Headline News By Brian Platt 525 Views

Don't tell the world 'Canada is back' without backing it up: Brian Mulroney hits out in foreign affairs speech

OTTAWA — In a speech that takes veiled shots at Justin Trudeau, Andrew Scheer and Stephen Harper, former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney is calling for Canada to increase its foreign aid spending, re-engage with the United Nations, and stop telling the world “Canada is back” without taking action to back it up.

“The world stage is the big leagues, and if you want to play successfully there you have to conduct yourself that way,” Mulroney said in prepared remarks, shared with the National Post, for a speech at a United Nations Association in Canada (UNA-Canada) event on Thursday night in Toronto.

Mulroney opened the speech with a criticism of Harper’s Conservative government over getting rejected for a UN Security Council seat in 2010, calling it embarrassing. He said Canada had bid successfully for a Security Council seat six times before the rejection.

“(It) is not, as this embarrassing rejection was characterized by the then-government of Canada, ‘a badge of honour’,” Mulroney said. “Stridency, disruption, and bellicose — but ultimately meaningless — hollow threats are not synonymous with principle and never lead to successful outcomes.”

Mulroney went on to say Trudeau hasn’t done enough to restore Canada’s image. “For all the self-congratulatory talk that ‘Canada is back,’ the world has taken note that the rhetoric has not been matched by action,” he said. “If we want to dress the rhetorical ‘Canada is back’ up in appropriate clothing, we must begin by gaining the respect of allies by paying our own way.”

From there, Mulroney laid out his ideas for rebuilding Canada’s international credibility. He started with a call to drastically increase Canada’s “anemic and embarrassing” foreign aid spending — the exact opposite of what Scheer’s Conservatives promised in the last election campaign, when they proposed to cut foreign aid spending by 25 per cent.

“(Former Prime Minister) Mike Pearson set the target for industrialized nations to commit 0.7 per cent of GDP to foreign aid,” Mulroney said. “My government raised our contribution to 0.5 per cent en route to the objective. Then for 25 years, it has been all downhill. Today Canada is stuck at an anemic and embarrassing 0.26 per cent of 1 per cent.”

It marks the second time this week that Mulroney has given a speech that appears to criticize Scheer’s approach to the last campaign. Earlier, accepting an environmental leadership award, he urged Canadian politicians to take much bigger action on climate change even if it’s unpopular with “the base.” Two of Mulroney’s children — Caroline and Mark — have been occasionally floated as potential federal Conservative leadership candidates.