Political Corner: Last minute efforts cost Canada its Security Council seat

Two Canadian governments have now failed to achieve the coveted UN placement

Trudeau could learn from the long-term strategies of the winning countries. Photo courtesy of Women Deliver via Wikimedia Commons

By: Kelly Grounds, Peak Associate

On June 17, the United Nations held a vote for five of the 10 non-permanent Council seats for the 2021–22 term. The countries that were elected to the Council for the next term are India, Ireland, Kenya, Mexico, and Norway. Canada was not one of them, losing to both Ireland and Norway in the category “Western Europe and Other States.”

Since 2016, the Canadian prime minister has pitched this vote and the election that preceded it as Canada’s path to a more influential role in the world. He attempted to turn this message into reality by trying to take a more active role in Canada’s partnership and the UN. There were 13 staff members employed to work on the campaign that had an estimated budget of $1.74 million. Despite this, Canada wound up losing its bid with less votes than during their previous campaign under the Harper government.

So what happened?

In the days leading up to the June 17 vote, Prime Minister Trudeau and his team called Fiji, India, Mexico, North Macedonia, and Pakistan to try and secure votes. The campaign team and the prime minister only started visits to Ethiopia, Germany, and Senegal, to discuss the campaign in February, four months before the vote. Following this, the campaign’s planned visit to the Carribean was cancelled due to the pipeline protests and was never rescheduled. 

While one could make the argument that the pandemic forced the government to reprioritize in the lead-up to the vote, it’s important to remember that this campaign has been ongoing since 2016. That is four years to meet with countries and create stronger relationships to secure votes, rather than simply calling them in the days leading up to the vote. 

Norway and Ireland understood this, having started their campaigns earlier than Canada did. This extra time allowed them to strengthen relationships with countries naturally and increase the international goodwill in a way that did not appear to be tied to the vote. It also allowed both countries time to plan events for the international community to strengthen their standing in the global system. If Canada had used the time that it had more effectively, it may have had a chance. Instead it waited until the last moments to push for the votes and it obviously backfired.