Trudeau faces tough campaigning in Africa for UN Security Council seat

Trudeau faces tough campaigning in Africa for UN Security Council seat

OTTAWA — Suddenly, the Liberal government is all about Africa, and there is a very practical political reason for that — avoiding an embarrassing defeat in a major upcoming international election.

When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrives in Ethiopia later this week, he will be following in the footsteps of two cabinet ministers and a parliamentary secretary who have visited in the last few weeks. The attention is all part of Canada’s campaign for a seat on the United Nations Security Council.

Many analysts say Trudeau’s Africa tour may be too little, too late because Canada’s spending commitments on foreign aid and personnel contributions to UN peacekeeping are at all-time lows.

His government has been accused of largely ignoring Africa, which is a key UN voting bloc, but now suddenly the Liberals are discovering the political value of the fast-growing continent.

Africa, with its 54 voting countries, is a kingmaker of sorts in the secret ballot at the UN General Assembly’s 190-plus countries where Canada will need at least 128 votes in the upcoming June election for a two-year term starting in 2021. Canada faces tough competition from Norway and Ireland, which both spend more on foreign aid and peacekeeping.

Two seats up for grabs in what is called the ”Western European and Others Group” of the UN. It’s a bloc that usually circles the wagons in favour of its own European members at the expense of the “others” in the group — namely Canada, Australia and Israel.

“Without support on the African continent, Canada’s bid for the Security Council is a non-starter,” said Nicolas Moyer, the president of the Canadian Council for International Co-operation.

Trudeau visits Addis Ababa to meet with Ethiopia’s prime minister and president and attend the African Union Summit there before travelling to Dakar to meet with the president of Senegal.

Trudeau committed Canada to a Security Council run in 2015 as part of his “Canada is back” pledge, following the 2010 loss of a seat to smaller and economically fragile Portugal under the previous Conservative government.

Moyer and many others have long called on Canada to make a commitment to reach the UN goal for development spending of 0.7 per cent of gross national income. Canada’s current level is less than 0.3 per cent, which has it near the bottom of the pack among of the roughly three-dozen richest countries in the world. Norway’s development spending rate is almost at one full per cent, while Ireland has laid out a plan to reach the 0.7 target.

“On that measure we don’t compare very well to our competitors.”

Canada’s 2010 loss to Portugal was largely due to the inability of the then Stephen Harper Conservative government to persuade African countries to offer support, said Adam Chapnick, the Royal Military College professor and author of the new book “Canada on the United Nations Security Council: A Small Power on a Large Stage.”

“The votes we needed that we didn’t get were largely in Africa. In the previous campaigns, we’d virtually swept Africa and that made up for the fact that we rarely have much success in Eastern Europe. And Europe itself can be challenging because our opponents are usually Europeans.”

Canada is better positioned in Africa than most might think, in part because too much is being made of Canada’s low spending on rate based on gross national income, said Chapnick.

“Africa doesn’t vote as a bloc,” said Chapnick, whose book examines the intricacies of Canada’s past Security Council bids. “Every country votes in large part, based on what the nominees have done for them personally, lately. And the total number of dollars we spend on aid to Africa is not nearly as proportionately low as the percentage of our GNI.”

On a recent conference call at the end of his Africa trip, Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne noted that Canada had given the West African country of Mali $1.6 billion in development assistance over the last decade.

Canada also has an advantage over Ireland in West African countries because it is French speaking, said Chapnick. That’s something Trudeau is likely to emphasize when he arrives in Senegal next week.

“The personal touch in Africa does matter quite a bit. The appearance of a G7 leader … brings credibility to your state and demonstrates the importance of your state on the world stage, and that can be quite helpful,” said Chapnick.

But Leona Alleslev, the deputy leader of the Conservatives, said numbers matter more, and Canada’s will be hurt by the recent withdrawal of peacekeepers from Mali and the fact the Trudeau government has no clear plan to redeploy elsewhere in Africa.

“They don’t have a strategy and now they’re grasping at straws. So, what is it that they are offering when they have withdrawn from the Mali peacekeeping mission, when they haven’t looked at any other peacekeeping missions?” she said.

Unlike some fellow Conservatives — including former prime minister Stephen Harper who once branded the UN a club for dictators — Alleslev said Canada needs a seat on the Security Council to better represent the interests of middle powers, and to build international credibility with important trading partners.

Alleslev noted the latest figures tabled in the House of Commons showed the government spent almost $2 million on the bid as of early December, up from the $1.5 million of the previous spring.

