Canada is competing against Norway and Ireland for two seats on the United Nations Security Council, in a June 17, 2020 story. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Historic, physically-distant vote at UN determines Canada’s Security Council bid

Canada competing against Norway and Ireland

OTTAWA — Today could be decision day for what could be Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s biggest foreign policy gambit: Canada’s bid for a temporary seat on the United Nations Security Council.

The voting begins at 9 a.m. eastern time, with the 193 UN ambassadors gaining staggered access to the General Assembly meeting hall to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne, who travelled by car to New York City on the weekend, will cast Canada’s vote around mid-day.

Canada is competing against Norway and Ireland for two seats, and the competition is expected to be heated.

The historic promenade of electors is set to take at least five hours — it would have taken about one in a full pre-pandemic chamber — and it could all be repeated Thursday if two of the competing countries can’t get 129 votes, or two-thirds of the assembly.

European countries are expected to unite around Canada’s two competitors, which has forced the Trudeau government to focus on Africa, Latin America, and Arab nations, as well as the small island states of the South Pacific that face potential extinction one day from rising sea levels caused by climate change.

“This is a big moment for Canada. In my job, I want Canada to inspire the world by its values and its principles,” Champagne said in an interview.

“I see that as being meaningful and I know in my discussions with foreign ministers around the world, and people with whom we’ve been engaging in Africa, the Caribbean, the Pacific islands, a number of them really rely on Canada to be part of building back better — the great reset.”

Trudeau declared his intention to compete for the Security Council in 2015, following Canada’s humbling failure five years earlier when tiny Portugal managed to win more support.

Canada’s campaign for the council rests on what it has been doing to help fight the pandemic. That has included convening like-minded countries to ensure food security in developing countries, keeping vital supply chains open across the globe, and working on new financing models to help struggling countries whose economies have been decimated by the pandemic.

“As I’ve said from the beginning, getting a seat on the UN Security Council for Canada is not an end in itself. It’s a means to an end,” Trudeau said Tuesday.

“Over the past number of months whether it’s been on COVID, on development and financial reform, on climate change, on a range of things from peacekeeping to security to women, we have been moving forward and leading the way.”

Trudeau made a final round of calls on Tuesday to the leaders of Mexico, India, Pakistan, Spain, Ethiopia, Angola and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines to campaign for support.

For all of Canada’s focus on wanting to use a seat to help rebuild the post-pandemic world, many analysts have noted that Norway and Ireland spend a higher percentage of their wealth on international aid, and send more troops on UN peacekeeping missions than Canada.

“We’re facing good competition. But I hear from people is that Canada, especially in the COVID time, is bringing positive and progressive leadership,” said Champagne.

Independent Sen. Peter Boehm, who was Canada’s ambassador to Germany in 2010 when the European powerhouse won a seat alongside Portugal, returned to the 2020 campaign to lobby small island states on Canada’s behalf.

Like many others, Boehm questioned whether Canada belongs in the Western European and Others Group, or WEOG, the UN geographical bloc that Canada has been assigned.

“WEOG is sort of a lonely place for Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Israel. We don’t really fit,” said Boehm.

He said Canada belongs in the Group of Latin American and Caribbean Countries, which is less competitive and makes more geographic sense for Canada.

Boehm and many others believe it will take more than one round for the two winners to emerge, which would mean a second full day of voting on Thursday.

Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, the Nigerian diplomat and scholar who is the current president of the General Assembly, has overseen a painstaking negotiation that resulted in all 193 UN missions agreeing to the new COVID-19 format of staggered voting.

“We have undertaken that within 24 hours after the election, when it’s known we need a second round, we’ll start the process. The secretariat has worked very, very hard to plan should that be the case.”

Champagne said if a second round is needed he will be making calls and sending text messages to swing support. And so will Canadian diplomats who he said have a game plan for all scenarios.

“This is Team Canada playing. We’ll be there with everything we’ve got.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 17, 2020.

