Conservative leader Andrew Scheer arrives for a morning announcement in Toronto Tuesday, October 1, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Seat at UN security council not top priority, Scheer says after pledging foreign-aid cuts

‘It’s more important to me that I help Canadians get ahead than curry favour at the United Nations’

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer says he believes it is more important to help out Canadians at home than to seek a seat on the United Nations Security Council.

Canada is campaigning for one of two seats for a two-year term that would begin in 2021, but it faces a tough fight from Norway and Ireland.

The Conservatives are pledging to decrease foreign-aid spending by 25 per cent. The plan includes cutting out funding for countries they consider to be hostile regimes, or as having too much money to need the help.

Asked whether that would hurt Canada’s bid for the UN seat it is seeking, Scheer said he was confident allies would recognize the country’s contributions, including through its military efforts, around the world.

At the same time, he suggested securing the council spot would not be a priority for a Conservative government.

“It’s more important to me that I help Canadians get ahead than curry favour at the United Nations,” Scheer said Tuesday in Toronto.

The UN vote is next June.

Scheer noted his foreign policy announcement came the day when the party leaders would have been participating in an event the Munk Debates organized around the topic. Organizers said they cancelled the event because Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau decided not to take part.

Trudeau, who was meeting with mayors from the Greater Toronto Area about his gun-control policy on Tuesday, linked the proposed Conservative cuts to foreign assistance to their climate-change policy.

“Andrew Scheer’s climate plan relies almost entirely on action overseas and now he’s proposing to stop supporting countries who are taking action overseas on fighting emissions,” Trudeau said in Richmond Hill, Ont.

Trudeau also defended Liberal investments in foreign aid, although would not commit to increasing spending to reach 0.7 per cent of GDP, which is a target the United Nations set in 1970.

“We are continuing to invest in foreign aid, because we know that helping people around the world, particularly vulnerable women and girls, is a meaningful way of promoting prosperity and indeed security and stability that impacts Canadians as well,” Trudeau said.

New Democrat Leader Jagmeet Singh, meanwhile, said his party would commit to increasing foreign aid spending to reach the UN target.

Dark skies: UN meeting reveals a world in a really bad mood

Singh also said that if Scheer is trying to find ways to pay for his promises, then cutting foreign aid is going about it the wrong way.

“It is shameful that he is talking about cutting foreign aid when there are massive inequalities in our country,” Singh said Tuesday in Vancouver.

“The fact that he is talking about cutting foreign aid is a distraction,” he said. “He is missing the point. He is missing the whole plot here. We’ve got massive inequality in our country and we have to ask those at the very top, the ultra rich, to pay their fair share.”

Green Leader Elizabeth May is in Toronto to talk about her party’s policy on post-secondary education at Ryerson University before heading to Montreal for an evening rally. People’s Party leader Maxime Bernier is planning several small-scale appearances with candidates in southwestern Ontario.

Joanna Smith, The Canadian Press

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