Search

 

Cablegate: Harper Tweaks Cabinet, Bolsters Quebec Presence

VZCZCXRO3271
PP RUEHGA RUEHHA RUEHMT RUEHQU RUEHVC
DE RUEHOT #0866/01 1772106
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 252106Z JUN 08
FM AMEMBASSY OTTAWA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8092
INFO RUCNCAN/ALL CANADIAN POSTS COLLECTIVE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RUEKJCS/OSD WASHDC
RHEHNSC/WHITE HOUSE NSC WASHINGTON DC
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 OTTAWA 000866

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

STATE PASS USTR FOR JOHN MELLE AND MARY SULLIVAN

USDOC FOR 4320/OFFICE OF NAFTA/GWORD/TFOX

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL ECON ETRD CA
SUBJECT: HARPER TWEAKS CABINET, BOLSTERS QUEBEC PRESENCE

REF: Ottawa 707

1. (U) Summary: Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper
fine-tuned his Cabinet in a minor shuffle on June 25, bolstering
representation from Quebec following the sudden resignation of
former Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier in May (reftel).
Bernier's interim successor David Emerson won confirmation as
Minister of Foreign Affairs, while Montreal Senator Michael Fortier
was appointed to the International Trade portfolio. Fellow Quebecer
Christian Paradis was promoted to Public Works and Government
Services Canada (PWGSC). The shuffle emphasized continuity and
signaled the government's commitment to build support in Quebec.
End summary.

THE GOVERNMENT IS "ON TRACK"

2. (U) PM Harper shuffled his Cabinet for the third time since
February 2006 in an 11:00 a.m. ceremony on June 25. He declined to
comment following the ceremony, except to reassure Canadians that
his team was "on track and will stay on track." Similarly, the
three new appointees declined comment. The Prime Minister's Office
subsequently released a statement praising the "small but important
changes" which would allow the government to build on its
achievements, and deliver the "strong leadership Canadians expect
and deserve." Last week Harper said that his ministers were
"hitting their stride" and that it was not the right time for a
comprehensive overhaul. The promotion of the two Quebec ministers
was primarily designed to reassure Quebecers that the province
retains its influence within the inner circle of power despite
Bernier's departure.

EMERSON CONFIRMED AS MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS

3. (U) The shuffle confirmed the continued appointment of David
Emerson as Minister of Foreign Affairs. Emerson held the Foreign
Affairs, International Trade, and Olympics portfolios on an interim
basis since May. Although many observers have noted that Harper has
finally found a Foreign Minister with the intellectual heft and
experience for the job, doubts persist over whether Emerson will run
in the next election.

A GOOD FIT FOR INTERNATIONAL TRADE

4. (U) Senator Michael Fortier, the former Minister of PWGSC, is an
urbane former international business lawyer and investment banker
with strong qualifications for the International Trade portfolio.
He ran unsuccessfully for the Conservative Party and was later
appointed to both the Senate and to Cabinet by Harper in February
2006. At first glance, Fortier's new post is less a clear promotion
than a lateral move, although his personal closeness to Harper, and
his political network in Quebec, make him an influential player in
Cabinet.

5. (U) As a Senator, Fortier is prohibited from speaking in the
Commons. Fortier was ably represented in the Commons as Minister of
PWGSC by his previous Parliamentary Secretary, James Moore, whose
bilingualism and deft performance largely compensated for his boss's
absence. International Trade is more high profile and publicly
visible than PWGSC, however, and it is unclear whether the same
stop-gap solution can work effectively for Fortier in his new
portfolio. Harper may choose to appoint a Parliamentary
spokesperson to field trade-related questions in the Commons, or
answer them himself.

6. (U) When he entered Cabinet in 2006, Fortier committed to running
in the next election in the Montreal (Quebec) riding of
Vaudreuil-Solanges, but there has been speculation that he would
QVaudreuil-Solanges, but there has been speculation that he would
change his mind and leave public life entirely, or seek a more
winnable riding. Fortier has reportedly built a considerable
organization in the riding, but the extensive travel required by his
new portfolio could hamper his ability to spend time there
politicking.

BIG PROMOTION FOR RURAL QUEBEC

7. (U) Christian Paradis, a French-Canadian rural MP little-known
even in Quebec, was given the sprawling PWGSC portfolio, which
handles procurement, sales and real estate for the federal
government. Although not in the first rank of Cabinet posts, PWGSC
controls one of the largest budgets in the federal government. Its
contracting power -- and potential for distributing largesse --
should give the new minister a significant profile in Quebec.
Unusually, Paradis also retained his previous junior ministerial

OTTAWA 00000866 002 OF 002


responsibility as Secretary of State for Agriculture (a major and
politically sensitive industry in Quebec). The bilingual Paradis
will also continue to back-stop in French for the unilingual
Anglophone Minister of Agriculture, Gerry Ritz.

OLYMPICS, PACIFIC GATEWAY AND OFFICIAL LANGUAGES


8. (U) The only new addition to the Ministry (but not the Cabinet)
is British Columbia MP James Moore, previously Parliamentary
Secretary for PWGSC. As a new Secretary of State for Pacific
Gateway, Vancouver-Whistler Olympics Official Languages, Moore
receives a promotion.

9. (U) Secretaries of State are junior ministers and are not members
of Cabinet. They do not attend Cabinet meetings, but attend
meetings of appropriate Cabinet Committees in light of their
responsibilities. However, they are members of the Ministry (the
executive branch) and of the Privy Council and are therefore bound
by Cabinet solidarity and Cabinet confidence.

COMMENT
-------
10. (SBU) The minor scope of the shuffle reinforced the government's
emphasis on continuity and Quebec. Some observers continue to
speculate that today's limited tweaking may be followed by a more
comprehensive realignment in the late fall or winter if there is no
election. Harper has made it clear, however, that he is satisfied
with his present team. Any further changes in the next six months
would likely send the unhelpful message that his team has fallen off
track. End comment.
BREESE

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
World Headlines

 

Werewolf: Gordon Campbell On North Korea, Neo-Nazism, And Milo

With a bit of luck the planet won’t be devastated by nuclear war in the next few days. US President Donald Trump will have begun to fixate on some other way to gratify his self-esteem – maybe by invading Venezuela or starting a war with Iran. More>>

Victory Declared: New Stabilisation Funding From NZ As Mosul Is Retaken

New Zealand has congratulated the Iraqi government on the successful liberation of Mosul from ISIS after a long and hard-fought campaign. More>>

Gordon Campbell: On The Current US Moves Against North Korea

If Martians visited early last week, they’d probably be scratching their heads as to why North Korea was being treated as a potential trigger for global conflict... More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On The Lessons From Corbyn’s Campaign

Leaving partisan politics aside – and ignoring Jeremy Corbyn’s sensational election campaign for a moment – it has to be said that Britain is now really up shit creek... More>>

ALSO:

Another US Court: Fourth Circuit Rules Muslim Ban Discriminatory

ACLU: Step by step, point by point, the court laid out what has been clear from the start: The president promised to ban Muslims from the United States, and his executive orders are an attempt to do just that. More>>

ALSO: