared as the “anti-Trump” by the Washington Post and doing a sit-down interview with 60 Minutes that aired Sunday night .

“There is a real curiosity in the best sense of the word,” Frazer said. “This is rare. It’s an opportunity.”

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The president and prime minister

Trudeau and Obama “click,” says former Canadian diplomat Colin Robertson.

The two leaders first met at the G20 meeting in November in Turkey and had a formal sit-down several days later on the sidelines of the APEC summit in Manila.

It was a relaxed meeting and Obama spoke effusively about Trudeau, praising the “incredible excitement” the prime minister stirred with his campaign and predicting he would bring “energy and reform” to Canada.

Both are family men, both rode a message of hope and change to electoral success. Trudeau, 44, is a decade younger than Obama. Robertson speculates that Obama feels a kinship with the new Canadian leader.

“I think he sees in Trudeau someone who was not unlike himself eight years ago before the hard realities of governing,” Robertson said.

The upbeat mood of the coming visit stands in stark contrast to the chilly ties under former Harper, when the Keystone XL pipeline came to dominate the relationship.

The White House’s refusal to approve the energy project to carry Alberta oilsands crude through the American Midwest came to overshadow the Canada-U.S. relationship, sparking a bitterness on Harper’s part that he could not mask.

Trudeau is trying to stay clear of the politics of the current presidential race, even the prospect that Donald Trump could be in the White House.

“We have to remember that ideology can’t drive our relationship. It has to be pragmatic, focused on the things where we do agree and making sure we are creating jobs and opportunities for Canadians,” he told Vancouver’s News 1130.————————

Policy: Climate change, trade and security

Those are issues are certain to top discussions when Trudeau and Obama meet.

With Trudeau’s government adopting climate change and the environment as a top priority, the Obama administration now feels it has a willing partner on the issue north of the border.

The two leaders will be keen to showcase their co-operation on the file — forged at the climate change conference in Paris last December — with the promise of joint action to keep momentum going.

Canada’s priorities have traditional centered on trade and border access while the U.S. remains focused on terror and security issues.

“Our ask is always to get goods and people across the border because especially with the American economy in recovery, that will do more for Trudeau’ electoral fortunes four years from now if our economy recovers,” former Canadian diplomat Colin Robertson said.

He says Washington is certain to push Canada on security issues, such as sharing information on travellers crossing the border.

Discussions are certain to extend beyond bilateral issues to touch on topics such as the joint efforts against Daesh, the group also known as ISIS and ISIL. Canada’s efforts to welcome Syrian refugees could come up, given the resistance south of the border to a similar move.

Insiders caution that the true measure of the meeting will about the tone of the conversation and resetting the relationship.

“There are obviously joint deliverables that we are talking about but there isn’t a wish list going into the meeting. It’s really about how do we repair the relationship at this point and move forward,” one senior government official told the Star.

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The Pomp: One dinner. Months of planning

On Thursday, Trudeau will join the ranks of other leaders, from Queen Elizabeth to Indira Gandhi to Mikhail Gorbachev who have been feted at a White House state dinner.

The invites are done in careful calligraphy. The centerpiece floral arrangements are overseen by the White House floral designer. The china settings selected — there are seven to choose from for a full state dinner.

The meal will run four or five courses and feature a personal touch to acknowledge the visiting leader.

In a town well-accustomed to the trappings of power and influence, these dinners still stand out. “They are not held very often so they are stand-out events from the usual receptions and other events that can take place at the White House,” said a historian with the White House Historical Association.

There will be members of Congress, cabinet members from both countries, the respective ambassadors — Bruce Heyman, the U.S. ambassador in Ottawa and David MacNaughton, Canada’s newly installed diplomat in Washington. There’s likely to be a sprinkling of celebrities.

The Canadian delegation gets 20 tickets. That delegation will include Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion; International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland; Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan; Environment Minister Catherine McKenna and Hunter Tootoo, minister of fisheries, oceans and the Coast Guard.

Jean Chrétien was the last prime minister to enjoy a state dinner, then hosted by U.S. president Bill Clinton in 1997.

Trudeau’s father, Pierre Trudeau, was the guest of honour at three state dinners – in 1969, with President Richard Nixon as host; in 1974 with President Gerald Ford; and again in 1977 with President Jimmy Carter.

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