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Cablegate: Canadian Election Speculation Hits Fever Pitch

VZCZCXRO0851
OO RUEHGA RUEHHA RUEHMT RUEHQU RUEHVC
DE RUEHOT #1142 2411536
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 281536Z AUG 08
FM AMEMBASSY OTTAWA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8414
INFO RUCNCAN/ALL CANADIAN POSTS COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

UNCLAS OTTAWA 001142

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL CA
SUBJECT: CANADIAN ELECTION SPECULATION HITS FEVER PITCH

1. (SBU) Summary: Prime Minister Harper decided on August 26 to
keep Governor General Michaelle Jean in Ottawa through early
September. Local media and commentators interpret the move as the
clearest sign yet that Harper may soon call an autumn snap election.
If Harper does make the announcement in early September, Election
Day could be October 14 or October 20, according to our contacts.
End summary.

2. (U) Under Canada's Constitution the Governor General, acting on
the advice of the Prime Minister, has the authority to dissolve
Parliament and order elections. The Prime Minister must formally
request a dissolution and election. In practice, the Governor
General accedes to the Prime Minister's request and his recommended
date for new elections. The two must meet face-to-face for the
dissolution interview, however, suggesting a possible motive for the
Governor General's truncated international travel plans, according
to our contacts and media reports.

KEEPING ALL OPTIONS OPEN

3. (U) On August 22, the Prime Minister had announced that Governor
General Michaelle Jean would lead Canada's delegation to the
Paralympic Games in Beijing. The trip would mean she would be out
of the country from September 4 to 10. However, barely four days
later, on the evening of August 26, the Governor General's
spokesperson announced that the Prime Minister had asked the
Governor General to cancel the trip "because of the current
political uncertainty." The Prime Minister's press secretary denied
an announcement was imminent and said only that it was "prudent" to
ask the Governor General to stay in Canada. The schedule change
bolsters media reports that PM Harper may call a snap election in
the first week of September for a possible Election Day on October
14 or 20. Observers see the development as the clearest sign yet
that Harper may not wait to be defeated in Parliament after the
House of Commons returns on September 15.

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COMMENT

4. (SBU) Officially, Prime Minister Harper says that he will make a
decision whether to call an election "in the next few weeks," but
his insistence that the "the country must have a government that can
function" and the change in the Governor General's plans, strongly
suggest that he has already made up his mind in favor of a snap
election call. The change also illustrates the fluidity of the
present situation and the speed with which events are moving.
Harper seems motivated to control the timing of the election and he
would clearly prefer to trigger it on his own terms rather than wait
for the opposition parties to defeat him in Parliament after
September 15. Harper appears to be reserving maximum flexibility on
timing, and ensuring the availability of the Governor General in
Canada is a crucial precaution to that end. End comment
WILKINS

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