Wikileaks dumps huge pile of cables from U.S. missions in Canada

U.S. ambassador to Canada David Jacobson (right) and unidentified man (left).


With but a furlong to go in the election campaign, Wikileaks today released a large number of cables from U.S. embassies and consulates in Canada, many of them commentary on the Canadian political scene written by ambassador David Jacobson.

In the cables, Jacobson comments on the apparent futility of efforts to reinvent the Liberal Party in 2010.  This is truly astounding reading and hugely awkward for the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa.


The Canadian content stretches from reports from the Vancouver Winter Olympics back as far as 1985, with a cable from the U.S. embassy in Dublin describing the Air India disaster and wreckage in the Irish Sea.


But it is the more recent material, from the embassy in Ottawa, that could lead to red faces among U.S. dips. Consider Jacobson’s pessimistic state-of-the-nation summary of the Liberal Party in 2010, titled “Liberals chart renewal in 2010”:

The Liberals' muted response to PM Harper's late December prorogation
of Parliament (ref b) suggests a lack of energy and hands-on
leadership (Michael Ignatieff reportedly remains on vacation in
France), however.   The party's "transformational" process sets
high goals, but a similar 2006 renewal exercise did not meet
expectations.  The  Liberals face a tough road ahead if they hope
to beat the Conservatives in the next federal election - whether in
2010 or 2011.  End summary.

Another, apparently from Deputy Chief of Mission Terry Breese, is titled, “About face: PM Harper stacks the Senate.” It shows a  sophisticated, in cynical, understanding of Canadian politics:

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.

In one 2008 dispatch on a potential Canadian election, Jacobson’s predecessor, David Wilkins, summarizes the state of U.S.-Canada relations and our “inferiority complex”:

1. (C) Summary. Despite the overwhelming importance of the U.S. to Canada for its economy and security, bilateral relations remain the proverbial 900 pound gorilla that no one wants to talk about in the 2008 Canadian federal election campaigns. This likely reflects an almost inherent inferiority complex of Canadians vis-a-vis their sole neighbor as well as an underlying assumption that the fundamentals of the relationship are strong and unchanging and uncertainty about the outcome of the U.S. Presidential election. End Summary.

Another cable describes Canada’s decision to sit-out the war in Iraq and agreement not to criticize U.S action:

6. (C) Comment Continued: Following the meeting, Political
Director Jim Wright emphasized that, despite public
statements that the Canadian assets in the Straits of Hormuz
will remain in the region exclusively to support Enduring
Freedom, they will also be available to provide escort
services in the Straits and will otherwise be discreetly
useful to the military effort. The two ships in the Straits
now are being augmented by two more enroute, and there are
patrol and supply aircraft in the  UAE which are also
prepared to "be useful."  This message tracks with others we
have heard.  While for domestic political reasons and out of
a deep-seated Canadian commitment to multilateralism the GOC
has  decided not to join in a U.S. coalition of the willing,
they will refrain from criticism of our actions, express
understanding, and focus their public comments on the real
culprit, Iraq. They are also prepared to be as helpful as
possible in the military margins, an aspect of their role
which we intend to clarify.

Jacobson reports on a lunch meeting with then-Environment Minister Jim Prentice, who sounds really happy to be there:

From the onset of lunch, Minister Prentice was clearly
making every effort to establish a connection with Ambassador
Jacobson, outlining his respect for the Administration and his
interest in President Obama's "back story", persona, and goals.
The tone was very collegial and Prentice appeared unrushed,
focused, and interested in getting to know the Ambassador on a
personal level, sharing stories about his daughter, life in
Alberta, and his love for the outdoors.  Prentice appeared keen to
forge a personal relationship with Ambassador Jacobson - to the
mutual benefit of both countries.  Note:  Prentice is
widely-considered to be the most respected member of Prime Minister
Harper's inner circle and enjoys Harper's complete trust.  He is
the lead Minister for climate change, as well as the lead on the
Clean Energy Dialogue and Northern Gas pipelines.

