Travelling abroad is often necessary for success in diplomacy… but

di Joe Volpe del 5 March 2020

TORONTO - For his sake, we hope it’s been worth the political investment. The voting public is a fickle mistress, as Prime Minister Trudeau has already discovered, after suffering a 16% decline in Liberal Party support at the polls in the October election.

To his good fortune, the Conservative Party, for reasons beyond the scope of this article, committed the “egregious sin” of not trouncing him. He had, after all, come off a string of stinging missteps. Time for correction…on all sides.

Following the election and the reinstallation of his party at the helm of a new [quasi-] majority government, Mr. Trudeau set immediately about rectifying the main issues facing the country: (1) shuffle his Cabinet; (2) have the Parliament of Canada approve the Budget and its enabling legislation; (3) set in motion the procedures for approving the new NAFTA - now USMCA – free trade agreement; (4) build pipelines… maybe; (5) plead Canada’s case for a seat on the UN Security Council and (6) feed the cannibalistic instincts of his main political rivals.

That last one is easy. The “big guns” in the Conservative Party told anyone within earshot, or at the other end of a Twitter account or in the larger social media pool, that Andrew Scheer was a “sinful person” (metaphorically speaking) for winning too many battles but letting victory in the war slip away.

For some strange reason, those “heroes” suffer from the mistaken impression that elections have only one participant. Trudeau, to them, must have been an interloper, a Johnny-come-lately and not the incumbent Prime Minister with a personal and partisan interest in the outcome. Ah well, after overtly or covertly savaging their Leader, one by one, they returned to the obscurity from which they had secured temporary leave.

Except Peter MacKay. Following an ever-so-brief encounter with a fawning, adulating Press (how so Trudeau-esque!) Mr. MacKay has become target number one for the discontented who had been almost convinced that he was the “second coming” – with apologies to the high priesthood in the alphabet brigade who are the guardians of who can and who should be a part of their summertime Lupercalia. Peter is now “on the outs” with them as well. If this keeps up, the next political battle may be between Scheer and the penitent souls in the Party who desperately want him back. And he hasn’t even left the country yet for an image remake.

Trudeau has, which brings us back to item number 5, pleading Canada’s case for a seat at the United Nation’s Security Council.

There are five Permanent Members (USA, France, England, Russia and China) who have the right to veto any decision by the multi-lateral organization, and 10 non-permanent ones who are elected by a two thirds majority. Canada has been there before, but not since its two-year term ended in 2002. The 10 have no veto but enjoy a “rinkside seat”/field-level view of the game.

A reading of the Global Affairs website suggests the goal is to provide career diplomats-in-the-making with an additional opportunity to preen on the international stage. Mr. Trudeau must have come to a similar conclusion because last week he opted to cancel travel plans in Canada’s crusade for special spectator status.

The Return on Investment seemed ever more elusive, and four “hereditary chiefs” from Canada’s Aboriginal community were holding up to public ridicule the competence of his Ministers and threatening the pipeline project(s) crucial to his government’s credibility on item number (4).

On Tuesday, he appointed the Right Honourable Joe Clark, former Conservative Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister in the Mulroney cabinet, as Special Envoy to oversee the Security Council seat project. A clear signal – “game over”. Let a Conservative wear the loss of the seat, yet again.

The last time, a Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper blamed the failure of the bid on the Arab world’s displeasure with Canada’s position on Israel (Bibi Netanyahu didn’t even acknowledge we were in the running). Harper had spent all his time slighting China, whose influence among its client states in Africa was a determining factor in the eventual decision to withdraw our bid. It’s the same today.

Time mellows everyone. I served with Joe Clark in the House of Commons; he’s a good and competent servant of Canada. Trudeau did not appoint him because he would succeed. Thank God there were no Liberals available to accept that “gig”.


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