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Cablegate: Opposition Reaction to Manley Report Predictable

VZCZCXRO0477
OO RUEHGA RUEHHA RUEHIK RUEHPOD RUEHPW RUEHQU RUEHVC RUEHYG
DE RUEHOT #0124/01 0242110
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 242110Z JAN 08 ZDK
FM AMEMBASSY OTTAWA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 7191
INFO RUCNAFG/AFGHANISTAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUCNCAN/ALL CANADIAN POSTS COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHBUL/AMEMBASSY KABUL PRIORITY 0158
RHEHNSC/WHITE HOUSE NSC WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEHVEN/USMISSION USOSCE PRIORITY 0115
RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO PRIORITY 0869

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 OTTAWA 000124

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

STATE FOR WHA/CAN

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL MOPS AF CA
SUBJECT: OPPOSITION REACTION TO MANLEY REPORT PREDICTABLE


1. (U) Summary: The New Democratic Party (NDP) and the Bloc
Quebecois moved quickly, and predictably, on January 22 to
reject the central recommendation of the Manley panel to
extend Canada's combat mission in Afghanistan. Their decision
puts the onus on the official opposition Liberals to clarify
their position. The Liberals, however, appear to be keeping
their powder dry and have yet to respond officially to the
report. PM Harper welcomed the report as "substantive and
thoughtful" and promised to give it careful consideration,
but did not indicate how he will deal with the issue when
Parliament returns on January 28. The NDP and Bloc have now
ruled themselves out of any part in the parliamentary
"consensus" PM Harper has said he is seeking on the future of
the mission, perhaps leaving the Liberals to determine its
future. End summary

BLOC: "OUT OF THE QUESTION"
--------------------------

2. (U) Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe was unequivocal
in rejecting the Manley report as giving the Harper
government "carte blanche" to continue the Afghan war
indefinitely. Duceppe said the report's refusal to state an
end-date for the mission is unacceptable, and that his party
is in "complete disagreement" with the Harper government over
the extension of the combat mission beyond February 2009. He
called on the government to advise its allies of Canada's
decision and to shift its focus in Afghanistan to
reconstruction, humanitarian aid and development. He urged
the government to hold a promised vote in the House of
Commons on the future of the mission as early as possible.

NDP: "WRONG FOR CANADA"
-----------------------

3. (U) Similarly, NDP leader Jack Layton rejected any
extension of the combat mission as "the wrong role for
Canada" and contrary to "Canadian values." After six years
of counter-insurgency warfare, Layton said, Canada should be
"drastically changing course" to help the Afghan people build
a lasting peace in the region. NDP defense critic Dawn Black
questioned the independence of the Manley panel, saying the
participants were chosen to give the PM the recommendations
he wanted.

LIBERALS: MUM
-------------

4. (U) In contrast, Liberal leader Stphane Dion declined to
comment despite being peppered with questions at a January 22
press conference. He said he had not yet read the report,
but reiterated his party's long-standing position that the
combat mission should end in February 2009 and argued that
his party has "strong reasons" for Canada to switch to a
non-combat role. "We have carried this mission during three
years and it's time for Canada to do something else in
Afghanistan," he remarked. Dion repeated the Liberals' three
conditions for extending the mission: an end to the combat
role, more training of Afghan forces, and a greater emphasis
on development assistance. He refused, however, to say
whether Liberals are prepared to defeat the government should
Harper make the extension of the mission a matter of
confidence.

KEEP OPTIONS OPEN?
------------------

5. (U) The Liberals appear to be keeping their options open.
Foreign affairs critic and former leadership candidate Bob
Rae (who is currently running for a federal seat in a March
QRae (who is currently running for a federal seat in a March
17 by-election) hinted the party might be able to live with
the recommendations in the report. Rae argued that there is
no need for Liberals immediately to take a hard position
until they see how the Harper government and NATO partners
respond. Manley recommended delaying a parliamentary vote
until after the April NATO summit. Rae said much will depend
on whether the government allows a full debate or attempts to
"politicize" the issue with a snap vote as in 2006: "Let's
see what the government puts up and whether it's compatible
with our position." Liberal House leader Ralph Goodale
agreed the party might let the government make the first
move. "We'll see how it's handled and managed... we'll see
how they play it," he said.

OTTAWA 00000124 002 OF 002

COMMENT
-------

6. (SBU) John Manley's elevated stature among Liberals, and
Manley's explicit references to Canada's assumption of a
robust international role under a series of previous Liberal
leaders, puts Dion in the awkward position of having to
either reject the advice of one of the party's most respected
stalwarts or backtrack on his own position. The Liberals
split over Afghanistan in the midst of a leadership race in
2006. Currently all Liberal MPs are publicly onside to end
the combat mission in 2009, but doubts remain over the
position of deputy leader Michael Ignatieff and other
Liberals who supported a continued combat role in 2006, and
probably still do today. Dion promised on January 23 to
"consider the options with an open mind." In the party's
submission to the Manley panel earlier this month, Dion had
made it clear the future of the Afghan mission is ultimately
an executive decision, thus potentially leaving the door open
to alternatives to a confrontation, including the Liberal
opposition collectively abstaining from a vote, or other
means to allow the government to decide the issue on its own.

Visit Canada,s Economy and Environment Forum at
http://www.intelink.gov/communities/state/can ada

WILKINS

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