Natural Resources Minister Herb Dhaliwal says the international community should have expected more than it got from U.S. President George W. Bush on the issue of disarming Iraq.
"I think it's really regrettable and unfortunate that he's made this decision when the whole world is crying out for peace," Dhaliwal said outside a weekly Liberal caucus meeting Wednesday.
"The world expects someone who's the president of a superpower to be a statesman. I think he's let not only Americans, but the world, down by not being a statesman."
Dhaliwal's remarks drew a critical response from Conservative leader Joe Clark.
I think Mr. Dhaliwal has to sort out whether he wants to be a private citizen expressing private opinions or a minister of the Crown," Clark told reporters outside the House."
Clark said he didn't think Dhaliwal's statement would help Canada, U.S. relations, and said Dhaliwal should withdraw his remarks immediately.
"If he is going to express opinions of that kind, he has a perfect right to express them as long as he resigns. If he is going to remain in the cabinet having made that statement he should stand up in the House of Commons and withdraw it and the prime minister should require him to."
Canada has refused to back the U.S. position on an invasion of Iraq and has opted out of direct participation in any conflict. In announcing his decision Monday, Prime Minister Jean Chretien said diplomacy and weapons inspections should have been given more time to succeed.
Dhaliwal said there will be many victims as a result of an unnecessary war.
"A lot of innocent people are going to die, both on the American side and innocent Iraqis," he said.
Dhaliwal said Ottawa's decision to stay on the sidelines "reflects Canadian values and principles" and shouldn't affect U.S.-Canada trade relations.
"History will have a look at this," he said. "I just think that President Bush, to me, didn't seem committed to the UN process and when he felt he wasn't going to win, he decided to leave it."
Dhaliwal is not the first Liberal MP to be openly critical of American policy.
In late February, backbench MP Carolyn Parrish, was overheard saying "Damn Americans; I hate those bastards."
Parrish's comments came just months after Prime Minister Jean Chretien's communications director Francoise Ducros called George Bush a "moron." Ducros later resigned.
Deputy Prime Minister John Manley tried to downplay the remarks, saying it's important for Canada to maintain a "consistent and principled position" on Iraq and to "avoid as much as possible any characterization of the U.S. or its motives."
Asked whether Bush is a failure, Manley said: "No, I think it's far too soon to make a historic assessment."