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Canada won't bid for Security Council seat: Baird

Tories called quitters for not trying again

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OTTAWA -- The ongoing debate about Canada's standing in the world was rekindled Wednesday after John Baird admitted Canada won't run again for a spot on the United Nations Security Council.

Canada doesn't need a seat on the council to have a place in the world, the foreign affairs minister said Wednesday during a pointed question-period exchange in the House of Commons.

"Canada's principled foreign policy is not for sale for a Security Council seat," Baird said.

"We are aggressively working on humanitarian aid to the most vulnerable, including Syria, we are taking real leadership when it comes to standing up against the evil that is Iran, and no one is standing up stronger against the regime in Colombo, Sri Lanka, than this prime minister and this government."

That attitude calls into question the real value of Canada's efforts, suggested Paul Dewar, the NDP's foreign affairs critic.

"This government is quitting (and) this minister will be noted as the minister who just gave up when it comes to trying to win back our seat at the Security Council," Dewar said. "To turn around and suggest that, you know, others aren't taking the issue of the day seriously, like Iran -- well, guess what?

"The sanctions that have been put in place through the UN have been decisions that were made at the Security Council. So if you want to take the leadership on issues, you at least try to win a seat."

The last time Canada ran for one of the temporary, no-veto seats on the UN's top body was in 2010. Canada was up against Portugal and Germany for the 2011-13 term but withdrew after a second round of votes after being trounced by Portugal. It marked the first time in the six-decade history of the UN that Canada had failed to win a seat for which it made a bid. Many considered the loss a direct consequence of Canada's foreign-policy approach to the Middle East and support for Israel.

At the time, Baird suggested the defeat had more to do with the tough stance Canada has taken on issues such as gay rights in Africa and human rights in Iran. He suggested at the time he didn't see another bid on the horizon and found himself addressing the question again Tuesday while testifying before a House of Commons committee.

The next time a spot will open for Canada at the Security Council is 2015, with elections taking place next fall. New Zealand, Turkey and Spain have announced they intend to campaign for the two spots that will be vacated by Australia and Luxembourg.

The NDP asked Baird Tuesday whether Canada would campaign in 2014. "We're focusing on other priorities," Baird said.

The decision not to mount a new campaign reflects a general policy of disengagement from multilateral organizations, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau suggested.

"We have traditionally and historically had a very strong role to play internationally, including through the UN," he said. "And the sort of... collective shrug by this government at the fact that for first time in the history of the UN we didn't win a seat on the UN Security Council means that there is something going very wrong with this government's approach to international affairs."

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 3, 2013 A12

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