LONDON, Ont. — Justin Trudeau says a Liberal government would start re-engaging Canada with the world by signing a landmark global treaty to regulate the arms trade.
The Conservative government’s refusal to sign the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty is an example of how Stephen Harper’s penchant for going it alone in the world has reduced Canada’s global voice, he said.
“Mr. Harper hasn’t seemed to notice that the fact that he shouts loudly on the world stage doesn’t offset the fact that nobody’s listening much to Canada any more,” Trudeau said at a morning rally in support of candidates in the London area.
The New Democrats have also called on the Harper government to sign the treaty that came into force on Dec. 24, 2014.
It seeks to regulate the international trade in conventional weaponry from small arms to battle tanks, combat aircraft and warships.
The federal government has yet to sign and has raised concerns over how it would affect gun owners in Canada.
The country’s recreational firearms industry has strongly lobbied the government to opt out of the treaty, saying it could lead to a return of the federal long-gun registry.
The treaty has been signed by many Canadian allies including the U.S., which has hugely influential gun lobby.
Secretary of State John Kerry has said the treaty would not affect the rights of American gun owners.
As he did during the recent leaders’ debate on foreign policy, Trudeau said he would move Canada back towards its traditional role as an active player in multilateral institutions, including the UN.
He referred to Canada’s historic loss in 2010 to tiny, economically-battered Portugal for a temporary, two-year seat on UN Security Council, saying a Liberal government “would certainly make sure we don’t lose an election to join the Security Council at the United Nations.”
The Harper government has said previously it isn’t considering another run for the Security Council, where Canada has served six times, about once a decade, since the UN was formed in 1945.
Trudeau said the government’s approach impacts Canada’s influence in places as distant from each other as the Middle East and the Arctic.
“Canada needs to be once again a constructive actor on the world stage focusing on our national interests, which include security and stability in places like the Middle East.”
Canada could best help check actions such as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to bomb targets in Syria by joining in with its allies, he said.
“That’s why Canada needs to once again re-engage as a robust and helpful member of the international community. That’s where we have to turn it around by re-engaging as a strong partner in international efforts to hold bullies like Vladimir Putin to account.”
Actions such as accepting more Syrian refugees would also boost Canada’s clout, Trudeau added.
The Liberal leader’s comments came as Montreal La Presse endorsed him in an editorial.
“This choice is motivated a lot by Justin Trudeau’s leadership style,” the newspaper said. “Contrary to Mr. Harper and, to a certain degree, Mr. Mulcair, Mr. Trudeau believes in a constructive notion of politics.
“Instead of exploiting division and prejudice, he believes in dialogue and looks for consensus and compromise. He avoids personal attacks. He likes people and people like him in return. There is some Laurier in him.”
The newspaper said Trudeau has shown he is ready.
“After 10 years of a destructive government that lives on meanness and narrow-mindedness, Canada needs a government based on intelligence, dialogue and optimism. That is why La Presse is hoping that Justin Trudeau’s Liberal party is elected.”
The newspaper supported the Liberals in 1993, 1997 and 2000 and the last time it backed a party was in 2006, when it endorsed the Conservatives.
The Liberal leader flew to Fredericton later on Wednesday to address students at St. Thomas University on voter engagement.
The riding is currently held by the Tories but polls suggest the Liberals could make a much-needed breakthrough in the region.