“I think it’s too little, too late because they don’t know what they’re trying to sell.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Alberta vaccine rollout expanding to front-line health-care workers

More than 240,000 eligible health-care workers can begin booking vaccine appointments starting… Continue reading

File photo
The Red Deer Rebels will have three new assistant coaches when the WHL regular season starts on Friday. Brad Flynn (left), will be on the bench alongside fellow assistant Ryan Colville (right) head coach Brent Sutter (middle). (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Sutter steps down as Red Deer Rebels head coach

Red Deer Rebels Owner, GM and head coach Brent Sutter has stepped… Continue reading

Premier Jason Kenney announced $200 million more money that will benefit seniors living in continuing care on Wednesday. (photography by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Alberta’s in-school rapid screening test program expanding

Alberta’s in-school rapid screening test program will expand to as many as… Continue reading

Parents and students learned Tuesday what the coming school year will look like. It's pretty much back to business as usual, said Education Minister Adriana LaGrange. School precautions include frequent cleaning, keeping students in the same groups where possible, planning the school day to allow for physical distancing and staying home when sick. (photography by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Alberta’s largest school board says no to United Conservative draft school curriculum

CALGARY — Alberta’s largest school board says it will not use the… Continue reading

Red Deer-South MLA Jason Stephan is among those who have signed an open letter criticizing the government’s return to stricter health measures. (Advocate file photo).
Updated: Kenney tells UCP caucus COVID-19 dissent OK, breaking health rules means expulsion

15 MLAs released letter on Wednesday critical of new health restrictions

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau watches a speaker appear by videoconference during a news conference in Ottawa, Friday, April 9, 2021. Grassroots Liberals have overwhelmingly endorsed a resolution calling on the federal government to develop and implement a universal basic income — despite Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's apparent lack of enthusiasm for the idea. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau winds up Liberal convention with election campaign-style speech

OTTAWA — Justin Trudeau wound up a three-day Liberal convention Saturday with… Continue reading

Team Canada skip Brendan Bottcher makes a shot against Italy at the Men's World Curling Championships in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, April 6, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Men’s world curling championship in Calgary in COVID limbo

CALGARY — The men’s world curling championship in Calgary remained suspended Saturday… Continue reading

Pipes intended for construction of the Keystone XL pipeline are shown in Gascoyne, N.D. on Wednesday April 22, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Alex Panetta
Non-profit Quebec law centre to aid environmental group targeted by Alberta oil firm

QUEBEC — The Quebec Environmental Law Centre is coming to the aid… Continue reading

Conservative leader Erin O'Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, April 6, 2020. Top Tory leaders of past and present will speak with supporters today about what a conservative economic recovery from COVID-19 could look like. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Conservatives cite empathy, relationships as ways to help expand their movement

OTTAWA — Conservatives should show empathy with Black residents who say they’ve… Continue reading

NDP Leader John Horgan celebrates his election win in the British Columbia provincial election in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. New Democrats are reconvening for the second day of a three-day policy convention as they look to push past the glitches of the virtual event's opening sessions and rally around keynote speaker John Horgan. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
New Democrats reconvene as hiccups, frustrations plague national policy convention

OTTAWA — New Democrats reconvened Saturday for the second day of a… Continue reading

FILE - In this Monday, Oct. 23, 2017 file photo, President Donald Trump speaks during a joint statement with Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington. Former President Donald Trump plans to affirm his commitment to the Republican Party — and raise the possibility that someone else will be the GOP's next presidential nominee — in a closed-door speech to donors Saturday night, April 10, 2021. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)
Trump in 2024? He says only that ‘a Republican’ will win

PALM BEACH, Fla. — Former President Donald Trump plans to affirm his… Continue reading

A cruise ship sits docked waiting for passengers to be evacuated in Kingstown, on the eastern Caribbean island of St. Vincent, Friday, April 9, 2021 due to the eruption of La Soufriere volcano. (AP Photo/Orvil Samuel)
Ash-covered St. Vincent braces for more volcanic eruptions

KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent — People who ignored an initial warning to evacuate… Continue reading

Owner of 4 Point Taekwondo Kevin Mejia holds a board as organizer and martial artist Kevin Olsen breaks it in Edmonton on Friday, April 9, 2021. One hundred martial artists from around the world, will be breaking a board for an event called "Break for a Breakthrough." The idea is for martial artists to unite and re-engage with the arts because they may have drifted away or lost enthusiasm as a result of the pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Break for a Breakthrough: Canadian hosts international martial arts demonstration

EDMONTON — Whether he’s breaking a wooden board, a clay tile, cement… Continue reading

Most Read