Cablegate: Ambassador Begins Meeting Canadian Leaders

Published: Tue 6 Oct 2009 04:04 PM
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1. (SBU) Summary. Since presentation of credentials on
October 2, Ambassador has actively engaged top Canadian
political leaders, including the Prime Minister, to
underscore the central importance of this highly successful
bilateral relationship. He will begin a series of provincial
travels on October 6. End Summary.
2. (U) In a ceremony at Rideau Hall on October 2,
Ambassador Jacobson formally presented his credentials to
Governor General Michaelle Jean, along with new Ambassadors
from Azerbaijan and Norway and the new Head of Delegation of
the European Commission. In her remarks, the Governor
General praised the close and highly successful relationship
between Canada and the U.S., built on shared values and
cultures as well as trade and people-to-people contacts. She
underscored that "we build things together." There was
extensive and unusual television coverage of the event and
the Governor General's remarks -- which, officials from the
Department of Foreign Affairs and International (DFAIT) Trade
noted, she personally re-wrote -- as well as the Ambassador's
brief press conference afterward.
3. (SBU) Prime Minister Stephen Harper received the
Ambassador within two hours of the ceremony at Rideau Hall in
his official office opposite Parliament Hill for a 30 minute
meeting, joined by his chief of staff and senior foreign and
defense policy advisor. There was
a brief photo opportunity, which received widespread coverage
in the Canadian media. The PM noted that his government had
moved the relationship to the strategic level and avoided
allowing the irritants to dominate. He commented that
President Obama,s huge popularity with Canadians makes it
easier for Canada to work with the United States. On "Buy
America," PM Harper said the government is very upset at the
recent CBC reports and has no idea who talked to CBC or
whether the CBC reporter simply made the story up. PM Harper
and the Ambassador agreed that the issue had a greater
political impact than economic. PM Harper said he would very
much welcome having the President or First Lady attend the
Winter Olympics, while acknowledging that it is for the U.S.
Olympic Committee officially to invite the President. PM
Harper discussed in some detail climate change issues and the
upcoming Copenhagen summit. He said he wants to coordinate
policies closely with the U.S. and that he is anxious for
Canada to be part of the U.S. debate over climate change and
energy security (and equally anxious not to be part of the
health care debate).
4. (SBU) In back-to-back meetings at DFAIT on October 5,
the Ambassador called on Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon and
International Trade Minister Stockwell Day. FM Cannon
described bilateral relations as "very warm, friendly, and
very productive," while underscoring that, with the new
Administration, the "U.S. had changed the checkerboard,"
enabling all to view the world from a different perspective.
He praised Secretary Clinton and cited the high respect with
which she is held by her counterparts. He encouraged the
Secretary to visit Ottawa soon, hopefully by the end of this
year. He welcomed the Ambassador's plans to travel
extensively throughout Canada during his first months. FM
Cannon raised the Arctic, noting that the subject had also
come up during PM Harper's recent meeting with the President,
and cited the Beaufort Sea as an issue to settle as soon as
Qand cited the Beaufort Sea as an issue to settle as soon as
possible. The Ambassador emphasized his willingness to
facilitate discussions and encouraged the FM to contact him
at any time. The FM and Ambassador expressed satisfaction
over the new architecture for the G-8 and G-20. The FM also
reiterated PM Harper's remarks that U.S. security was as
important to Canadians as to Americans, and promised that
"whenever the U.S. is attacked, Canada is attacked." The
Ambassador praised Canadian support for the U.S. as well as
its many services and sacrifices, which he described as
"critically important." In a separate meeting, Minister Day
noted the close working relationship that he has with USTR
Kirk. The Ambassador emphasized his desire to work together
with Canada to resolve or lessen some of the trade irritants
that are a part of our much broader bilateral partnership.
Day focused briefly on the "Buy America" controversy and
noted that he was responsible for persuading the Canadian
municipalities to suspend their planned retaliatory actions.
Day noted that there had been progress in last week's
discussions between USTR and Canadian officials. The
Ambassador asked Day and his deputies if legislation will be
necessary for the provinces and municipalities actually to
join the WTO Government Procurement Agreement. The response
was that the need for legislation would vary by province, but
that all municipalities, under Canadian law, were bound by
provincial authority.
5. (SBU) Also on October 5, the Ambassador met with Public
Safety Minister Peter Van Loan in his office on Parliament
Hill. The Ambassador emphasized, and Minister Van Loan
concurred, that achieving trade and security is important to
both governments. Van Loan made clear that he does not view
this as a zero sum game, stating that he was looking for a
legal option that would allow Canada to share information
with the U.S. to meet the requirements for Secure Flight. He
said that investing in a separate but equal system would not
make financial sense, and that it would be unlikely to meet
U.S. standards, anyway. The Ambassador assured Minister Van
Loan that he likes to find workable solutions ("conclude
deals," in lawyer-speak) whenever possible. Van Loan raised
Canada's strong desire for a unique shared port of entry on
U.S. soil to replace Canada's Cornwall Island crossing on
Akwesasne Mohawk territory that has been closed since June
2009. Van Loan acknowledged that this was a "big ask" and
that he and DHS Secretary Napolitano would be discussing it
again in November. Van Loan also briefly raised "Buy
America," acknowledging that it had been blown out of
proportion. He nonetheless encouraged the Ambassador to do
all that he could to put the issue to rest, commenting that
this would be how the Canadian public would measure his first
year in Ottawa.
6. (SBU) The Ambassador later met on October 5 with Defence
Minister Peter MacKay in his Parliamentary office. The
Minister and the Ambassador each spoke of the exceptional
relationship between the U.S. and Canadian militaries,
calling it the "closest in the world." With regard to
Afghanistan, Minister MacKay acknowledged that Canada will be
wrestling with its role, in part based on decisions made by
NATO allies and the U.S. He pointed to the "enablers" made
available by the U.S. to the Canadian Forces in Kandahar,
saying that this married-up approach helped make the Canadian
commitment possible. The Ambassador recognized the sacrifice
and bravery of the Canadian Forces and lamented that some
unnamed NATO allies have not "stepped up" as Canada has. He
also expressed a desire to visit U.S. and Canadian Forces in
Kandahar in order to gain a greater understanding of the
circumstances on the ground. The Minister pointed to a major
security conference that Canada will host in Nova Scotia in
November, and expressed the hope of using the occasion to
showcase our close bilateral cooperation, notably, the
"significant" responsibilities that the U.S. and Canada share
with regard to the security of North America. MacKay
indicated some dissatisfaction that European allies sometimes
overlook Canada's significant security contributions, both
throughout the world and in the "home game" of North America.
7. (SBU) The Ambassador will be in Montreal and Quebec City
October 6-8 to meet with provincial leaders and business
people, and will then travel to Alberta, Saskatchewan, and
Mantiboba October 12-20, before returning to Montreal October
20-21 for the Canadian American Business Council meeting.
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