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Cablegate: Preliminary Reaction to Proposed Merger of Ca and Tory

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

UNCLAS HALIFAX 000348

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR WHA/CAN

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV CA
SUBJECT: PRELIMINARY REACTION TO PROPOSED MERGER OF CA AND TORY
PARTIES: TALK OF A CREDIBLE OPPOSITION FORCE AND A PROVINCIAL
PREMIER

1. News of the proposed merger of the Canadian Alliance and
Progressive Conservative Parties is getting mixed reaction
throughout Canada's four Atlantic Provinces. Most local
representatives of the two parties appear optimistic that the
tentative merger will actually work and will result in a new
party capable of acting as an effective opposition to the
governing Liberals. Nonetheless, the predictions are that this
merger process will be a long one and would not be finished in
time before the next federal election. Premier Lord's deputy
communications director, Robert Batherson, told CG, visiting PAO
and Montreal BPAO that he was optimistic about the new party on
the federal level, but did not expect it to have an effect on
Liberal dominance of federal politics. From a provincial
standpoint, he said, there would be little impact on Nova Scotia
and other provinces. In addition to the time factor, regional
pundits are also emphasizing that the new party will have to
find a way to deal with certain CA policies which have been a
tough sell here in Atlantic Canada. Chief among these are the
party's goal of seeing reduced federal spending for such
programs as regional development, so critical to economically
disadvantaged areas like Atlantic Canada.

2. Also on the minds of Atlantic Canadians is the question of
Bernard Lord, the current Tory premier of New Brunswick. This
time last year, the Quebec-born and bilingual Lord was under
intense pressure to seek the leadership of the federal Tory
party. Lord declined the invitation principally because he had
a provincial election to fight the next year. Lord did in fact
go to the polls in a June re-election bid, but barely held on to
power. With the leadership question re-emerging, the two
schools of thought are that Premier Lord will want to bail out
of his minority government situation and move to the federal
stage; the other, that he will be under just as much pressure at
home not to abandon his Tory party to face certain death at the
hands of a highly spirited opposition.

3. Comment: As this is just day two in the new CA-PC merger
plans, most observers are asking for more time to study all the
angles before coming up with a full analysis of the new look
party and what it means for Atlantic Canada. For now though the
mood seems to be generally a cautious optimism that should the
new party get its house in order, the country may see a
formidable opposition to the governing Liberals. END COMMENT


HILL

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