TORONTO -- Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer criticized the Liberals for providing foreign aid to Iran, North Korea and Russia, countries that he described Tuesday as “adversarial if not outright hostile to Canadian interests and values.”

But that aid isn’t new – and those same countries received similar aid under the Conservatives. 

In the 10 years before Trudeau was elected, Canada provided $25 million to North Korea through international programs such as the World Food Programme. Millions of dollars were also given to Russia and Iran, according to the Canadian International Development Platform, which tracks international aid on a year-by-year basis.

Under Trudeau’s Liberal government, Canada contributed $5 million to humanitarian relief efforts in North Korea through the UN’s World Food Programme, and less than a quarter of a million dollars in assistance to Russia as part of a Global Equality Fund project to help members of the LGBTQ community who are under threat.

Scheer criticized the Liberals’ spending on foreign aid Tuesday while announcing his own party’s plans to slash foreign aid by 25 per cent.  In response, the Liberal Party pointed CTV News to a statement made by Liberal candidate Chrystia Freeland, who criticized Scheer’s foreign policy as “reckless” and “divisive.”

Cristine De Clercy, an associate professor in the department of political science at Western University, said Scheer isn’t lying, he’s just leaving out the bigger picture. 

“I would say (Scheer) is interpreting the facts that are favourable to his party,” she said.

“What is truthful about the statement is that Mr. Trudeau’s government has continued these policies and they have in fact sent money abroad to a long list of countries, some of whom are not among our closest allies and some who are not democracies.”

Scheer promised Tuesday to take away foreign aid from “middle- and upper-income” countries such as Argentina, Brazil and Italy that don’t need it, as well as “repressive regimes.” 

Scheer brings up Trudeau’s past comments on China, Fidel Castro

Scheer also brought up comments Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau made in the past about admiring China’s “basic dictatorship” -- a message that some experts say leaves out important context. 

“There’s a level of admiration I actually have for China because their basic dictatorship is allowing them to actually turn their economy around on a dime and say, ‘We need to go green … we need to start investing in solar,’” Trudeau told a fundraising event in 2013, a few months after becoming party leader.

He went on: “But if I were to reach out and say which…kind of administration I most admire, I think there’s something to be said right here in Canada for the way our territories are run.”  

Scheer has repeatedly characterized Trudeau as soft on dictators, citing a speech from 2013 and comments Trudeau made one day after the death of Cuban President Fidel Castro in 2016, calling him a “larger than life” leader.

“Whether we are talking about Justin Trudeau’s previous praise for China’s basic dictatorship or his gushing praise for the repressive Castro regime in Cuba or his $10-million payout to Omar Khadr, it is clear that on foreign policy and human rights – like so much else – Justin Trudeau is not as advertised,” Scheer said at a campaign stop in Toronto Tuesday.

The line of criticism is hardly new. In the lead-up to the 2015 election, Stephen Harper brought up those same comments in hopes of discrediting Trudeau.

A few weeks ago, the Conservative Party tweeted that Trudeau “gushed” about Castro after his death. The tweet earned hundreds of retweets, including one from a Quebec Conservative candidate.

Nelson Wiseman, a professor of political science at the University of Toronto, said any suggestion that Trudeau admires dictators is “over the top.”

“When you make a statement like that, people start scratching their heads,” he said.

“What Trudeau said about China -- I recall the comment -- it was the sentiment that a lot of people had. In China, they decide to do something, it happens. OK, it happens to be a dictatorship, but I don’t think that’s the part of China that he was admiring,” he said.

In terms of political strategy, Wiseman said he doesn’t think the Conservative are winning any points with the attacks.

“I don’t think these comments will move the needle a millimetre,” he said. 

Maxwell Cameron, the acting director of the School of Public Policy and Global Affairs at the University of British Columbia, agreed with Wiseman that these comparisons are unlikely to impact the vote in part because Canadians tend to be more concerned with policy within Canada, such as economic growth and jobs, when heading to the polls.

“Foreign policy doesn’t tend to be one of those pocket book issues,” he said. “I think people will assess how the government has dealt with the Trump administration, because that has a whole host of implications.”

Cameron added Scheer’s claims regarding Trudeau are “spurious,” but said there’s a debate to be had about how much we emphasize democracy when it comes to foreign policy.

“I think on balance, it’s fair for the Conservatives to say (the Liberals) haven’t placed democracy as a value at the very top of their priorities, but to suggest the government cozies up to dictators is taking it a little bit far,” he said.

With files from Ben Cousins

Contact us

See a story or post circulating on social media that you think may be disinformation or in need of fact-checking?

Let us know by sharing with us the link to the post or the source of the information.

Email us by clicking here or visit our Newsbreaker page.

Please include your full name, city and province.