Cablegate: Ambassador Meets with Liberal Party Leadership

DE RUEHOT #0811/01 2962023
O R 232023Z OCT 09

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 OTTAWA 000811


E.O. 12958: DECL: 2019/10/23
SUBJECT: Ambassador meets with Liberal Party leadership


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CLASSIFIED BY: Scott Bellard, PolMinCouns, State, POL; REASON:
1.4(B), (D)

1. (C) Summary. In a luncheon on October 23, Ambassador
discussed key bilateral issues, notably ""Buy America"" and climate
change policies, with Liberal Party leader Michael Ignatieff and
key staff. Ignatieff reiterated that Canadians do not want an
election now, but said that he could not be sure how long another
political party would prop up the Conservatives. End Summary.

2. (SBU) Ambassador on October 23 hosted the Leader of the
Official Opposition, Michael Ignatieff of the Liberal Party, along
with chief of staff Ian Davey and Liberal Foreign Affairs Critic
Bob Rae. (DCM and PolMinCouns also attended.) Ignatieff extended
a warm welcome to the Ambassador, and praised the Ambassador's
early efforts to visit as much as Canada as possible. Ambassador
commented in particular on the amazing extent of Canada's boreal
forests, while Ignatieff noted the inherent challenges of
governance in a country as huge and diverse as Canada, especially
its Arctic territories. He pointed out that the Member of
Parliament for the Yukon territory had responsibility for an area
about as big as France.

3. (C ) Ignatieff compared U.S. and Canadian border policies
unfavorably with those within the European Union, and pondered
whether we might not realize in 20 or 30 years that we had not done
enough to promote the inter-connectivity of our economies. DCM
noted the loss of national sovereignty that the EU members had
accepted as the price for this union, which neither Canadians nor
Americans were willing to accept. Ignatieff inquired what the
U.S. was doing to reverse the ""Buy America"" provisions in recent
U.S. legislation, and the Ambassador described the ongoing
dialogue, without revealing specifics of the proposals. Ignatieff
underscored the huge importance to both countries of our bilateral
trade, and admitted that Canada needed to do more to get U.S.
companies with a stake in freer trade with Canada to speak out to
the U.S. Congress.

4. (C) Ignatieff asked about the status of U.S. energy and
climate change legislation and the prospects for the Copenhagen
Summit. Ambassador highlighted the historic importance of the
ongoing U.S. debate on health care, calling it one of the most
critical pieces of legislation in generations, while admitting that
it had made the passage of these other bills less likely until
sometime in early 2010. He predicted that debate on those bills
would likely be less partisan and more geographical than on the
health care bill. Ignatieff said that this would be true for
Canadian policies on energy and climate change as well. Ignatieff
pointed to the perception in Canada that the current government of
Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper was letting the U.S.
take the lead on cap-and-trade and other environmental policies
rather than crafting Canadian policies. He admitted that the
Liberals under previous leader Stephane Dion had taken a sharp
political hit for what the Conservatives were able successfully to
tag as a ""carbon tax"" proposal in the 2008 campaign.

5. (C) Rae raised the case of Canadian detainee in Guantanamo Bay
Omar Khadr, expressing regret that he had not had time to discuss
on October 22 with Deputy Secretary Steinberg (septel). He
expressed special concern that the U.S. would announce its decision
on how to proceed with this case before the Canadian Supreme Court
heard arguments in the government's appeal of a Federal Court
decision ordering the government to seek Khadr's repatriation (ref
b). DCM downplayed the significance of this timing, noting that
these were two separate issues.

6. (C) When asked about the prospects for an election, Ignatieff
reiterated that Canadians clearly did not want an election now. He
nonetheless emphasized that the Liberals had indeed lost confidence
in the Conservative government, but noted that ""another political
party"" (i.e., the New Democratic Party) had chosen to prop it up.
He said that he could not predict how long this party would be
willing to do so.

6. (C) Comment: The dynamics between one-time friends and later

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rivals Ignatieff and Rae remain clearly tense, with Rae arriving
late and then immediately dominating the conversation, while
Ignatieff sat back almost meekly. Rae was by far the more forceful
and eloquent of the two and showed little deference to his party
chief, without at any time displaying any rudeness or personal
animosity. He came across as better read and more substantive than
Ignatieff, who stuck mostly to pleasantries and generalities.

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