MONTREAL — Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer is set to deliver what is being billed as a major foreign-policy speech Tuesday afternoon, calling for Canada to join an American ballistic-missile shield and take a more aggressive attitude toward China.
Scheer's speech is a policy table-setter for the upcoming federal election, and he takes direct aim at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau off the top, deriding his 2015 declaration that "Canada is back" on the world stage.
"Canada had, in fact, not gone anywhere," says Scheer's prepared text. "And the profound arrogance and self-importance of Mr. Trudeau's words foreshadowed how the new prime minister would conduct Canada's foreign affairs: Style over substance and ego over achievements."
The Liberals fired back with their own statement before Scheer even uttered a word.
"Whether it's Andrew's Scheer's endorsement of Brexit chaos, skepticism on climate change, corrosive rhetoric on immigration, or uncertainty on NAFTA, the Conservative plan amounts to risk and uncertainty that would hurt Canadians and our economy," said Liberal MP and Quebec campaign co-chair Pablo Rodriguez in a statement.
Scheer's prepared text does not mention his past support for the Brexit movement in Britain that is attempting to pull the country out of the European Union.
"After 10 years of failed Conservative foreign policy, Justin Trudeau's Liberal government is restoring Canada's place in the world, including restoring and investing in Canada's military," says Rodriguez. "Canadians don't want to go back to Stephen Harper's failed foreign policy, and that's all Andrew Scheer is offering."
Scheer's speech calls Trudeau's trip to India last year "the most disastrous" ever by any Canadian prime minister.
The speech also says a Conservative government would reset fractured relations with China and will stand up to Russia.
"I will deal with China with eyes wide open," he says. "Although China is a primary, and certainly the strongest, propagator of authoritarian values, Russia remains a serious threat."
He says Russian President Vladimir Putin has returned his country to a "Cold War posture."
Scheer says he would join the U.S. ballistic-missile defence program — one that both previous Liberal and Conservative governments, including Harper's, chose to not to join.
The United States has gone ahead with the missile-shield program without Canada; it is designed to protect the continent from a long-range ballistic missile armed with a nuclear weapon.
Scheer also makes a passing reference to the challenges of dealing with a mercurial American president, but he largely shies away from any direct mention of President Donald Trump.
"The Canada-United States relationship transcends the personalities of those who occupy each respective office. And its longevity is crucial to our respective peace and prosperity. It must be strengthened."
The audience for the speech to the Montreal Council on Foreign Relations apparently includes SNC-Lavalin, whose corporate name is affixed to one of the tables in the Montreal hotel ballroom where Scheer is to speak and whose logo is on some of the event's posters.
Scheer has accused Trudeau of a cover-up in the ongoing controversy over whether the government should have given the firm a deferred prosecution agreement over the criminal charges it faces for alleged bribery in Libya.
Brock Harrison, a spokesman for Scheer, said the event is not a party fundraiser and the firm won't be giving the Conservatives any money.
He also said Scheer has no meetings planned with any SNC executives in attendance.
Two representatives of the Montreal council could not answer questions about the event, including the cost per ticket, and who would receive the proceeds.
Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press