US embassy cable - 03OTTAWA1437

(C/NF) CANADA: A GOVERNMENT ADRIFT

Identifier: 03OTTAWA1437
Wikileaks: View 03OTTAWA1437 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Ottawa
Created: 2003-05-20 20:36:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL//NOFORN
Tags: PREL PGOV SNAR CA KCRIM
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 001437 
 
SIPDIS 
 
NOFORN 
 
NSC PASS TO ONDCP 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/16/2013 
TAGS: PREL, PGOV, SNAR, CA, KCRIM 
SUBJECT: (C/NF) CANADA: A GOVERNMENT ADRIFT 
 
REF: (A) OTTAWA 917 
 
Classified By: DCM Stephen R. Kelly. Reasons 1.5 (b) and (d). 
 
1. (C/NF) SUMMARY: Despite guarded optimism that the GOC 
might try to "make amends" for its anti-U.S. handling of Iraq 
policy, it has become increasingly apparent that the 
government's behavior on Iraq was symptomatic of a much 
deeper problem:  as in Baghdad, the leadership has gone 
underground.  PM Chretien, once known for his iron-fisted 
control of the Liberal Caucus, appears to have "lost his fast 
ball." Since announcing his retirement in 2004, Chretien 
increasingly has been detached from policymaking and the 
business of governing, and more concerned about forcing 
through "legacy" projects, regardless of their consequences. 
Though this bodes ill for gaining Canadian cooperation on key 
issues in the immediate term, we should continue to advance 
our broad bilateral agenda through established channels with 
an eye to the post-Chretien era. END SUMMARY 
 
2. (C/NF) In a political system that vests so much power in 
the office of the Prime Minister, the consequence of the PM's 
decision to step down and his early disengagement from his 
responsibilities -- a government in disarray -- seems 
inevitable.  The unraveling of Canadian policymaking and 
governance can be traced through a number of events in the 
past 8 months. Beginning with reactions to the PM's startling 
announcement (his own advisors didn't know), last September, 
that Canada would ratify the Kyoto Protocol, to the current 
confusion over missile defense and drug policy, GOC 
decision-making has reflected the PM's gradual loss of 
control--and thus his legendary ability to force policy--over 
a restive Liberal House Caucus. 
 
3. (C/NF) Though the Caucus stood in unity with the Chretien 
over his anti-war stance, many Members of Parliament voiced 
misgivings, on and off the record, over the "handling" of 
related Iraq issues and the government's waffling, bumptious 
approach toward the U.S.  Since then, divisions within the 
Caucus have deepened and grown, fueled in part by the kicking 
into high gear of the three-way party leadership contest to 
succeed Chretien.  The SARS crisis in Toronto precipitated 
the "unsightly public spectacle" of infighting among Cabinet 
ministers when Heritage Minister Sheila Copps and Health 
Minister Anne McClellan got into a public spat over handling 
of the SARS crisis.  McClellan also has taken issue with 
Justice Minister Cauchon's marijuana decriminalization bill, 
voicing strong concern that the new legislation would 
increase marijuana use in Canada. 
 
4. (C/NF) With two-thirds of the House Liberal Caucus already 
backing Chretien's political arch-rival, Paul Martin, for 
leadership of the party, the Prime Minister's ability to 
advance even his own limited agenda is quickly bogging down. 
Emboldened MPs are pushing back on key legacy-related 
legislation, including a bill to curb corporate and union 
donations to political parties, and marijuana 
decriminalization. Liberal Party leader Stephen LeDrew, an 
acknowledged Martin supporter, has been leading the charge 
against political contributions reform, and a number of 
backbench MPs have begun to challenge the proposed 
legislation publicly as well. 
 
5. (C/NF) With few carrots (the promise of "early summer 
recess" doesn't really cut it) and no sticks (beyond the 
empty threat of calling early elections) to force his 
legislative program through the House of Commons, PM Chretien 
is even less likely to take on really sticky issues such as 
missile defense.  Hence last week's Cabinet non-decision on 
whether to enter missile defense negotiations with the U.S. 
should come as no surprise.  Notwithstanding the earnest--and 
even forward-leaning by GOC standards--efforts of Foreign 
Affairs and Defense Ministers Graham and McCallum to sell MD 
to their peers in the House, the PM's complete lack of 
presence on the issue has helped to amplify the voice of the 
anti-military opposition and the "left wing" of the Liberal 
Party and thus keep alive the debate. 
 
Consequences for the U.S. 
------------------------- 
6. (C/NF) Chretien steadfastly maintains that he has no 
intention of retiring sooner than his announced date of 
February 2004, though his remaining at the helm of government 
beyond the November 15 election of his successor will 
compound the existing disarray in the GOC. Pressure for him 
to step down early may increase as November 15 draws near, 
potentially detracting further from the Fall legislative 
agenda.  A number of pundits have reflected that matters 
could "get worse" in September, when 85 percent of delegates 
representing the Liberals' 301 ridings are nominated and 
declare their voting intentions (thereby "crowning" Paul 
Martin ahead of schedule). While we anticipate little 
improvement in GOC behavior or decision-making until Chretien 
has gone, the extended "interregnum" period is an opportunity 
to consolidate contacts with prospective members of the next 
government. In the meantime, we should continue to advance 
our broad bilateral agenda through established contacts and 
institutions. 
CELLUCCI 

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