|08TORONTO84||2008-03-20 17:22:00||UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY||Consulate Toronto|
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1. (SBU) SUMMARY: In a March 20 speech before the Canadian Council
on the Americas, Liberal Foreign Affairs critic and newly elected
Member of Parliament Bob Rae argued for increased resources and
better coordination among Canadian foreign affairs agencies, and a
stronger Canadian commitment to the Americas. Rae also warned of
the dangers of protectionism, particularly in the United States, and
noted that renegotiating NAFTA would put "everything" on the table,
to include energy and bulk water exports. END SUMMARY.
2. (SBU) Rae criticized what he described as Prime Minister Harper's
hostility toward the professional Canadian foreign service, and
noted that Harper's (and previous governments) efforts to cut back
and marginalize the public service contradict the increased burden
placed on Canadian diplomacy worldwide. Harper's "command and
control" style of management, according to Rae, is ill-suited for
the management of highly complex organizations like the Canadian
3. (SBU) Rae said Canadian diplomacy needs more resources as well as
much better coordination and the elimination of "silos" between
DFAIT and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). He
specifically cited President Bush's request for increased State
Department funding and staffing as an example of what Canada needs.
Canadian public diplomacy should be reinvigorated, with more focus
on education and selling Canada as a unique "brand" to worldwide
audiences, he argued.
4. (SBU) Rae was cautious about the extent of Canada's influence in
the Americas. He said he believes Cuba's transformation "may be
about to begin" and argued that Canada's policy of limited
engagement is the right course because it gives Canada opportunities
to influence the transformation that are unavailable to the U.S. He
expressed disagreement with Venezuela and Hugo Chavez's politics,
but noted that each country is free to choose its own path. He
described Chavez's recent referendum defeat as a hopeful sign of
democracy in Venezuela. Rae also argued for increased engagement
with Mexico and Brazil as their economic influence grows.
5. (SBU) In response to audience questions, Rae criticized
protectionist impulses throughout the hemisphere and said Canada is
far too dependent on trade to restrict it. Canadian policymakers,
Rae said, should emphasize to U.S. leaders the dangers of
restricting trade. He also noted that if the U.S. wants to
renegotiate NAFTA, "everything" would be on the table, particularly
oil and gas and "better protection of our water resources."
6. (SBU) COMMENT: Rae, likely to be a foreign affairs "heavyweight"
in the Liberal caucus in the Commons, presented a spirited case for
increased resources for Canadian international engagement. With the
exception of his comments on NAFTA, his view of Canada's role in the
world is non-controversial from the U.S. perspective. However, his
remarks on Harper's leadership style and attitude towards the
Canadian public service may be a preview of his lines of attack when
he takes his seat in Ottawa after Parliament sits again on March 31.