In his first public comments after he became the first prime minister in Canadian history to lose a bid to win a seat on the United Nations Security Council, Prime Minister Stephen Harper had this to say:
Our engagement internationally is based on the principles that this country holds dear; it is not based on popularity. We take our positions based on the promotion of our values, freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law, justice, development, human…humanitarian assistance for those who need it. Those are the things were pursuing. That does not change, regardless of what the outcome of secret votes is.
Canada, according to Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon, had commitments, in writing or verbally, from 150 of the 192 countries at the United Nations that they would vote for Canada. Close to 40 broke their word as Canada never got more than 114 ballots in two rounds of secret balloting. And its the secrecy of those votes — ambassadors, presumably, could ignore directions from their own governments and vote however they pleased — that the Conservatives have seized on after losing the vote.
Bob Rae, the Liberal MP and his party's foreign affairs critic, has now seized on the secrecy:
I know very well that the kind of ballot that Mr. Harper would prefer would be somebody whispering their choice in his ear. But that isn’t going to happen. We have secret ballots. We’ve had secret ballots at the UN since 1945. Mr. St. Laurent managed to win it. Mr. Diefenbaker managed to win it. Mr. Trudeau managed to win it. Mr. Mulroney managed to win it. Mr. Chrétien managed to win it. And Mr. Harper didn’t. And he can’t – all of his defences in the world can’t get around it.
Then the final defence is what I call the Groucho Marx defence. The Groucho Marx defence is “If that clubs wants me as a member – it doesn’t want me as a member, I wouldn’t want to be a member of it anyway.” So it’s just – we’re getting to a ludicrous point. Let’s just deal with the facts. We lost the vote because Canada’s voice was not heard in the right ways at the right time, because Canada’s presence was not felt in the right way at the right time. That’s why we lost the vote and Canadians I don’t think are happy about that but there’s no point in underestimating the importance of what happened