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Cablegate: New Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon

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O 071758Z NOV 08
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TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8706
INFO RUCNCAN/ALL CANADIAN POSTS COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 OTTAWA 001426

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV PINR CA
SUBJECT: NEW FOREIGN MINISTER LAWRENCE CANNON

REF: OTTAWA 1394

1. (SBU) Summary: On October 30, Lawrence Cannon became Canadian
Minister of Foreign Affairs in Prime Minister Stephen Harper's
second Conservative government (reftel). Cannon is an experienced
and competent administrator who is likely to provide stability to a
department that has had four ministers since the Conservatives took
office in 2006. Cannon appears to have the confidence of the PM to
handle this senior portfolio and the important bilateral Canada-U.S.
relationship; he was a Conservative Party observer at the 2008
Democratic Convention. End summary.
------------------
A POLITICAL FAMILY
------------------

2. (U) Lawrence Cannon was born on December 6, 1947 in Quebec City,
Quebec. The son of a francophone father and an Anglophone mother,
Cannon is of Irish and French-Canadian descent. The extended Cannon
family has a history of public service and includes Supreme Court
judges, senators, and politicians among its members. Both of
Cannon's grandfathers were members of Parliament. His maternal
grandfather served in Liberal cabinets as Minister of Pensions and
Health in the 1930s, as well as Minister of National Defence for Air
during World War II, when he presided over the expansion of the
Royal Canadian Air Force. He later became a senator.

3. (U) Cannon graduated with a B.A. degree in political science from
the Universit de Montral in 1971. Between 1971 and 1976, he
worked in the office of Quebec Liberal then-Premier Robert Bourassa
as a political assistant. He graduated with a Master of Business
Administration (MBA) degree from Universit Laval in Quebec City in
1979, and worked in the private sector as a financial analyst,
,
before heading Les Radiateurs Roy Lte, the largest aftermarket
manufacturer of radiators in Quebec, from 1981 to 1985. From 1979
to 1985, he was also a municipal councilor for the town of Cap
Rouge, now a suburb of Quebec City.

--------------------------------
A LIBERAL IN PROVINCIAL POLITICS
--------------------------------

4. (U) In December 1985, Cannon entered provincial politics, winning
the riding of La Peltrie as a Liberal member of Quebec's provincial
legislature. As Parliamentary Assistant to the [Quebec] Minister
for International Trade and Economic Development from 1985 to 1988,
he participated in bilateral negotiations leading to the Canada-U.S.
Free Trade Agreement (FTA) in 1988. He held several provincial
Cabinet positions under then-Premier Bourassa, including Foreign
Trade and Technological Development, Tourism, Transport, and
Communications. He also served as Deputy Speaker of the provincial
legislature from 1989 to 1991.


5. (U) After the defeat of the Liberal government in the 1994 Quebec
provincial election, Cannon became vice-president of Unitel (now AT
& T Canada Corp). At the same time, he became a founding partner of
Group Cannon and Associates, as well as a senior consultant with GPC
International, advising private sector clients on communications and
public affairs. In 2001, he re-entered municipal politics by
winning election as councilor for the City of Gatineau (Quebec), a
francophone community that, together with Ottawa (Ontario), makes up
the Canadian National Capital Region.

--------------------------------------------
CHANGING COLORS: SWITCH TO THE CONSERVATIVES
--------------------------------------------

6. (U) Cannon actively supported the federal Liberal leadership bid
of Sheila Copps in 2000 in the race that Jean Chretien subsequently
won. Cannon switched his political allegiance from the Liberals to
the federal Conservative Party in 2005. In September 2005,
Qthe federal Conservative Party in 2005. In September 2005,
Conservative leader -- at the time, the leader of the Official
Opposition -- Stephen Harper appointed him deputy chief of staff and
deputy executive director of the federal Conservative Party. Cannon
won the rural West Quebec riding of Pontiac handily as a
Conservative in the January 2006 federal election, scoring an upset
victory in a staunchly Liberal riding that had elected federal
Liberals for all but nine years since 1935.

7. (U) As the only member of a new crop of Quebec Conservative MPs
-- and one of very few in the national Conservative caucus with
experience in government -- Cannon seemed destined for a senior
Cabinet post, possibly deputy Prime Minister, when the Conservatives
took office in February 2006. However, new PM Harper declined to
name a deputy PM, and instead appointed Cannon Minister of
Transport, Infrastructure and Communities on February 6, 2006. In
this federal department, Cannon was responsible for distributing
important federal infrastructure and construction contracts
nationwide, but from a political perspective most importantly in
Quebec, where the Conservatives were seeking greater support.

OTTAWA 00001426 002 OF 002


Harper also appointed Cannon his political "lieutenant" -- or senior
political minister -- for Quebec.

---------------
MAJOR PROMOTION
---------------

8. (U) In the Conservatives' second minority government following
the October 14, 2008 election, PM Harper promoted Cannon to Minister
of Foreign Affairs on October 30. Observers saw the assignment as
one of the biggest promotions in the new mandate, but Cannon had
reportedly lobbied instead for the Industry portfolio, with added
responsibility for Quebec regional development. In addition to his
senior portfolio, Harper also appointed Cannon as Vice-Chair of the
powerful Priorities and Planning Committee of Cabinet, arguably the
most important of all Cabinet committees. The planning Committee
directs government priorities and is the only one that the Prime
Minister personally chairs. As foreign minister, Cannon also sits
on Cabinet Committees on Foreign Affairs and Security and on
Afghanistan.

9. (U) Cannon is fully fluent in French and English. Observers
consider him a "red" or liberal Conservative on social issues (for
example, he strongly supports same-sex marriage), but conservative
on fiscal matters. He has won high marks as a competent
administrator and as a trusted advisor to PM Harper. He has
travelled widely in Europe and the Americas, both in and out of
public life. The Conservative Party dispatched him to the
Democratic Convention in Denver in August 2008 as an observer. In
2001, he was appointed to the Board of the World Commerce Institute
and as President and General Manager of AmeriContact for the Quebec
City Summit of the Americas in Quebec City that took place in April
2001. He is married to his second wife, Christine.
WILKINS

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