Cablegate: Ambassador Meets Parliament's Border Caucus

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

282112Z Oct 05





E.O. 12958: N/A


1. (U) Summary: Ambassador Wilkins and Minister Counselor
of Consular Affairs Keith Powell met for 75 minutes with
Parliament's Border Caucus on October 26, fielding questions
on subjects ranging from the new travel document requirements
of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) to the
softwood lumber dispute. The Ambassador urged Border Caucus
members and their constituents to register their views on the
WHTI during the present comment period. He also advised that
Canada and the United States should not let disagreement on
individual issues (e.g., softwood lumber) sour the broader
collaborative and cooperative relationship. Though a few
prickly issues were raised, the tone of the meeting was
positive and cordial. End summary.

2. (U) The Border Caucus, a multiparty group of 37 Members
of Parliament whose ridings are adjacent to or affected by
the border, invited the Ambassador to join its October 26
meeting. The Border Caucus was formed one year ago, largely
as the result of efforts by Russ Hiebert, Conservative MP
from British Columbia. Hiebert and three other MPs are
co-chairs: Claude Banchand (Bloc, Quebec), Roger Gallaway
(Liberal, Ontario), and Brian Masse (NDP, Ontario).

3. (U) After his introduction by Hiebert, the Ambassador
addressed about 22 members of the Border Caucus for 10
minutes, relating his experiences and impressions after four
months on the job in Ottawa. He expressed appreciation for
the warm welcome he has received throughout Canada (he has
visited the three Canadian territories and all but one
province). The Ambassador noted that when the U.S. has been
in need, such as the 9/11 attacks and Hurricane Katrina,
Canada has been the first to offer help. When President Bush
visited Canada in November 2004, he thanked Canada for its
assistance following 9/11. During Secretary Rice's visit
this week, she also offered the thanks of America for
Canada's quick and generous efforts to aid the victims of
Katrina. The Ambassador offered to take questions about any
issues of concern to the MPs. He urged them to remember,
however, that while there are small irritants in our
relationship, the broader Canada-U.S. partnership is strong,
mutually supportive, and pervasive.


4. (U) As anticipated, the most urgent concern of the Border
Caucus members is the WHTI and its requirement that by
January 2008, everyone entering the United States, including
those entering by the land border with Canada, must hold a
passport or similarly secure travel document. Caucus members
worry that business, tourism, and casual travel could all
suffer because of the WHTI. The first question came from
Conservative MP Rob Nicholson of Niagara Falls, who has four
border crossings in his riding. Nicholson asked if, because
of the unique Canada-U.S. relationship, Canadians might be
exempted from the new travel document requirement. The
Ambassador replied that the new documentary requirement was
still "a work in progress" and said that Nicholson and the
others should make their views known during the comment
period that runs until October 31. He added that it is
unlikely there would be an exemption for Canadians to
whatever documentary requirements are decided upon since all
travelers, including American citizens, will be expected to
adhere to the new regulations.

5. (SBU) Replying to a question from Bloc MP Claude Bachand,
the Ambassador, joined by Consular head Powell, suggested
that the most productive way to respond to the WHTI
requirements would be to find ways to make them workable.
Bachand reported that Parliament had recently passed a
(nonbinding) motion against a passport requirement for
crossing the Canada-U.S. border. The Ambassador and Powell
emphasized that no final rule has been issued yet and
suggested that MPs submit comments and work with their
counterparts in the U.S. Congress and Senate to address the
common concerns of border legislators regarding the WHTI.
They explained that there is discussion of an alternative to
a passport--a lower cost, laminated card like a credit
card--that would trigger transmission of data to a border
inspector's monitor as a traveler approached the port of
entry. The Ambassador and Powell pointed out that rather
than impeding cross-border movement, the use of technology,
coupled with standardized documents, may make crossing the
land border much faster and easier than it is today.

