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Cablegate: Ontario Community and Social Services Minister

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

Ref: (A) Toronto 2248 (B) Toronto 2255
(C) Toronto 2426 (D) Toronto 2568

Sensitive but Unclassified - Protect accordingly.

1. (SBU) Summary: Ontario Community and Social
Services Minister Pupatello emphasized the importance
the Ontario Government places on relations with the
United States during an October 13 courtesy call the
Consul General paid on her. Pupatello digressed from
issues associated with her portfolio to raise her
riding's concern with Windsor-Detroit border crossing
issues, to include expressing displeasure with
premature statements by Michigan Governor Granholm
regarding options taken off the table in the bi-
national process. She discussed Ontario's efforts to
close its coal plants and expressed concerns about
pollution from the Ohio Valley. She also recognized
the need for Toronto to resolve its garbage problems.
Pupatello insisted that her Ministry, which has
responsibility for women's issues, had been
misrepresented in the media as a proponent of Sharia
law. She said the Sharia law frenzy resulted from the
Arbitration Act of 1992, which had no provisions for
proper review to determine if its uses were in
compliance with Canadian law. End Summary.

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Relations with the United States Very Important
--------------------------------------------- --

2. (U) The CG, accompanied by Conoff Steele
(notetaker), paid a formal introductory call on Ontario
Community and Social Services Minister Sandra Pupatello
on October 13. Minister Pupatello noted her attendance
at Ambassador Wilkins's dinner in Windsor on August 18,
stating that U. S. relations are very important to the
Ontario Government. She expressed the hope that her
office would continue to have close relations with the
Embassy and ConGen Toronto, and that the Ambassador
would return to Windsor, her hometown, soon. She
stated that her Ministry's primary responsibility is to
work with vulnerable segments of the population "when
other ministries, such as energy or education or health
fail them."

Windsor-Detroit Border Crossing

3. (SBU) The CG and Minister Pupatello discussed the bi-
national process to identify a new border crossing site
between Windsor and Detroit (ref (B)). Minister
Pupatello stated that the Ontario Government was not
pleased by Michigan Governor Granholm's decision to
publicly announce on October 4, on her own initiative,
the Detroit River International Crossing Study decision
to drop several border crossing options from the study.
Pupatello complained that Granholm should at least have
called Premier McGuinty to let him know what she
intended to do. Ontario officials were also displeased
that Granholm's office subsequently delayed returning
their calls on the issue while Michigan Department of
Transportation official Mohammed Alghurabi continued to
speak publicly on the issue throughout the week (Note:
Premier McGuinty's staff has also lodged this
complaint. End Note.).

4. (SBU) The CG observed that politics on both sides of
the border impacts the process (ref (A)). She said
that the process appeared more complicated in Canada,
since environmental assessments take longer and the
road infrastructure leading to the border is not as
well integrated. Minister Pupatello noted that the bi-
national process is on schedule, and that it was hoped
that some environmental assessments could be conducted
concurrently to save time. She said Ontario would
prefer that political leaders on both sides make
decisions regarding the border crossing rather than
engage in the bi-national process, but in the current
litigious environment, she acknowledged this did not
appear to be a viable option. The CG responded that
waiting until 2013 would likely not reduce the number
of lawsuits and asked if Pupatello had heard of the
possibility of enacting omnibus legislation. Pupatello
said that this might be necessary, but all levels of
government on both sides of the border would need to
enact legislation in sync with each other.

5. (SBU) Minister Pupatello mentioned that, as an MPP
from Windsor, she was very involved in border issues.
She commented on how difficult it was to be a
provincial lobbyist and also look out for local
interests in Windsor. She said Windsor currently had
no voice at the federal level because Windsor's NDP
opposition MP has no influence in the federal
government. The federal government was only engaged
with local issues if it felt it could win the local
riding. This situation meant she must be a stronger
advocate for Windsor than would otherwise be normal for
a provincial Minister.

Coal and Trash: Cross-Border Environmental Issues
--------------------------------------------- -----

6. (SBU) Minister Pupatello argued that Ontario needed
to move forward with a significant conservation
platform. She suggested that the province might not
meet its goal of closing all coal-firing plants in the
next four years if the only alternative was to buy
energy produced by dirty coal burning plants from the
United States because this would defeat the purpose of
closing the plants. In her district, she claimed,
fifty percent of air pollution derived from the Ohio
Valley, an area Ontario cannot regulate. She noted
that the provincial Minister of Environment was adamant
in her belief that clean coal "was an oxymoron." But,
she conceded, energy would always win out over
environment in Ontario - the province, with its
dependence on manufacturing, had learned its lesson
from the 2003 blackout and the past summer's rolling
brownouts. The CG pushed back that she believed
Ontario had not given clean coal technology a fair
hearing and promised to forward information on it and
the FutureGen project to the Minister.

7. (SBU) Minister Pupatello also admitted to the Consul
General the need for Toronto to solve its garbage
problem, commenting that the current recycling process
is cumbersome and discourages the populace from
following through. The CG noted that an EPA team that
recently visited Toronto had been impressed by public
compliance with recycling requirements, citing
Toronto's strong public education program in this realm
(ref (D)), but agreed that it was a stop-gap measure -
incineration and landfill sites inside the province
were the obvious solutions.

Sharia Law

8. (SBU) Minister Pupatello told the Consul General
that her office attempted to impede the province
legally endorsing application of Sharia law in Ontario,
rather than promote it as media reports suggested. She
said concerns regarding this issue stemmed from the
Arbitration Act of 1992, which allowed arbitration
across the board to relieve pressure on the court
system, but did not provide provisions to review
adequately the act to see how it was being used and
whether it was being implemented in compliance with
Canadian law. The Ontario Government chose former NDP
Attorney General Marion Boyd to head consultations
after the media began reporting that the government was
promoting Sharia law. She had spoken with the groups
impacted, but no evidence was uncovered showing that
arbitration was happening in violation of Canadian law.

9. (SBU) Public outrage - including expressions of very
un-Canadian anti-immigrant sentiment - had prompted
Premier McGuinty to rule out legal endorsement of
arbitration decisions issued in accordance with Sharia
law (ref (C)). Minister Pupatello said the government
would introduce legislation to strengthen the
Arbitration Act, including proscribing the actions of
arbitrators and setting forth qualifications. She also
stated that the Ontario Women's Directorate would
conduct public education to reach out to immigrant
women and make them aware of their protections under
Canadian law.

10. (SBU) COMMENT: The courtesy call lasted far longer
than was scheduled; a fire drill eventually broke it
up. Pupatello is one of a series of provincial
ministers who have recently gone out of their way to
express with passion the importance of the U.S.-Canada
relationship. Issues associated with the Minister's
portfolio - new adoption legislation, in particular -
had to be postponed for another conversation.


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