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Cablegate: Atlantic Canada: Premiers Talk to the Ambassador On

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

011944Z Oct 05

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HALIFAX 000210

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL ETRD PGOV ASEC ENRG CA
SUBJECT: ATLANTIC CANADA: PREMIERS TALK TO THE AMBASSADOR ON
REGIONAL ISSUES

REF: A) HALIFAX 176; B0 HALIFAX 190; C) HALIFAX 209

1. (U) SUMMARY: The Ambassador's trips to Atlantic Canada
have now given him the opportunity to meet with each of the
region's four provincial Premiers. All profess interest in
strong and close trade relations with the U.S. and all have been
active in engaging their American counterparts in state
governments on bilateral concerns. Key issues for the Premiers
include softwood lumber and their perception that tightening
border controls are hurting trade and will harm traditions of
cross-border cooperation, cutting travel and tourism in both
directions. END SUMMARY.

THE ATLANTIC PREMIERS
---------------------------

2. (U) Ambassador Wilkins has made five trips to Atlantic
Canada during his first few months in office, meeting a lot of
people with each visit, including the four provincial Premiers.
The region's historic ties of family and commerce to the U.S.
have been brought out by the Premiers in their conversations
with the Ambassador. They have also given him a flavor for some
of the issues that confront the provincial governments in this
"have-not" region of the country. For each province, relations
with the U.S. are vital to the economy, whether in the case of
energy development and exports from Nova Scotia and
Newfoundland-Labrador, export markets for New Brunswick or
tourist visits in the case of Prince Edward Island.

3. (SBU) Although Atlantic Canada bucked a national tide in
the last federal election and remained largely loyal to the
Liberal party, at the provincial level the story is a different
one. Each provincial government is led by the Progressive
Conservative party, something that adds an additional level of
complexity to already-complicated federal-provincial relations.
For Atlantic Canadian Premiers the solutions to a number of
their most pressing concerns -- for example seeking to carve out
lumber exports from the region from U.S. duties -- lie with the
federal government and its management of relations with the U.S.
and are not within provincial jurisdiction. Issues such as
ballistic missile defense and participation in Operation
Enduring Freedom that have contributed to "scratchiness" in
bilateral relations are likewise out of their control (although
one Premier, Danny Williams, has been outspoken in his support
for missile defense). This can lead provincial leaders --
particularly those in the small and relatively poor provinces of
Atlantic Canada -- to feel regularly buffeted by large and
rather impersonal forces as relations between Ottawa and
Washington rise and fall. Each of the Premiers is usually
careful to stress that contentious issues are the fault of
"those guys in Ottawa," not the friendly people of Nova Scotia
or PEI.

4. (SBU) Although the issues of Quebec separatism and Western
alienation get most of the attention from those who worry about
the future of the Canadian Confederation, talks with the
Premiers tend to contain an undercurrent of alienation from
Central Canada as well. Because the provinces are so dependent
on Ottawa and equalization payments derived from the "have"
provinces, that alienation tends to manifest itself in muttering
rather than the outright defiance of other places. As a
prominent economist in the region said: "We are as alienated as
the West, but because we don't have any oil no one pays
attention." With the increasing development of offshore energy
resources may come as well an increasingly assertive attitude
from the East.

NEW BRUNSWICK
-----------------

5. (SBU) Premier Bernard Lord raised a number of issues with
the Ambassador during their lunch in Fredericton, first among
them softwood lumber. Lord noted the market-based structure of
the industry in his province and the region, which stands in
contrast to the provincial "stumpage" regimes in other
provinces, and urged that the Atlantic provinces be exempted
from the duties assessed on Canadian lumber. As the only
Premier in the region whose province shares a border with the
U.S. Lord also drew attention to proposed changes in border
crossing documentation requirements, noting that requiring a
passport would cut travel significantly and in the process harm
good relations built up over generations in small towns all
across the border.

6. (SBU) Lord, who is often cited as a potential Conservative
leadership contender should Steven Harper leave the job,
stressed the importance that he and his province attach to
friendship with the U.S. He offered to help the Ambassador
better understand some of the complexities of Canadian
federal-provincial politics and said he would be happy to offer
his thoughts on bilateral issues whenever they might be useful.
(COMMENT: Lord's is definitely a phone number to keep handy in
the Rolodex. END COMMENT.)

NOVA SCOTIA
--------------

7. (U) John Hamm told the Ambassador when they met that
softwood lumber was a key issue for Nova Scotia. Like his
counterparts he stressed the need to keep the border open and
the trade flowing. He expressed satisfaction at the resolution
of the restrictions on Canadian beef imports and noted the major
role that U.S. trade and investment has in the Nova Scotia
economy, particularly in the offshore energy sector and the
pipeline that runs across the province taking Sable Island
natural gas to markets in the Boston area. Hamm has frequently
stressed the warm relations between the people of the province,
particularly Halifax, and those of Boston; the province sends a
Christmas tree to Boston every year as a token of thanks for the
immediate assistance provided after the Halifax explosion of
1917 killed nearly 2,000 and devastated the north end of the
city.

8. (SBU) Hamm's just-announced plan to retire once his
successor is chosen should not affect our relations with the
province. (See ref C.)

NEWFOUNDLAND-LABRADOR
---------------------------------

9. (SBU) Premier Danny Williams's top issue when he met with
the Ambassador was training by U.S. military and National Guard
units at 5 Wing Goose Bay in Labrador. More than other
Premiers, Williams has focused on defense and security issues,
calling publicly for the federal government to support missile
defense and increase coastal patrols by the military and the
RCMP to keep out drug smugglers and potential terrorists.
Williams said he appreciated USG forthrightness in discussing a
satellite launch that appeared to have the potential to drop
debris near offshore oil facilities and force their shutdown.
In addition to 5 Wing he also appealed for USG support to
prevent overfishing and depletion of fish stocks on the Grand
Banks.

10. (U) Williams was clear on the importance of the U.S. to
Newfoundland-Labrador and on his desire to establish a good
relationship with the Ambassador. He was particularly impressed
that the President brought up the issue of overfishing when
Williams saw him during the December visit to Halifax. Williams
clearly understands the importance of the U.S. market for
Newfoundland-Labrador's current and potential energy exports,
both offshore oil and hydroelectric power from the proposed
Lower Churchill Falls hydroelectric development, as well as iron
ore and nickel exports from Labrador.

11. (U) Perhaps more than other Premiers, Williams stressed
the personal side of his province's relations with the U.S.,
recalling the significant numbers of U.S. military personnel who
were stationed in Newfoundland-Labrador both before and after
the province joined Confederation. He highlighted the
importance of family ties, in particular the numbers of
Newfoundland women who married Americans and moved to the U.S.,
as well as the numbers of Americans who settled in the province
after their marriage to Newfoundlanders.

PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND
------------------------

12. (U) Premier Pat Binns told the Ambassador that the free
flow of trade was essential for PEI, particularly agricultural
trade such as potatoes. He said that, with tourism a major
source of employment on the Island, anything that would slow
down or deter tourists from the U.S. would have a negative
impact on the economy. Unlike his counterparts, Binns had no
specific current problems to raise; the province has little
forest land and no significant softwood lumber production.

COMMENT
-----------

13. (SBU) Although the four Atlantic provinces are different
in many respects, they all share longstanding ties to the U.S.
that in many cases predate the establishment of both countries.
They also share a reliance on U.S. markets and tourists for
economic growth. In their talks with the Ambassador the four
Premiers have all been careful to highlight the positive while
noting areas of concern like softwood lumber and tightening
border controls.

HILL

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