One cable in advance of Jacobson’s visit to Winnipeg, he referenced Gary Doer’s new gig in Washington, D.C.:

2. Manitoba, occasionally the victim of an inferiority complex as
the neighbor to richer Ontario, enjoyed its time in the spotlight
as the home to the new Canadian Ambassador to the U.S.  The
Ambassador's visit ensured the spotlight shone even more brightly
on Winnipeg as the new Premier took office.

In the same cable, Jacobson says he was interviewed by Mary Agnes Welch, head of the Canadian Association of Journalists and a writer with the Winnipeg Free Press:

The unexceptional and rather flat article, titled “We can work it out,” summarized the U.S. position on key issues and gave an overview of the Ambassador’s Winnipeg visit.

One cable, apropos of what we do not know, gives a detailed biography of NDP MP Megan Leslie:

. (SBU) In terms of her personal characteristics, MP Leslie is
very approachable and, as a recent magazine interviewer noted,
she has a laid back style that conveys the feeling that you are
"chatting with a neighbor on her front porch."

Another in a lighter tone, also from Breese, itemizes a list of Stephen Harper’s Christmas wishes:

--  Newfoundland Premier Danny Williams recants his
Venezuelan/Che Guevara economic theories and gives free
rights to Newfie water to AbitibiBowater in perpetuity,
leading Maude Barlow to emigrate to Zimbabwe;
--  Quebec voters come to their senses, abandon the Bloc
Quebecois, and vote en masse for the Conservatives in the
next election, creating a stable Conservative majority in the
House of Commons;

One refers to the Canadian government holding off on copyright reforms because of public pressure and efforts by University of Ottawa professor Michael Geist:

5. (sbu) From December 2007 to mid-February, senior GOC
officials and well-informed private sector contacts assured
the Embassy that legislative calendar concerns were delaying
the copyright bill,s introduction into Parliament.  Our
contacts downplayed the small - but increasingly vocal -
public opposition to copyright reform led by University of
Ottawa law professor Dr. Michael Geist.  On February 25,
however, Industry Minister Prentice (please protect) admitted
to the Ambassador that some Cabinet members and Conservative
Members of Parliament - including MPs who won their ridings
by slim margins - opposed tabling the copyright bill now
because it might be used against them in the next federal
election.  Prentice said the copyright bill had become a
"political" issue.  He also indicated that elevating Canada
to the Special 301 Priority Watch List would make the issue
more difficult and would not be received well.

One cable backgrounds Laureen Harper, wife of the Conservative leader. Some of the highlights:

1. (SBU) Summary: Laureen Harper, wife of Prime Minister Stephen
Harper, plays no formal public role (unlike the U.S. First Lady),
but those close to the family have described her as politically
engaged and as her husband's most valuable political asset.
Extroverted and friendly, she is widely credited for "softening" her
more reserved husband's political image. End summary. 

2. (U) Laureen Ann Harper (nee Teskey) was born on June 23, 1963,
the eldest of three children, in Turner Valley, a rural community of
about 1,600 residents southwest of Calgary, Alberta.  Her parents,
who divorced in 1991, ranched and owned an electrical contracting
company. She attended Calgary's Southern Alberta Institute of
Technology to study journalism and photography.  She married New
Zealander Neil Fenton (with whom she backpacked across Africa for
six months) in 1985, but they divorced in 1988. 


3. (SBU) Passionate about politics since her teens, Laureen Harper
joined the Reform Party (the forerunner of the Conservative Party of
Canada) in the late 1980s; she met Stephen Harper at a Reform
meeting in Saskatoon in 1991.  They married in December 1993.  Some
of Stephen Harper's earliest political colleagues, including his
first boss and later fellow Reform MP Deborah Grey (who introduced
the couple), have credited Mrs. Harper with "mellowing" her husband,
"balancing his serious side" and helping solidify his image as a
family man.  Described as personable, free-spirited, and with
considerable personal charm, Mrs. Harper is a pro at working a room,
and many observers believe her to be more at ease in front of
cameras and strangers than her husband.  She is also the
self-confessed "mouthy one," with strong opinions on a wide variety
of issues.  However, Mrs. Harper reportedly made a deliberate
decision not to carve out her own public role.

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