Canadian Conservative leader Andrew Scheer on Tuesday kicked off a campaign to unseat Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, after he promised last year to formally recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital if elected in October.
Scheer, whose Tories are neck and neck with the Liberals in the latest public opinion polls ahead of elections in October, is a staunch supporter of Israel who could potentially align with US President Donald Trump on several key issues, including Iran.
“Canada’s Conservatives recognize the obvious fact that Israel, like every other sovereign nation, has a right to determine where its capital is located,” the party said on its website in February 2018, describing the party as “a strong voice for Israel and the Canadian Jewish community.”
A Tory government led by Scheer “will recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital when we form government in 2019,” it said.
In May 2018, Scheer took to Twitter to denounce a missile attack on Israel by Iranian forces in Syria, calling the Jewish state “a steadfast Canadian ally and a democratic stronghold in the Middle East.”
Praying for the safety of the soldiers of the Israeli Defense Forces and all Israelis tonight as they face missile attacks. 1/2
— Andrew Scheer (@AndrewScheer) May 10, 2018
Scheer, who will turn 40 on May 20, has also pledged to list Iran’s Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist entity, join the US ballistic missile defense program, and bolster Canada’s icebreaker fleet to keep Russia in check in the Arctic.
On Tuesday, Scheer opened his election campaign with a foreign policy speech promising a tougher stance on China.
“I will deal with China with eyes wide open,” he told the Montreal Council on Foreign Relations.
“My goal is better relations. My goal is more economic opportunity. But that can only come after we make a stand. And I will,” he said.
Ottawa’s relations with China took a sudden downturn last December when Beijing detained two Canadians in apparent retaliation for the arrest in Vancouver of Chinese telecom executive Meng Wanzhou on a US warrant.
Meng is currently fighting extradition to the US, where she faces charges of violating Iran sanctions and lying about it to US banks.
The diplomatic row recently escalated, with Beijing sentencing two other Canadians to death and banning Canadian canola shipments worth billions of dollars.
Scheer accused Trudeau of taking too soft a stance with China.
“If this government isn’t willing to stand up to China when two Canadians are unlawfully imprisoned and billions of dollars in trade is under attack, it never will,” he said.
He vowed if elected to launch a World Trade Organization complaint against China and pull Canada’s $250 million from the Beijing-based Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.
He also said he would “not allow Chinese state-owned enterprises, solely focused on the political interests of Beijing, unfettered access to the Canadian market.”
Trudeau’s government has insisted that the courts deal with Meng, while lining up a dozen allied nations to press China on what he has described as the “arbitrary detention” of the two Canadians — a former diplomat and a businessman.
The Conservatives held power from 2006 until 2015 when they were toppled by the Liberals in a general election.