Cablegate: The Harper Government's Blueprint for Parliament
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UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 OTTAWA 001924
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TAGS: PGOV PREL ECON SENV CA
SUBJECT: THE HARPER GOVERNMENT'S BLUEPRINT FOR PARLIAMENT
REF: A. OTTAWA 1910
-- B. OTTAWA 1922
1. (U) In a tradition-heavy ceremony on October 16 that also broke
with tradition by taking place in the early evening rather than
mid-afternoon, Canada's Governor General opened the new session of
Parliament by reading the government's "Speech from the Throne,"
which lays out clearly the agenda and vision of Prime Minister
Stephen Harper for the coming session. (Septel will discuss the
Liberal opposition's response on October 17.) The government
focused on five core priorities that will create what it called a
"better, stronger, safer Canada."
"A PROUD AND SOVEREIGN CANADA"
2. (U) Afghanistan: for the first time, the Speech clarified that
"our government does not believe that Canada should simply abandon
the people of Afghanistan after February 2009." It stated that
Canada should instead build on its accomplishments and shift to
accelerate the training of the Afghan army and police, a task that
"will not be completed by February 2009" but "should be achievable
by 2011, the end of the period covered by the Afghanistan Compact."
The government specified that a majority of Parliament would have
to approve the mission's future and its timetable, but argued that
Afghanistan is the area in which Canada can most clearly "make a
difference" in the world and that this decision should honor the
progress and sacrifices of Canadians, ensure further progress, and
uphold Canada's international commitments and reputation. It
highlighted that this role was part of a UN-sanctioned mission that
both was both "noble and necessary."
3. (U) World role: declaring its message to the world that
"Canada is back," the government promised to rebuild the Canadian
Forces with better equipment and training in order to meet Canada's
responsibilities to the UN and to its allies and to promote shared
values of freedom, human rights, and rule of law. It announced it
would seek Parliamentary approval of honorary Canadian citizenship
for Aung San Suu Kyi of Burma. It pledged to maintain an active
role in the Americas, citing Haiti as an example of working together
with neighbors to help build democracy in a fragile state.
4. (U) Arctic strategy: acknowledging "new opportunities and new
challenges," the government pledged an "integrated northern
strategy" to strengthen Canada's sovereignty, protect the northern
environment, promote economic and social development, and devolve
governance to northern communities. It announced its plan to build
a "world-class arctic research station that will be on the cutting
edge of arctic issues," including environmental science and resource
development and the completion of comprehensive mapping of Canada's
Arctic seabed. It underscored that Canada's sovereignty in the
North demands that Canada "maintains the capacity to act" with new
arctic patrol ships and expanded aerial surveillance to guard the
North and the Northwest Passage. It also reaffirmed previously
announced plans to increase the size and capabilities of the
indigenous aboriginal Arctic Rangers.
"A STRONG FEDERATION"
5. (U) Relations with provinces: the government promised to
"reinvent" neglected federal responsibilities and cited the federal
role in strengthening the "economic union" and promoting freer trade
Qrole in strengthening the "economic union" and promoting freer trade
among provinces. The speech noted that "it is often harder to move
goods and services across provincial boundaries than across our
international borders. . . (which) hurts our competitive position."
It pledged to limit federal spending power for shared cost programs
in areas with exclusive provincial jurisdictions.
"A PROSPEROUS FUTURE"
6. (U) IPR: the government announced its intention "to improve
cultural and intellectual property rights (IPR) in Canada, including
7. (U) Taxes: the speech described a "long-term plan of
broad-based tax relief for individuals, businesses, and families" as
well as to cut again the federal government sales tax.
8. (U) Infrastructure: in a "Building Canada Plan" the government
described efforts to improve transport and trade hubs, including the
Windsor-Detroit corridor and the Atlantic and Pacific gateways.
9. (U) Agriculture: the speech indicated that the government
plans to promote biofuels, while reiterating "strong support for
Canada's supply-managed system" of agriculture.
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"A SAFE AND SECURE CANADA"
10. (U) Law and order: noting that peace, order, and good
government are the "birthrights" of Canadians and that it had "no
greater responsibilities" than protecting these, the government
announced its plans to introduce a comprehensive omnibus "Tackling
Violent Crime bill" that will incorporate previous flagship bills on
mandatory minimum sentences for serious gun crime and impaired
driving and against dangerous offenders that did not pass in the
last session. (Some bills had passed the lower house but not the
Senate already, but this packaging is new.) The government warned
the opposition that "Canadians expect prompt passage of this crucial
legislation." Other new bills will crack down on drug producers and
pushers, strengthen the youth justice system, and crack down on
property crime. The government also pledged to ensure effective law
enforcement, including seeking resources to recruit 2,500 more
police officers, and vigorously to pursue its new National Anti-Drug
11. (U) National security: the government promised to "address
Canadians directly" on the challenge of terrorism with a statement
on national security. It will introduce legislation to strengthen
the Anti-Terrorism Act and to respond to the February 2007 Supreme
Court decision on the unconstitutionality of immigration security
"A HEALTHY ENVIRONMENT FOR CANADIANS"
12. (U) Kyoto: the Speech highlighted that the challenge of
climate change requires a global solution and must include binding
targets on major emitters. It admitted frankly that Canada's
emissions cannot be in compliance with the Kyoto Protocol by the
required date of January 1, 2008. The government pledged to pursue
a two-track process of pursuing a global consensus while moving to
reduce total greenhouse gas emissions at home 60-70% by 2050. The
government announced plans to bring back to the lower house
legislation containing elements from the failed Clean Air Act that
had all-party consensus (likely provisions on air pollutants) and to
put Canada "at the forefront" of clean technology.