John Ivison: Trudeau’s ill-timed, and costly, quest for a UN Security Council seat

There will be a further price to be paid for votes of support – and it will likely dwarf the $2 million the government has already spent directly on the bid.

… (Trudeau’s) quest is as timeworn as that ancient land – the bartering of political support for favours. Trudeau will visit Ethiopia, Senegal and Germany over the course of the next week, with the primary goal of securing support for Canada’s bid to win a seat on the United Nations Security Council.

The 15-member council has five permanent members and 10 elected by the assembly to two-year terms.

Canada’s timing is ill-advised. Previously, this country has only ever pushed itself forward when there were two names for the two positions in the Western Europe and Others group.

Ireland and Norway had already indicated their intentions, as had San Marino, when the new Liberal government decided to try to crash the party in early 2016. San Marino opted out almost immediately but it remains a contested election – three countries bidding for two seats.

The implications are obvious – with most of the European votes destined to land with the Irish and Norwegians, Canada is placing its hopes in Trudeau securing votes from the African states he will encounter in Addis Ababa, where the Ethiopians are hosting the 33rd summit of the African Union. In Senegal, he will appeal for support from fellow members of the Francophonie.

Trudeau will attempt to make deals with leaders from countries like Tanzania, which Amnesty International recently accused of “ruthlessly disembowelling” its human rights framework; the Democratic Republic of Congo, which stands accused of despoiling tropical forests and endemic violence; South Sudan, where the UN says war crimes have taken place; and Kenya, where Human Rights Watch says police have been responsible for disappearances and extra-judicial killings.

Canada already sends nearly $2 billion in overseas aid to a host of countries in Africa, including the four listed above.

Canada’s inability to live up to the rhetoric of its prime minister led to resignation in Ottawa that it was unlikely to reel in the 129 votes needed to win, and saw the government start to lower expectations.

However, Chapnick said recent events have provided some grounds for optimism. The re-election of the Trudeau government has given a degree of confidence to delegates that commitments made in exchange for votes will be honoured.

Further, the conclusion of the NAFTA negotiations and the appointment of a new foreign minister, François-Philippe Champagne, who is not focused on Canada-U.S. relations, is said to have been well received.

Finally, Trudeau’s direct involvement in horse-trading will give delegates more confidence when they exchange their votes for future considerations.

“That offers more hope than we might have had,” said Chapnick.

Yet the result remains in the balance and failure will bring uncomfortable comparisons between the prime minister and his father, who was in power when Canada held a non-permanent council seat in 1977.

To some veteran foreign policy watchers, while Trudeau senior was genuinely influential on the world stage, his son’s impact has been inconsequential.