US embassy cable - 03OTTAWA1014

CANADA-IRAQ: PUBLIC OPINION MORE FAVORABLE; GOVERNMENT TRYING TO REPAIR DAMAGE

Identifier: 03OTTAWA1014
Wikileaks: View 03OTTAWA1014 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Ottawa
Created: 2003-04-08 21:41:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL//NOFORN
Tags: ADDED
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 OTTAWA 001014 
 
SIPDIS 
 
NOFORN 
 
C O R R E C T E D  C O P Y (TAGS ADDED) 
 
C O R R E C T E D  C O P Y (PARA 1 AND 5 CHANGED MONTH TO APRIL) 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/08/2013 
TAGS: PREL, MOPS, IZ, MOPS, IZ, CA, CA PREL, Iraq 
SUBJECT: CANADA-IRAQ: PUBLIC OPINION MORE FAVORABLE; 
GOVERNMENT TRYING TO REPAIR DAMAGE 
 
REF: OTTAWA 917 
 
Classified by Charge Stephen R. Kelly.  Reason: 1.5 (b) and 
(d). 
 
1. (SBU) SUMMARY:  In his first comprehensive statement on 
Canada's Iraq policy, and an effort to make amends with the 
U.S., Prime Minister Chretien urged the House of Commons 
April 8 to vote for a resolution supporting "our friends in 
battle" and hoping "for a quick victory with minimum 
casualties."  The PM prefaced his statement by noting that he 
strongly disagreed with statements made by Members of his 
Caucus, "which we all wish had not been said."  He also 
commended President Bush for his continued dedication to 
poverty eradication, combating AIDS and improving trade and 
development in Africa.  END SUMMARY. 
 
A wake-up call for ordinary Canadians 
------------------------------------- 
2. (U) In the 10 days since Ambassador Cellucci voiced U.S. 
disappointment with Canada's posture on Iraq (reftel), the 
business community and Canada's "silent majority" have taken 
to the streets and sought opportunities to demonstrate 
solidarity with America.  New poll results indicate that a 
majority (54 percent) of Anglophone Canadians currently 
"approves" of military action in Iraq, with a conservative 
poll specifically indicating that 72 percent believe Canada 
"should have" supported the U.S. at the start of the war. 
The weekend following the Ambassador's speech, a gathering of 
nearly 4,000 - the largest of any group to demonstrate in 
Ottawa since the start of military action - assembled at 
Parliament Hill in a show of support for the U.S. and for 
coalition forces.  Similar events have taken place in other 
Canadian metropolises. 
 
3. (U) Fears of an economic backlash against Canadian 
business interests prompted Liberal backbench MP Dennis Mills 
to invite U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donohue to 
meet with a group of 200 Canadian business leaders. Donahue 
reportedly proved effective in delivering reassurances that 
business relations would continue to remain on track.  At the 
same time, however, he did not shrink from conveying the 
message that "many Americans ... found personal attacks on 
President Bush ... offensive and hurtful," and reiterating 
that "the U.S. agenda was profoundly reshaped by 9/11."  In a 
separate interview with journalists, Mr. Donahue debunked the 
widely held notion that the U.S. is in Iraq for the oil, 
noting that the major supplier of energy to the U.S. is 
Canada. 
 
The Government tries to make amends 
----------------------------------- 
4. (SBU) Meanwhile, in the House of Commons the government 
has had its back against the wall, consistently drawing fire 
from the entire spectrum of opposition parties for its 
waffling position on various aspects of the war in Iraq. 
Ministerial testiness has become increasingly apparent in the 
daily Question Period, as embattled Cabinet Members have 
parried NDP (left-leaning) and Bloc Quebecois criticism of 
Canadian soldiers being "embedded" with U.S. and U.K. troops 
in Iraq under routine exchange programs, while the Canadian 
Alliance (right) has nailed the government for failing to 
adequately support such personnel. 
 
5. (SBU) The Liberals moved swiftly to counter a Canadian 
Alliance motion calling on the House to regret and apologize 
for "offensive and inappropriate statements" against the U.S. 
by Members of the House, and wishing the U.S. success in 
removing Saddam Hussein from power.  In a special session on 
April 8, Prime Minister Chretien urged the House to support a 
government counter-motion calling for the coalition to "be 
successful" in its mission in Iraq, and pledging the 
government's readiness to participate "as soon as possible" 
in the reconstruction of Iraq.  He said the government cared 
"about the outcome even if we are not participants in the 
war.  This means that we should not say things that could 
give comfort to Saddam Hussein and this means that we should 
not do things that would create real difficulties for the 
coalition." Turning to the longer-term requirements of peace 
and security throughout the troubled regions of the world, 
the PM went on to praise President Bush's leadership in and 
commitment to combating aids in Africa and his recognition of 
the importance of poverty, trade and development, even in the 
face of the terrorist threat. 
 
...But Can Go Only So Far 
------------------------- 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/08/2013 
TAGS:  PREL, MOPS, IZ, CA 
SUBJECT: CANADA-IRAQ: PUBLIC OPINION MORE FAVORABLE; 
GOVERNMENT TRYING TO REPAIR DAMAGE 
 
6. (SBU) In his speech, the PM criticized the Canadian 
Alliance's call for a House apology as an assault on Members' 
rights of free speech, noting that it would "cast a chill" on 
the rights and privileges of MPs that are fundamental to 
Canada's democracy.  He defended the government's "decision 
of principle" not to support the coalition, stressing the 
consistency of its position from the beginning, and invoking 
his oft-repeated phrase that "close friends can disagree at 
times and can still remain close friends." By way of example, 
Chretien alluded to how Canada's opposition to the war in 
Vietnam did not damage its friendship with America and he 
recalled with pride the heroic role, 23 years ago, of 
Canada's Ambassador to Iran in rescuing U.S. Embassy 
personnel in Tehran.  He went on to commend Canada's show of 
solidarity with the U.S. in the wake of the September 11 
terrorist attacks. 
 
7. (C) COMMENT:  The Prime Minister's remarks reflect the 
Liberal Party's awareness of the damage to its image 
inflicted by the government's haphazard and clumsy approach 
to policy on Iraq.   The fact that Chretien read a prepared 
text - rather than speaking extemporaneously as is his habit 
- was no accident.   As a close adviser of the PM confided to 
Charge, the message was painstakingly choreographed to mend 
fences with the U.S., while trying to balancing the broadly 
divergent views within the Liberal Caucus.  END COMMENT. 

Latest source of this page is cablebrowser-2, released 2011-10-04