Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has had a terrible few weeks, from the Wet’suwet’en solidarity blockades to the collapse of Teck Resources’ $20 billion Frontier mine project.
Most world leaders would immediately focus their energies on their domestic economies if faced with such dire financial circumstances.
The PM remains obsessed with the single-minded goal of getting Canada a seat on the United Nations Security Council. That’s what he was doing when the blockades raged on for the first two weeks. He shook hands and took photos with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (and didn’t invite the Canadian media) and was going to Barbados until the trip was cancelled eight hours before his flight was scheduled.
This time, Trudeau has sent a special envoy to work on Canada’s behalf. This individual will travel to Algeria, Bahrain, Qatar and Egypt between March 2 and 9, and meet with various officials to smooth the way for Canadian involvement in the UN once more.
Who did Trudeau appoint for this task? A prominent diplomat? A well-known public figure? A high-profile Liberal politician/supporter?
Nope. Trudeau selected Joe Clark.
As I tweeted on March 1, “Weak, ineffective PM appoints another weak, ineffective PM to help us gain a meaningless UN Security Council seat. Sounds about right.”
Clark was two-time leader of the now-defunct federal Progressive Conservatives. He was Canada’s 16th prime minister, from June 4, 1979, to March 3, 1980. That’s 273 days, or the fourth-shortest tenure in our political history.
Clark was brought down by his proposed four-cent-per-litre gas tax. He wanted to implement this to offset his budgetary deficit, but this measure wasn’t supported by the five Social Credit MPs propping up his minority government. Then-NDP MP Bob Rae saw an opportunity to ask Parliament to vote on a sub-amendment. The opposition parties banded together and brought down Clark’s government by a margin of 139-133.
Clark was also blasted for forgetting that three Conservative MPs were absent that day from the House of Commons. As some political commentators said, his “inability to do math” led to his political undoing.
The man known as “Joe Who?” was also criticized for leading the short-lived 2001-02 coalition between the PCs and Democratic Representative Caucus, composed of seven Canadian Alliance MPs who briefly left the party under Stockwell Day’s leadership. He also refused to support the 2003 merger between the Alliance and PCs, an act of political disloyalty that will never be forgiven by most Canadian conservatives. (He’s still never joined the Conservative Party of Canada.)
Hold on, his small band of faithful admirers are saying. They’ll point out Clark served faithfully in Brian Mulroney’s two PC majority governments, and was a good secretary of state for External Affairs (now called minister of Foreign Affairs) from 1984 to 1991. He dealt with Ethiopia’s famine, brought in refugees from Latin America and Central America, recommended former Ontario NDP leader Stephen Lewis to become Canada’s UN ambassador and stood against apartheid in South Africa.
Clark did fine in External Affairs, but his role has been badly inflated over the years. He went to Ethiopia and brought in refugees but as a member of the PC cabinet. He didn’t arbitrarily do these things and, even if he wanted to, he didn’t have the power or influence.
His role in Lewis’s appointment is complete nonsense (former Ontario premier Bill Davis made that recommendation to Mulroney) and linking him to the Canadian government’s decision to tackle South African apartheid is equally ridiculous (Mulroney had been anti-apartheid for decades and did it on his own).
In his temporary role as the Trudeau’s special envoy, it’s hard to know what he adds to the puzzle. He’ll meet with leaders from mostly totalitarian nations, like Trudeau did, but his foreign affairs experience ended nearly three decades ago.
Plus, the UN is a shell of its former self. Tyrannical regimes and dictatorships have been elected to its agencies, boards and councils. Member states regularly attack western democracies such as the U.S., United Kingdom and Israel. And while the UN claims to support world peace, they also prop up nations that regularly reject it.
Why Canada would want to play a role in this decrepit, dysfunctional organization is beyond my comprehension.
Then again, Clark is the perfect foil for Trudeau. He lives in the past with respect to Canadian foreign policy, doesn’t support the current Conservative party and believes the UN still stands for something.
Two mediocre prime ministers of a feather flock together, indeed.
Michael Taube, a Troy Media syndicated columnist and Washington Times contributor, was a speechwriter for former prime minister Stephen Harper. He holds a master’s degree in comparative politics from the London School of Economics.