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Cablegate: Mission Canada Assesses Election 2008

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PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHON #0288/01 2741939
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 301939Z SEP 08
FM AMCONSUL TORONTO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2608
INFO RUEHOT/AMEMBASSY OTTAWA 2030

UNCLAS TORONTO 000288

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV ECON CA
SUBJECT: MISSION CANADA ASSESSES ELECTION 2008

Ref: A. Montreal 268 B. Toronto 284 C. Toronto 285
D. Ottawa 1258 E. Ottawa 1216 F. Vancouver 247

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: A Mission Canada-wide digital video conference
(DVC) on September 29 resulted in a consensus assessment that the
Conservatives will pick up additional seats in the October 14
Canadian federal elections, but not yet that the Conservatives will
gain enough seats for a majority. Starting with the Maritimes, the
net effect of volatility in the region could be a one-seat gain for
the NDP, at the expense of the Liberals. The seat distribution in
Nunavut and the area around Quebec City will likely stay static.
The Conservatives look likely to gain one seat in the Montreal area,
and the New Democratic Party (NDP) may gain one seat. The
Conservatives seem likely to take 6-10 seats from the Liberals in
Ontario - with an outside chance of gaining as many as 18-20 - as
well as to gain one seat in Manitoba. The Conservatives may pick up
one NDP seat in the Northwest Territories, with no changes in
Alberta or Saskatchewan. In the west, the Conservatives may gain
four seats in British Columbia. The Conservatives need 155 seats to
form a majority government; much may ride on the performance of the
five party leaders in the October 1 and 2 televised debates. The
Liberals will likely remain the Official Opposition, despite the
best efforts of the New Democratic Party (NDP) to position itself as
the future natural opposition to the Conservatives. END SUMMARY.

2. (SBU) DCM (in Winnipeg) and PolMinCouns (in Ottawa) on September
29 co-chaired the monthly DVC among Mission Canada reporting
officers, as well as WHA/CAN officers, with a focus this month on
the October 14 Canadian federal election (reftels). PolMinCouns
reiterated that the USG remains non-partisan in the ongoing campaign
and that Canadian voters alone have the say in which party will win
and form the next government. The U.S. nonetheless remains
interested in the campaign dynamics and eventual outcome. He
expressed thanks to all Mission elements for substantive reporting
as well as contributions to the new Election Blog on the Embassy's
Intranet site. He noted that conventional wisdom continues to point
toward a Conservative victory, with some observers increasingly
predicting a possible majority in the House of Commons. He added
that there may still be many ups-and-downs in the campaign, with the
possibility especially for missteps by any of the party leaders
during the televised October 1 and 2 public debates.

--------------------------------------------- ---
HALIFAX - NDP MAY GAIN A SEAT IN ATLANTIC CANADA
--------------------------------------------- ---

3. (SBU) In ConGen Halifax's jurisdiction, the Conservatives
currently have three seats in Newfoundland and Labrador, and the
Liberals have four seats. Thanks in part to Premier Danny William's
"Anything But Conservative" campaign, the Tories look set to lose
all of their Newfoundland and Labrador seats - two to the Liberals
and one to the NDP. The Conservatives may gain back a seat in Nova
Scotia, taken from the Liberals. Green Party Leader Elizabeth May's
attempt to unseat Tory Defense Minister Peter MacKay in the Central
Nova riding will likely fail. The Liberals should hold on to all
four of the seats in Prince Edward Island, and the Conservatives
will likely take two seats from the Liberals in New Brunswick. The
sum total of these shifts would be a one seat gain by the NDP in
Atlantic Canada, at the expense of the Liberals. According to
ConGen Halifax, the Liberal Party in Atlantic Canada seems to be
dragged down by the party's national leadership and by the unpopular
Green Shift plan, and the NDP may be poised to capitalize on the
Liberal's weakness. Other hot button issues in the region include
broad economic concerns and the Canada's military presence in
Afghanistan, manned heavily by Atlantic Canadians.

