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Cablegate: New Canadian Transport Minister Interested In

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

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 OTTAWA 002893

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

STATE FOR EB/TRA; WHA/CAN; WHA - EVELYN WHEELER
DOT FOR AVIATION AND INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAIR ECIN EWWT ELTN ASEC PREL CA
SUBJECT: NEW CANADIAN TRANSPORT MINISTER INTERESTED IN
EXPANDING AVIATION AGREEMENT, ACCELERATING BORDER
INFRASTRUCTURE IMPROVEMENTS, AND TIGHTENING PORT SECURITY

REF: A) OTTAWA 2876 B) OTTAWA 2766

SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED--PLEASE PROTECT ACCORDINGLY.

1. (SBU) Summary: The Ambassador met Minister of Transport
Jean Lapierre on October 26 and learned his views on
upgrading the bilateral aviation agreement and accelerating
infrastructure improvements at land border crossings. The
Minister indicated he will push for both, and that port
security will be assigned a high priority while he is in
office. The Ambassador and Minister pledged to keep in close
contact and to work together on strengthening U.S.-Canada
transportation links and border security activities. End
summary.

2. (SBU) On October 26 the Ambassador met with new (since
July 2004) Minister of Transport Jean Lapierre. The
Ambassador wanted to make an initial courtesy call and
congratulate the Minister, and seek clarification regarding
press reports of early October (reftel B) indicating that
Lapierre wished to further liberalize the 1995 U.S.-Canada
air transport agreement.

3. (SBU) Lapierre told the Ambassador that with Air Canada
now on its feet, the Government of Canada (GOC) is ready to
pursue an enhanced aviation agreement. (Note: On October 1
Air Canada emerged from 18 months under creditor protection.
Septel follows. End note.) Lapierre said he had told
Cabinet that Transport Canada (TC) would prepare a formal
proposal for how the GOC should proceed in improving the
aviation agreement. Lapierre plans to present this proposal
to Parliament's Transportation Committee and ask its members
to consider it. Subsequently, TC intends to publicize a
final, polished proposal (incorporating Parliament's input)
and organize nation-wide public debates on its merits.
Lapierre views an expanded aviation agreement with the United
States as "a non-partisan issue" and is confident that all
parties would join the present minority government of Paul
Martin in endorsing an enhanced agreement--if the Canadian
public signals it believes such an agreement is in its
interest. Lapierre promised to provide more details of the
TC proposal after it has been vetted with Parliament.
Lapierre added that Canada will follow with interest U.S.-EU
aviation negotiations with a view to determining how U.S.-EU
issues might impact negotiation of a new GOC-U.S. agreement.


4. (SBU) Turning to the land border, the Ambassador reported
that DHS Secretary Ridge and Deputy Prime Minister McLellan
had a successful October 14 meeting which produced many
deliverables. Significantly, both the U.S. and Canadian
sides had identified the Windsor-Detroit border crossing as
"a critical area" that required attention. The Ambassador
noted that the two leaders agreed on the need to meet
personally with the stakeholders and affected communities to
demonstrate high-level commitment and identify viable
solutions. (Comment: As reported in reftel A, Ridge and
McLellan, or their representatives, are expected to visit the
region within the next three months. End comment.) Minister
Lapierre remarked that he had visited the area three weeks
ago. He was surprised to be told that the long-term
solutions can't be operational before 2013. "That's too
long," the Minister said. The Ambassador expressed
agreement. The Ambassador continued that in the interim,
until the long-term solutions are decided upon, the two
governments should implement short-term fixes for the
congestion at Windsor-Ontario, such as the recently opened
new booths that had markedly increased traffic flows.
Another short-term remedy might be conversion of the railway
tunnel to a truck tunnel. The Ambassador suggested that
Canada and the U.S. should also look at alternative modes of
transport, such as short-sea shipping to handle all-cargo
ferries. Lapierre agreed.

5. (SBU) Regarding plans for Transport Canada during his
tenure, Minister Lapierre said that port security is his
first priority. Lapierre recalled that during several years
as a news broadcaster in Quebec, he reported frequently
("every two weeks") on problems at the Port of Montreal. He
said that he wants to see more secure port operations at
Montreal. He observed that the registration process for port
workers requiring background and security checks is a good
step and one that is endorsed by the teamsters and dock
workers themselves. Lapierre urged that the clearance
STATE FOR EB/TRA AND WHA/CAN
process not be implemented too quickly, however, or too many
port workers might abruptly lose their jobs. The Minister
said that five percent of current employees do not pass the
clearance process, and he asked if the United States is
having a similar problem with clearing port workers.

6. (SBU) The Ambassador and Minister Lapierre discussed
other positive U.S.-Canada joint activities, such as
registration of passengers for NEXUS-air in Vancouver and
Seattle, Canadian partnership in the container pre-screening
program at the Hong Kong port, and the joint operations
between U.S. CBP officers and their Canadian counterparts in
container targeting at Montreal. In closing, Minister
Lapierre said that they had covered all the ground except
railways, and he proposed that the U.S. and Canada work more
closely on this mode also. The Ambassador agreed.

7. (SBU) Comment: Minister Lapierre seems enthusiastic
about his portfolio. He appears to recognize both the
challenges and the opportunities that present themselves in
dealing with Canada's southern neighbor. With a new
government in Canada and a revitalized Air Canada, the GOC
may determine that the time is right to review the aviation
agreement with the U.S. We will follow events and attempt to
facilitate progress in the U.S-Canada transportation and
border security relationship. End comment.

8. (SBU) (FYI: The GOC just announced appointment of a
senior experienced intelligence officer as the Minister's new
Senior Advisor for Security--another hopeful sign that the
GOC will take transportation security more seriously.)

Visit Canada's Classified Web Site at
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/wha/ottawa

CELLUCCI

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