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07OTTAWA1928 2007-10-17 22:57:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Ottawa
Cable title:  

HARPER GOVERNMENT TO SURVIVE THRONE SPEECH

Tags:   PGOV PREL CA AF 
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1. (SBU) Summary. The Liberal leadership will not seek to bring
down the Harper government over the contents of the October 16
Throne Speech, recognizing election fatigue among the voters. The
Liberals have charged that the government's comments on Afghanistan
were nonetheless too ambiguous, while saying that they could accept
a true training role -- but not a combat mission -- for Canadian
troops after 2009. They will offer an amendment to the Speech that
insists on adherence to Kyoto Convention objectives and clarifies
the nature of Canada's military role in Kandahar, among other
issues. The government is unlikely to accept any substantive
amendment from the Liberals, however. The next test of the
government is likely to come -- sooner rather than later -- with the
introduction of the government's omnibus crime bill. End summary.

ROUND ONE TO THE GOVERNMENT


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2. (U) In the formal Opposition response on October 17 to the
government's second "Speech from the Throne" at the outset of the
new session of Parliament (reftels), Liberal leader Stphane Dion
admitted that the electorate did not support new elections after
having gone through three national elections in three years, as well
as several provincial elections and a few by-elections. He claimed
that the idea of trying to bring down the Harper government over the
contents of the Throne Speech and hold new elections in the near
future was "too much in the eyes of Canadians." Instead, Dion
announced that the Liberals will register their dissent by proposing
a substantive amendment that calls upon the government to change its
"weak approach" on climate change to allow Canada to catch up on
Phase II of its Kyoto commitments, to announce the combat mission in
Kandahar will end in February 2009 or morph into a purely training
role, to take action on poverty, to reduce corporate taxes, and to
rescind its decision on income trusts. However, the Liberal caucus
will apparently abstain both on the amendment itself and on the
final vote approving the Speech, thereby allowing the government to
survive its first vote of confidence in the current session.
(Alternatively, the government could conceivably strike a compromise
with the Liberals and accept at least some of the Liberal amendment
in a face-saving gesture.) Dion emphasized that the Liberals are
determined to "make Parliament work in accordance with the wishes of
the Canadian people" but swore that the Conservatives "will never
form a majority government."

MOST PROBLEMATIC ISSUES


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3. (U) In his remarks in Parliament on October 17, Dion claimed that
the Speech displayed "disconcerting" and deliberate ambiguity on the
future of Canada's mission in Kandahar province, which he described
as a counterinsurgency operation, beyond February 2009. Dion said
Liberals could likely accept reconfiguration of the mission to a
purely training role, and complained that the government had already
pre-empted the work of the new non-partisan advisory panel on
Afghanistan by stating in the Speech that it wanted the mission to
continue to train the Afghan police and army until 2011. He
insisted that the government inform NATO allies and the Afghan
government that the combat mission will end in 2009. Dion also
Qgovernment that the combat mission will end in 2009. Dion also
charged that the Harper government had turned its back on Africa and
on the crisis in Darfur, and insisted that the government's claim
that "Canada is back" was "absurd" and untrue.




4. (U) On provisions to revise the Anti-Terrorism Act, Dion again
complained the Speech was too vague, and warned the government "not
to play politics" on the issue. He urged the government to accept
earlier recommendations on this legislation from the Commons and the
Senate. With respect to strengthening the Canadian federation, Mr.
Dion said Liberals would work to promote the wise use of the federal
spending power but "would not allow this Prime Minister to build a
federalism of firewalls" to divide Canadians. On the economy, he
criticized lack of action on promoting economic innovation,
competitiveness, and productivity, on meeting challenges in the
manufacturing sector and from emerging economies, and on resolving
the softwood lumber dispute. He lamented a "missed opportunity" and
incompetence in implementation over the past nineteen months on
climate change, and pledged that Liberals will continue to push for
Canada to meet objectives in phase II of the Kyoto Protocol.


SOME FAINT PRAISE


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OTTAWA 00001928 002 OF 002




5. (U) Dion that the Liberals themselves are "tough on crime" and
indicated that the party might possibly support the proposed Omnibus
Crime Bill, depending on its exact contents. He noted that the
Liberals had supported five of the six government bills in the
previous session on crime, none of which passed both Houses. He
offered measured praise for the government's willingness to expand
the scope of the Official Languages Act, its attention to the Arctic
-- especially plans to build a world-class Arctic research station
and complete mapping of the Arctic seabed (while criticizing the
government for not developing small ports in this region) -- and its
plan to continue modernizing the Canadian Forces (while charging
that the government relied too extensively on non-tendered bids).
He expressed unqualified support for the proposal to confer honorary
Canadian citizenship on Aung San Suu Kyi.




6. (SBU) Comment: With the government set now to survive a vote
of confidence by October 24 on the Throne Speech, all political eyes
are on the next (of perhaps many) vote of confidence that the
minority government must face, which will likely come later this
year. Prime Minister Harper has already made clear that the first
priority legislation to run this gauntlet will be the Omnibus Crime
Bill, without specifying yet how quickly he would expect this to
make its way through Parliament or how much flexibility the
government would ultimately show in altering its draft to respond to
Liberal and other comments.
WILKINS