United Nations

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

Just Posted

Front-line hospital workers have walked off the job at the Rimbey Hospital, and across the province. Photo Submitted
Front-line health care workers on strike across the province, including Rimbey Hospital

The strike is due to cut of 11,000 health care jobs in the province, according to AUPE

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, confirmed more than 1,000 cases over the weekend Monday afternoon. File photo
COVID-19: Central zone active cases up Monday

‘We’ve now crossed the tipping point,’ says Hinshaw

Alberta has 3,651 active cases of COVID-19. (File photo)
432 new COVID cases sets another record Friday

Central zone holds steady at 126 active cases

Ma & Paws Pet Supplies. Facebook/ Ma & Paws Pet Supplies.
Rimbey residents petition for dog park

Request for approval of dog park will be brought up at Tuesday Oct. 27 Town Council meeting.

The future site of the Rimbey Travel Centre. Web photo
New Rimbey development aims to capitalize on highway traffic

Phase I of the Rimbey Travel Centre would be along Hwy. 20, if approved

Wetaskiwin Hospital staff join AUPE walk outs across the province Monday Oct. 26, 2020. Shaela Dansereau/ The Pipestone Flyer.
City of Wetaskiwin health-care workers strike in protest of province-wide cuts

Wetaskiwin Hospital staff join other front line hospital workers across the province in walk-outs.

The death of 19-year-old Jacob Michael Chitze of Edmonton has now been ruled a homicide following an ongoing RCMP investigation.
UPDATE: RCMP arrest youth for second degree murder of 19-year-old Jacob Chitze

Arrest made for the murder of Jacob Michael Chitze, 19.

Pumpkins for the 46th Annual WDACS Pumpkin Ball on display at Vision Credit Union Wetaskiwin. Shaela Dansereau/ Pipestone Flyer.
46th Annual Pumpkin Ball held virtually this year

This year the pumpkins were sold over a six-day online auction.

Comedic actor Seth Rogen, right, and business partner Evan Goldberg pose in this undated handout photo. When actor Seth Rogen was growing up and smoking cannabis in Vancouver, he recalls there was a constant cloud of shame around the substance that still lingers. Rogen is determined to change that. (Maarten de Boer ohoto)
Seth Rogen talks about fighting cannabis stigma, why pot should be as accepted as beer

‘I smoke weed all day and every day and have for 20 years’

Leader of the Opposition Erin O’Toole rises during Question Period in the House of Commons Thursday October 22, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
O’Toole tells Alberta UCP AGM Liberals were ‘late and confused’ on COVID response

He says Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has taken charge and not waited to make things happen

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney arrives for an announcement at a news conference in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol
Inquiry into oil and gas foes to deliver report next year: Kenney

A lawsuit filed by environmental law firm Ecojustice argues the inquiry is politically motivated

The Canadian border is pictured at the Peace Arch Canada/USA border crossing in Surrey, B.C. Friday, March 20, 2020. More than 4.6 million people have arrived in Canada since the border closed last March and fewer than one-quarter of them were ordered to quarantine while the rest were deemed “essential” and exempted from quarantining. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Majority of international travellers since March deemed ‘essential’, avoid quarantine

As of Oct. 20, 3.5 million travellers had been deemed essential, and another 1.1 million were considered non-essential

This photo provided by Air Force Reserve shows a sky view of Hurricane Epsilon taken by Air Force Reserve hurricane hunter team over the Atlantic Ocean taken Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020.   Epsilon’s maximum sustained winds have dropped slightly as it prepares to sideswipe Bermuda on a path over the Atlantic Ocean.  The National Hurricane Center says it should come close enough Thursday, Oct. 22, evening to merit a tropical storm warning for the island.  (Air Force Reserve via AP)
Hurricane Epsilon expected to remain offshore but will push waves at Atlantic Canada

Epsilon is not expected to have any real impact on land

Most Read