Cablegate: Biography of New Foreign Minister David Emerson

DE RUEHOT #0712/01 1491906
P 281906Z MAY 08




E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: 07 OTTAWA 0921

1. (SBU) Summary. PM Harper appointed Vancouver Member of Parliament
David Emerson on May 26 as interim Foreign Minister, replacing
Maxime Bernier. Emerson will retain his existing ministerial
portfolios of International Trade as well as the Pacific Gateway and
the Vancouver-Whistler Olympics, in addition to chairmanship of two
key Cabinet committees, including a new one on Afghanistan. Emerson
has a reputation as very smart, honest, yet low key, and has won
wide respect for his integrity and consistent competence. He
appears to have extremely favorable views of the U.S., with special
support for the North American Free Trade Agreement, despite some
concerns about the border and softwood lumber. While well suited
for the Foreign Affairs job, he is unlikely to remain in place
beyond a probable summertime larger Cabinet reshuffle. End

2. (U) Born on September 17, 1945 in Montreal, Quebec, David Emerson
was raised in Grande Prairie, Alberta. He earned a B.A. and M.A. in
Economics from the University of Alberta, and a PhD in Economics
from Queen's University in Ontario. He became a researcher at the
Economic Council of Canada in 1972. In 1975, he joined British
Columbia's provincial public service, where he rose to the level of
Deputy Minister of Finance in 1984. Thereafter, he moved back and
forth between the senior levels of the provincial public service and
executive positions in the private sector. He was head of the
Western and Pacific Bank of Canada in 1986, before returning to the
provincial government as Deputy Minister of Finance in 1990, then as
Deputy Minister to the Premier, and later as President of the B.C.
Trade Development Corporation. In 1992, he was appointed head of
the newly-created Vancouver International Airport Authority, and in
1998 became the President and CEO of Canfor Corporation, Canada's
largest forestry company.

3. (SBU) David Emerson originally entered politics as a "star"
candidate for the federal Liberal Party in the urban riding of
Vancouver Kingsway in the 2004 election and was immediately
appointed Minister of Industry in the then-Liberal minority
government of Prime Minister Paul Martin. He was re-elected in 2006
as a Liberal candidate, but -- much to the displeasure of his
overwhelmingly Liberal constituents -- immediately "crossed the
floor" to join the federal Conservative Party under Prime Minister
Stephen Harper, who rewarded him with the portfolios of Minister of
International Trade and Minister for the Pacific Gateway and the
2010 Vancouver-Whistler Olympics.

4. (SBU) Emerson's defection gave the Conservatives their only seat
in Vancouver and the big-city Cabinet talent they lacked. Widely
acknowledged to be a policy-orientated rather than partisan
politician, he defended his switch as the best way to serve British
Columbia from a position of influence. In particular, he expressed
a strong desire to see the softwood lumber issue -- on which he had
worked both as CEO of Canfor and then as Liberal Industry Minister
-- to a successful conclusion, as well as to promote B.C.'s
interests in the run-up to the 2010 Olympics. Emerson was also the
only member of the government with prior Cabinet experience at the
federal level, as well as the only member of the current Cabinet to
have run a major Canadian corporation.

5. (SBU) Emerson has emerged as a major contributor around the
Cabinet table, with a unique private and public sector skill-set.
Insiders acknowledge he brings real-world business experience to
bear on discussions and articulates a big-picture view of the trade
Qbear on discussions and articulates a big-picture view of the trade
and economic agenda that is extremely valuable, and which few of his
Cabinet colleagues come close to matching (reftel). In a sign of
the trust PM Harper places in him, Emerson chairs both the new
Cabinet Committee on Afghanistan -- Canada's premier foreign and
defense policy priority -- and the Cabinet's Economic Growth and
Long-Term Prosperity Committee. He also sits on the Cabinet's
Priorities and Planning Committee, the inner circle of Cabinet
decision-making responsible for setting the government's strategic

6. (SBU) Emerson has reportedly indicated privately that he
probably will not run in the next federal election, and would
certainly not win re-election in his current Vancouver "riding,"
which has not forgiven him for changing parties. However, if he
wishes, the Conservatives would likely be willing to find him a
safer seat in British Columbia. Emerson and his current wife
Theresa have two young children, and Emerson has three adult
children from a previous marriage. Emerson is a unilingual

7. (SBU) Comment: Emerson has a reputation both in British Columbia
and in Ottawa as very smart, honest, yet low key, and has won wide
respect for his integrity and consistent competence. He appears to
have extremely favorable views of the U.S., with special support for
the North American Free Trade Agreement. However, Emerson's own
preference is probably to hold onto the Pacific Gateway and Olympics
portfolio dear to his heart, and so Prime Minister Harper may have
to seek some other senior Cabinet official to take over Foreign

OTTAWA 00000712 002 OF 002

Affairs at a likely mid-to-late summer Cabinet reshuffle involving
several ministries. As always, provincial balance will remain an
important consideration, including finding a new prominent Cabinet
profile (albeit probably not Foreign Affairs again) for another
Conservative politician from Quebec.

© Scoop Media

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