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Cablegate: Pm Harper Hopes for Cooperation with New Liberal

VZCZCXRO2199
OO RUEHGA RUEHHA RUEHMT RUEHQU RUEHVC
DE RUEHOT #1538 3442154
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 092154Z DEC 08
FM AMEMBASSY OTTAWA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8838
INFO RUCNCAN/ALL CANADIAN POSTS COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

UNCLAS OTTAWA 001538

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV CA
SUBJECT: PM HARPER HOPES FOR COOPERATION WITH NEW LIBERAL
LEADER

REF: OTTAWA 1536

1. (SBU) In an exclusive CBC interview on December 9, Prime
Minister Stephen Harper welcomed the Liberal Party to "come
to the table" and put forward specific suggestions for the
2009 budget and a likely stimulus package. He differentiated
sharply the Liberals, with their decades of governing
experience, from the New Democratic Party and the Bloc
Quebecois, and expressed the hope that the Liberals will put
the interest of the nation first and work with the ruling
Conservatives on next steps to help the economy and "keep
Canadians working." He said that, if they would do this,
Canada might not face another election for "a couple of
years." If, however, the Liberals persisted in advocating a
coalition with the NDP and the Bloc, Parliament would
continue to be "unstable." He insisted that the
Conservatives had demonstrated they could be "reasonable" by
listening to opposition complaints about the fall Economic
and Fiscal Statement's controversial provisions regarding
federal funding for political parties and limiting the right
to strike by public servants, ultimately dropping these
proposals. He claimed, however, that the three opposition
parties' effort to form a coalition had nothing to do with
the actual substance of the economic statement, since they
had "already decided" beforehand to join together to oppose
the government. He pledged that he would never, as Prime
Minister, put himself in a position where the Bloc Quebecois
had a "veto" over government policy, since its MPs were "not
elected to protect the best interests of this country." He
said that he would look forward to sitting down with the
"next Liberal leader," whom he did not name (presumably,
Michael Ignatieff -- reftel).

2. (SBU) Comment: It was unusual, but not unprecedented,
for the Prime Minister to give this exclusive interview
(especially in mid-afternoon); most likely, the PMO initiated
the idea and CBC was happy to oblige. Harper showed few
signs of the warmer and fuzzier politician that he campaigned
as, with all his tough talk against the Bloc and the
coalition, as well as occasional blunt rebukes to the
interviewer for having cut him off. He even held out an
olive leaf, of sorts, by encouraging the opposition -- and
especially the Liberals -- to offer specific ideas for the
budget and a stimulus package in hope of reaching a new
consensus in the face of growing economic problems.

Visit Canada,s Economy and Environment Forum at
http://www.intelink.gov/communities/state/can ada

WILKINS

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