--------------------------------------------- ---
QUEBEC CITY - LITTLE ROOM FOR CONSERVATIVE GAINS
--------------------------------------------- ---

4. (SBU) ConGen Quebec City sees little room for Conservative gains
in its consular district, which includes much of Quebec province, as
well as the Arctic territory of Nunavut. Specifically, the
Conservatives' recent plan to increase sentences for youthful
offenders has not played well in Quebec, nor have PM Harper's
comments on cuts to the arts. New, more rigorous national voter
identification requirements might also depress voter turnout in
Nunavut, where relatively fewer people have photo identification.
In addition to the federal election, Nunavut is in the midst of a
territorial election, confusing some voters. Quebec City predicts
that the Liberals will hold their seat in Nunavut.

---------------------------------------------
MONTREAL - CONSERVATIVE CONFIDENCE MISPLACED?
---------------------------------------------

5. (SBU) In Montreal, local Conservative contacts are confident
that the party will win additional seats in the election. However,
urban Montreal has almost no Liberal seats identified as possible
Tory upsets. Only one Liberal riding - Lac St. Louis - seems ripe
for Conservative plucking. The Liberals are not campaigning hard in
E
the Montreal area, and the Bloc Quebecois and Conservatives look set
to retain the seats they already have. In rural Quebec, however,
the Conservatives might benefit from Bloc weakness and Liberal
disorganization (ref A). While Quebeckers know that the federal
budget surplus disappeared under Harper, they also believe that Dion
would be bad for the economy and are wary of possible new taxes.

------------------------------------------
TORONTO - POTENTIAL FOR CONSERVATIVE GAINS
------------------------------------------

6. (SBU) ConGen Toronto's contacts across the political spectrum
predict Conservative gains in Ontario. Estimates of Conservative
pickups range anywhere from six to 20 seats. Despite an overall
atmosphere of Tory confidence, it is not clear from where the gains
would come. The Conservatives are unlikely to break through in
Toronto itself, and other than a few ridings, the vote-rich suburbs
of Toronto are not clearly trending Tory. A weak national Liberal
campaign depresses Liberal turnout, however, might allow the Tories
to move ahead in the seat count. (For a more detailed analysis of
some Ontario key and bellwether ridings, see ref B and ref C.) The
economy is a major issue in Ontario, especially in southwestern
Ontario, hit hard by job losses in the automobile industry.

--------------------------------------------- -----
WINNIPEG - ECONOMY FOCUS OF LOW-INTENSITY CAMPAIGN
--------------------------------------------- -----

7. (SBU) The American Presence Post in Winnipeg has detected little
local enthusiasm for the Canadian federal election, as many voters
are more focused on the U.S. election. Manitobans are taking the
current economic uncertainty in stride, confident that the
resource-rich province will weather any downturn. The Conservatives
might pick up one seat in Manitoba. Crime and law and order remain
key issues.

-------------------------------------
CALGARY - THE WEST STAYS CONSERVATIVE
-------------------------------------

8. (SBU) ConGen Calgary's consular district includes the provinces
of Alberta and Saskatchewan, as well as the Northwest Territories.
The Conservative Party currently holds 13 of 14 seats in
Saskatchewan and all 28 seats in Alberta. ConGen Calgary does not
see that changing, but predicts that the Conservatives might
successfully challenge the NDP for the sole seat in the Northwest
Territories.

--------------------------------------------
VANCOUVER - GREEN SHIFT HELPS CONSERVATIVES?
--------------------------------------------

9. (SBU) Conservatives currently hold half of the 36 ridings in
British Columbia, and ConGen Vancouver predicts that the Tories
might gain another four seats. The Tories will benefit from the
Liberals' collapse in the area; the Liberals' Green Shift plan is
especially unpopular in British Columbia, which has its own already
disliked provincial carbon tax. In addition, the Conservatives will
have an edge on economic and crime issues. The NDP looks poised to
capitalize on the Liberals' misfortunes, and may add a few seats in
B.C. Blair Wilson, the disgraced former Liberal who joined the
Green Party in August, giving the Greens their first seat in
Parliament, will likely lose his seat. (For a more detailed
analysis of the election in B.C., see ref F).

----------
OPPOSITION
----------

10. (SBU) None of the reporting officers expressed any expectation
that the NDP could do well enough to overtake the Liberals as the
Official Opposition, despite the Liberals' organizational,
leadership, and financial woes and the high profile campaigning of
NDP leader Jack Layton. The NDP looks poised, however, to increase
its representation somewhat, while the Greens will enjoy a jump in
their popular vote, but once again remain poorly positioned to win
seats.

NAY

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