Softwood lumber
6. (SBU) Prefacing his remarks by saying that "we detest
those who play the anti-American card," Stockwell Day,
Conservative from British Columbia, raised the softwood
lumber dispute. He asked for specifics of the various
rulings. The Ambassador explained that while the recent
NAFTA panel had ruled against the United States, the WTO had
ruled in favor. The Ambassador noted that there would likely
be another ruling on October 28. The Ambassador said, "If I
could fix this problem, I would." He urged Border Caucus
members to keep softwood in perspective: it is a trade
dispute, and only one small aspect of our much larger trading
relationship. He cautioned that too much Canadian rhetoric
about softwood lumber could create a negative reaction in


7. (U) Larry Bagnell, Liberal from the Yukon Territory,
noted that Alaska and the Yukon Territory frequently
collaborate in the tourism sector, and they submitted a joint
comment on the WHTI voicing their common concerns. Bagnell
said he also had questions about the several opposing rulings
regarding the softwood lumber dispute. The Ambassador
offered to send the Border Caucus members a brief outline of
the facts behind the various softwood lumber decisions.
Bagnell raised the differing views of the U.S. and Canada
regarding exploring for petroleum in the Arctic National
Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) and demarcating the border along the
Northwest Passage. The Ambassador acknowledged that, yes, we
do have different views on both of those.

8. (SBU) Gurmant Grewal, Conservative from British Columbia,
complained of what he described as "racial profiling" at
border crossings and the presence of militiamen. The
Ambassador explained that the U.S. does not practice racial
profiling. He noted that the militiamen on the border have
no official capacity. Grewal added that he himself was
recently held up three times on return flights to Vancouver
from Mexico. On hearing details of Grewal's travel, Consular
chief Powell explained that things like cash purchases of
one-way tickets and not having luggage on an international
flight may make one appear suspicious. Grewal said that if
his name is on a "No-Fly" list, he wishes to be removed from
it. Powell offered to look into the particulars of Grewal's
personal complaint.

9. (U) The NDP's Brian Masse from Windsor asked if the USG
and Government of Canada were preparing to put up public
funds to match the proposal expected October 28 from Manny
Maroun (owner of the Ambassador Bridge between Detroit and
Windsor) to privatize the Windsor-Detroit tunnel. The
Ambassador responded that we view the recommendations of the
binational commission as those that can most adequately
address the Windsor-Detroit crossing for the long-term. He
offered to keep in contact with Masse regarding the Maroun
proposal and the issue of funding.

10. (U) Jeff Watson, Conservative from Ontario, sent a
staffer to ask if the United States and Canada were finally
going to be able to join together and make common cause
against European subsidies in the World Trade Organization.
The Ambassador offered to look into that question and get
back to Watson.

11. (U) Greg Thompson, Conservative from New Brunswick,
thanked the Ambassador for joining MPs to barbecue hamburgers
at Parliament Hill. (Note: Parliament held a fund-raiser
luncheon for Katrina victims on September 28 at which MPs and
the Ambassador joined Prime Minister Martin in cooking meals
that raised $125,000. End note.) Thompson raised his
concern that the United States was beginning to view the
Canadian border with the same optic as the Mexican border.
He noted that the U.S. and Canada have unique agreements in
security and law enforcement. Our two countries must move
ahead with new bilateral activities without waiting for
Mexico to join them. The Ambassador assured Thompson that we
appreciate the unique character of the Canada-U.S. border.
Comment: Thompson did not elaborate further, but perhaps he
was alluding to the trilateral linkage proposed in the
Security and Prosperity Partnership. Embassy will follow up
with Thompson. End comment.

12. (SBU) Mark Warawa, Conservative from British Columbia,
told the Ambassador that a recently discovered underground
tunnel used by drug smugglers is located in his riding. He
said he was pleased the drug smugglers using the tunnel were
arrested on the U.S. side, adding that they would have gotten
off too easily had they been arrested on the Canadian side.
Warawa reported that the RCMP is being overwhelmed by the
number of growing operations in B.C., as many as 800 of them,
and cannot adequately respond to them. He opined that C-17,
the proposed legislation to decriminalize marijuana while at
the same time increasing the maximum fine for grow ops, has
been "shelved" and will remain so as long as Canada is "in
election mode."

13. (U) Denis Paradis, Liberal from Quebec, asked if the
Ambassador would intervene in the planned expansion of a
garbage landfill on the U.S. side of Lake Memphremagog, a
popular resort that straddles the Quebec-Vermont border.
Paradis maintains that the landfill as planned will pollute
the lake. The Ambassador offered to look into it. The last
Border Caucus member to speak was Lynne Yelich, Conservative
from Saskatchewan, whose main purpose in attending the
meeting was to invite the Ambassador to visit her province.
As it turns out, the Ambassador will be in Saskatchewan on
November 30 on a trip that will complete his initial tours of
Canada's provinces.

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