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Cablegate: Embassy Ottawa

VZCZCXRO2822
OO RUEHGA RUEHHA RUEHMT RUEHQU RUEHVC
DE RUEHOT #1577/01 3572115
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 222115Z DEC 08
FM AMEMBASSY OTTAWA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8894
INFO RUCNCAN/ALL CANADIAN POSTS COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 OTTAWA 001577

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PINR CA
SUBJ: ABOUT FACE: PM HARPER STACKS SENATE

1. (SBU) Summary: Prime Minister Harper named 18 new Senators on
December 22, the largest one-time appointment of senators in
Canadian history. The appointments are a major about-face for the
Prime Minister and the Conservatives, who had long pledged to
transform the Senate into an elected body instead of appointing new
members as vacancies occurred. The holiday season will ensure that
the unexpected move receives only modest public attention (or
criticism), but the timing reinforces perceptions that the Prime
Minister fears that the present parliament may not last long. End
summary.

Merry Christmas!
----------------

2. (U) The government on December 22 released the names of eighteen
individuals whom the Prime Minister has named as Senators. (See
full list in para 7.) Instead of the Prime Minister himself,
Minister of State for Democratic Reform Steven Fletcher offered
comments to the media. Fletcher emphasized that the Conservatives
had been seeking Senate reform for years, and argued that the
"Liberal-dominated, unaccountable" Senate had blocked legislation
(including the democratic reform bills), and if a proposed
Liberal-NDP coalition replaced the current Conservative government,
it could fill the seats. He further claimed that "something had to
be done" now since the numbers in the upper chamber had fallen so
low that it was no longer functioning effectively. He insisted that
the government remains committed to Senate reform and will
re-introduce reform legislation limiting senatorial terms to eight
years when Parliament resumes on January 26. Fletcher noted that
the government will expect the new Senators to step aside if
Parliament passes bills to reform the Senate in the future.
Currently, all Senators may remain until they reach 75 years old.

3. (U) In a subsequent statement on his website, PM Harper stated
that "the incoming Senators have all pledged to support eight-year
term limits and other Senate reform legislation . . . [and] also
declared his or her unwavering commitment to support Canadian unity
and oppose the coalition." He insisted that Senate vacancies
"should be filled by the government that Canadians elected rather
than by a coalition that no one voted for."

4. (U) Since becoming Prime Minister in 2006, Harper had
previously named only two individuals to the Senate; one for Alberta
(which had implemented a form of provincial selection for Senate
candidates) and one (Michael Fortier) for Quebec to represent
Montreal in his cabinet after the Conservatives won no seats there
in 2006. The new appointments have now filled seven vacant seats in
Atlantic Canada, four in Quebec, two in Ontario, one each in
Saskatchewan and Yukon, and three in British Columbia. A further 12
seats will come vacant in 2009.

CONSERVATIVES STILL A MINORITY
-------------------------------

5. (U) The appointments will not notably change the balance of power
in the upper chamber. Assuming all eighteen new appointments vote
Conservative, the new party standings in the 105 seat upper house
will be:
-- Liberals: 58;
-- Conservatives: 38;
-- Progressive Conservatives: 3, and
-- Independents: 6.
If the Conservatives remain in office and continue to name new
Senators as the incumbents retire upon reaching the upper age limit,
the Liberals will retain a majority in the Senate until at least
2010.

Opposition howls
----------------

6. (U) Opposition parties have claimed that the appointments are
unseemly at a time when Parliament is prorogued, the Prime Minister
does not have the confidence of the Commons, and Canadians are
distracted by the holidays. However, the Governor General imposed
Qdistracted by the holidays. However, the Governor General imposed
no restrictions on December's prorogation, and PM Harper has every
legal right to make the appointments. The Canadian Taxpayers
Federation has calculated the total annual cost of each senator at
$860,215 (including $130,400 in salary, $90,000 in travel, and
expenses for an office and staff).

Who they are
------------

7. (U) The appointees come from a range of backgrounds, with most,
but not all, long associated with the Conservative Party:
PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND
-- Mike Duffy, CTV long-time political commentator;
NEWFOUNDLAND
-- Fabian Manning, former Conservative MP;
NOVA SCOTIA
-- Fred Dickson, lawyer, friend of former PM Mulroney, and a legal

OTTAWA 00001577 002 OF 002


expert on offshore resource development;
-- Stephen Greene, former deputy chief of staff to Nova Scotia
Premier Rodney MacDonald and a former Vice Consul in Boston; and,
-- Michael MacDonald, local businessman and former executive
assistant to two federal cabinet ministers;
NEW BRUNSWICK
-- Percy Mockler, long-time member of the NB legislature and former
provincial minister; and,
-- John Wallace, lawyer;
QUEBEC
-- Patrick Brazeau, National Chief of the Congress of Aboriginal
Peoples;
-- Suzanne Fortin-Duplessis, former Quebec MP;
-- Leo Housakos, Montreal businessman; and,
-- Michel Rivard, former mayor of Beauport and member of the Quebec
National Assembly;
ONTARIO
-- Irving Gerstein, Conservative Party fundraiser and Member of the
Order of Canada;
-- Nicole Eaton, charity fundraiser and columnist;
SASKATCHEWAN:
-- Pamela Wallin, former broadcaster, Consul General in New York
City, and member of the Manley Panel on Afghanistan;
BRITISH COLUMBIA
-- Yonah Martin, cultural activist;
-- Richard Neufeld, former provincial minister of energy mines and
petroleum;
-- Nancy Greene Raine, Olympic champion alpine skier and "Canada's
Female Athlete of the 20th century;"
YUKON
-- Hector Daniel Lang, former member of the Yukon Legislative
Assembly.


8. (SBU) Comment: Appointing senators is a major about-face for a
PM and a party that long campaigned for an elected upper chamber.
The cost of the eighteen new senators also conflicts with political
messaging about the need for official belt-tightening. However, PM
Harper will not pay a real political price. The staunchest
advocates of Senate reform are Conservatives in western Canada, who
will swallow the expedient in order to forestall any opposition
appointments should the Harper government lose any upcoming vote of
confidence. The tenor of the Prime Minister's comments about a
possible Liberal/New Democratic Party coalition and the timing of
the appointments, however, underscore that the PM may fear that the
present parliament will not last long.
BREESE

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