OTTAWA — The Conservatives are planning to push the Liberals to better define their plans for a United Nations peacekeeping mission — and their reason for taking one on.
"There is no peace to keep and the areas are incredibly dangerous," interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose said in an interview with The Canadian Press, where she outlined her priorities for her caucus when it returns to Parliament Hill this week.
She said the Conservatives will be pressuring the Liberals to explain why a UN peacekeeping mission is in the national interest, as well as questioning their decision not to hold a debate on the matter in the House of Commons.
Interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose speaks during an interview with The Canadian Press at Stornoway on Sept. 16 in Ottawa. (Photo: Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)
She also suggested the real motivation for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is a desire to get Canada a seat on the UN Security Council.
"Do we have to send our men and women into harm's way to reach Mr. Trudeau's goal?" Ambrose said.
Canada withdrew its bid for a seat on the UN Security Council in 2010, when the Conservatives were in power.
Trudeau will be addressing the United Nations General Assembly in New York this week.
The federal government is sending a reconnaissance missing to look at UN peacekeeping operations in Mali, where the mission includes counter-insurgency operations.
UN peacekeepers stand guard in the northern town of Kouroume, Mali on May 13, 2015. (Photo: Adama Diarra/Reuters)
Ambrose said if the goal of potential Canadian military involvement in Mali is to combat terrorism, Trudeau should not have pulled fighter jets out of the U.S.-led bombing campaign in Iraq and Syria.
"If Trudeau is serious about fighting terrorism, we know exactly where we need to be," she said.
She said contributing to projects like the maternal and newborn child health initiative — championed by the previous Conservative government — is another way that Canada can boost efforts to increase stability in Africa.
"If Trudeau is serious about fighting terrorism, we know exactly where we need to be."
As MPs return to Ottawa after the summer, the Conservatives also plan to go hard on the state of the economy, as well as pressuring the Liberal government to hold a referendum on electoral reform.
"I think it's incredibly arrogant for the government to think they can change what our vote means without a referendum," she said.
One potential challenge for Ambrose will be keeping the Conservative caucus on message in the midst of a leadership race, which earlier this month became consumed by a raging debate over a proposal by Ontario MP and candidate Kellie Leitch to screen potential immigrants and refugees for where they stand on so-called Canadian values.
Ambrose said it will be up to Conservative party members to cast their judgment on the candidates. But she pointed out this is the first Conservative leadership race that has taken place in the age of social media, when even non-Conservatives are able to weigh in on ideas like these.
"That level of feedback is really wonderful for our race," she said.