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Cablegate: Atlantic Canadian Perspectives On the Federal Political

VZCZCXRO7758
PP RUEHGA RUEHMT RUEHQU RUEHVC
DE RUEHHA #0078 3381929
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 031929Z DEC 08
FM AMCONSUL HALIFAX
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1343
RUEHOT/AMEMBASSY OTTAWA PRIORITY 0571
INFO RUCNCAN/ALL CANADIAN POSTS COLLECTIVE
RUEHHA/AMCONSUL HALIFAX 1433

UNCLAS HALIFAX 000078

SIPDIS

FOR WHA/CAN

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV CA
SUBJECT: ATLANTIC CANADIAN PERSPECTIVES ON THE FEDERAL POLITICAL
SCENE: DIVIDED OPINIONS AND LOTS OF RHETORIC

REF: A. (A) OTTAWA 1507
B. (B) OTTAWA 1504

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SUMMARY
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1. Atlantic Canadians are divided on how they see the political
situation in Ottawa unfolding. Some are embracing the idea of an
opposition coalition. Others are more worried that the
political instability is diverting attention away from the
bigger issue of how to deal with the current economic crisis.
END SUMMARY.

------------------
POLITICAL REACTION
------------------

2. The Atlantic region's 32 MPs featured prominently in the
media on December 1 with their spin on the developments in
Ottawa. Conservative heavyweights such as Peter MacKay
continued to question the legitimacy of the opposition coalition
and called on Nova Scotians to support the Harper government.
While it is unclear what influence MacKay's pleas will have on
the electorate, it appears he can scratch fellow Nova Scotia
Independent MP Bill Casey off his list of would-be supporters.
Casey came out on December 1 to say he would vote against the
Harper government in the House. At the same time Casey said he
would not be endorsing the opposition coalition since he was not
part of the discussions leading to its formation and accordingly
is unsure of their plans and goals. Other regional MPs such as
Liberal Roger Cuzner, who serves as the Liberal party whip in
the House, said he was excited by the prospect of a new
coalition government but said he was concerned about venturing
into what he saw as unchartered constitutional waters.

3. At the provincial level, the four Atlantic premiers are
being careful not to get drawn into what Tory Premier Williams
of Newfoundland-Labrador called a "constitutional issue."
Nonetheless, his regional counterparts, Liberal New Brunswick
Premier Shawn Graham and Tory Premier Rodney MacDonald of Nova
Scotia, have expressed their concern that federal politicians
need to bring about some stability in government so they can
focus on the current economic crisis. Other provincial
politicians were not as reticent about expressing their
opinions. Premier Williams' Liberal and NDP opposition foes
have been quick to endorse the coalition and have gone as far as
speculating which of the province's seven MPs might get the nod
to sit in the new Liberal-NDP cabinet.

--------------
PUBLIC OPINION
--------------

4. The nascent coalition is getting warm support from regional
labor leaders with the Newfoundland-Labrador Federation of Labor
saying its members want to send a message of support by holding
a rally later this week in St. John's. Federation president
Lana Payne said on December 2 she believes the coalition would
put Canadians first and make Parliament work. This is the same
message that the Halifax Chronicle Herald said in its December 2
lead editorial. Headlined, "Coalition government appears
likely," it commented that if Mr. Harper is unable to run an
effective minority government then the "other guys" should have
a chance to see what they're prepared to do. However, one of
post's academic contacts said he is unsure just how well the
"other guys" could manage given that they do not appear to know
where they are going and what they will do when they get there.

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COMMENT
-------

5. From conversations with post's contacts, it appears Atlantic
Canadians believe the Harper government is indeed in a
precarious state. One of post's longstanding New Brunswick
political pundits commented that despite all the turmoil he
still sees the PM hanging onto power. However, it is getting
harder to find others so sure in their predictions. For now,
the rhetoric continues here in Atlantic Canada as elsewhere in
the country with the now familiar comment that Canada is indeed
sailing into deep and unchartered waters. END COMMENT.

FOSTER

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