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Cablegate: Snapshot of Canadian Politics: The Ruling Liberal

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: N/A

This message is sensitive, but unclassified. Handle

1.(U) SUMMARY. Former Finance Minister Paul Martin Jr. filed
nomination papers for the leadership contest of the governing
Liberal Party on March 6. At this juncture, Heritage Minister
Sheila Copps, whose candidacy was declared on the first day
of the official campaign period, is the only other MP openly
running for the leadership. Deputy PM and current Finance
Minister John Manley is expected to toss his hat into the
ring in the near future. END SUMMARY.

2. (U) The Liberals have held power consecutively for a
decade under the leadership of Jean Chretien, who won three
successive Parliamentary majorities at general elections in
1993, 1997 and 2000 ) a rare feat in Canadian politics.
Nevertheless, the party owes a significant measure of its
success to Paul Martin Jr. for his strong performance as
Finance Minister during 1993-2002.

3. (U) The son of a prominent Liberal minister whose own
prime ministerial ambitions were never realized, Paul Martin
has been a Member of Parliament for some 15 years. In
addition to his natural appeal to the business community (he
is a successful financier and industrialist in his own right)
Martin has cultivated important social and environmental
policymaking credentials. Moreover, as Finance Minister
under Chretien, he turned around the nation,s serious budget
deficit into a surplus within a few years, while
simultaneously reducing unemployment and inflation )- a feat
that few &ex ante8 observers thought possible.

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4. (SBU) Despite his clear advantage early in the contest,
Paul Martin seems to be leaving nothing to chance, including
the timing of the official launch of his campaign in April,
from his home riding of LaSalle-Emard, Montreal, to
&maximize the impact8 on vote-getting. In filing for
nomination-*which requires paying a deposit of half the
$75,000 candidacy fee by June 10--candidates get access to
bulk membership forms (allowing them to enlist new members in
groups of 100) and Liberal party membership lists that are
vital to any campaign. Moreover, in light of the CAD 4
million ceiling on official campaign expenditures, it is in
Martin,s interest to delay imposing such a constraint on his
war chest (he has been touring the country in unofficial
appearances since his resignation from Cabinet).

5. (SBU) A long time political rival of Chretien, Martin,s
relationship with the Prime Minister has been especially
tense following their 1990 competition for the Liberal
leadership. Martin,s adept handling of the finance
portfolio -- until that time considered a dead end for
leadership aspirants -- and his unceasing ambition for the
party leadership only aggravated the rivalry and culminated
in Martin,s resignation from Cabinet last summer.

6. (SBU) By that time, the former Finance Minister already
had developed a seemingly unassailable advantage in political
reputation and riding-by-riding organization, and an enviable
campaign war chest. Although he placed second in the 1990
leadership contest with only 25 percent of the vote, in the
intervening years Martin,s supporters diligently gained
control of key elements of the party machinery, enabling
their candidate to position well ahead of the pack in the
current contest. His personal wealth and an apparent knack
for fundraising have given Martin the wherewithal to gain
name recognition and to publicize his credentials well ahead
of the official campaign season launched February 24.

7. (SBU) Although the names of other senior Ministers have
continued to surface as potential leadership contestants, few
have taken up the gauntlet seriously. Industry Minister Allan
Rock dropped out of possible contention in January 2003 and
Natural Resources Minister Herb Dhaliwal recently indicated
that he would not run for personal reasons. While Canadian
Heritage Minister Sheila Copps formalized her intentions in
February, she is said to have done so primarily at the urging
of PM Chretien, ostensibly to avoid the appearance of an
uncontested race for Paul Martin. It is expected that Copps
will receive a "golden parachute" from Chrtien in the form
of a coveted "permanent" patronage appointment before he
steps down.

8. (SBU) Deputy Prime Minister John Manley, who also
succeeded Martin in the Finance portfolio, is expected to
announce his candidacy at some point. Observers speculate
that he will need to be assured of a strong second place
finish, in order to position himself for a good job in a
Martin Cabinet (Finance, Foreign Affairs) and a run at the
leadership post-Martin (Manley is 53 compared to Martin's
64). As one Embassy contact commented, a weak finish for
Manley in a leadership race would not help his political
prospects, and he likely will want to avoid incurring heavy
campaign debt.

9. (SBU) COMMENT: At this time, some 8 months before the
November convention, Paul Martin is widely deemed the
probable successor to Chretien, certainly as leader of the
Liberals and likely as PM following a general election. His
organizational lead, combined with personal wealth unmatched
by other candidates, continue to give him vast advantages in
the leadership race. Although his ownership of the
multi-million dollar Canadian Steamship Lines has been under
attack as an ethics issue, Martin recently announced his
intent to cede ownership of the company and implement
additional transparency measures, in close consultation with
the current government Ethics Commissioner, to preclude any
question about his ties to/influence on the company "should"
he become Prime Minister. END COMMENT.

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