Canada's allies have little to say about crisis in Ottawa

The world is watching as Canada goes through a 'constitutional psychodrama,' Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon says.

The world may be watching, but not necessarily holding its breath

The whole world is watching and our closest ally, the United States, is worried as Canada goes through a "constitutional psychodrama," Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said Tuesday.

Cannon told the Commons he expected U.S. president-elect Barack Obama's nominee for secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, to ask about the stability of Canada's government. He is hoping to have his first conversation with Clinton on Wednesday.

"Is there someone in this chamber who thinks that our most important commercial partner and our most faithful ally is not worried about what is going on?" he asked.

The Bush administration's envoy to Canada, Ambassador David Wilkins, said he was watching the tempest, but not unduly unnerved by it.

Wilkins said he hasn't spoken to the White House about the crisis and didn't know if he would raise the issue during a farewell visit with President George W. Bush later this week.

"Cables go down to the State Department on current events," he said in Regina.  "I'm sure cables have gone down on this."

Cannon said the scenario of an NDP-Liberal coalition supported by the Bloc Quebecois replacing Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservatives is befuddling to the international community.

"This, Mr. Speaker, is not a scenario that is easy to explain to our allies and our partners who are striving mightily to achieve economic prosperity through political stability."

But if Canada's allies were seeking explanations of the contretemps, few were willing to say so.

A spokesperson for the Queen would not go anywhere near the issue, refusing to say if Canada's head of state was paying attention to what was going on in its former colony.

"I've spoken to the people on our side and the only line I can give you is that this is all a matter for the Canadian government," the Buckingham Palace official said.

Canada is forging deep ties with Afghanistan, where 2,500 Canadian troops are fighting a Taliban insurgency. Two of the parties that would toss out the Conservatives have called for those troops to be immediately withdrawn.

But a representative of the Afghan embassy said the ambassador refused to comment.

The French embassy is closely watching the unprecedented developments in Ottawa, according to an embassy spokesman. But press counsellor Jean-Christophe Fleury would not comment further.

"We have to remain neutral when it comes to all political developments in Canada," he said.

Cannon suggested that foreign investors who are choosing where to invest internationally may be hesitant to do so in Canada as a result of the country's uncertain political future. 

"Put yourself in the place of a foreign investor wondering which among many countries might provide the best return," he said.

Jacqueline Best, a specialist in international political economy at the University of Ottawa, disagreed.

The coalition has promised an economic stimulus package that includes infrastructure spending, home construction, renovations and financial support for "struggling sectors" that can demonstrate a viable business plan.

"I think that will make up for any short-term uncertainties that the market can have," Best said.

The International Monetary Fund has been encouraging countries to take action to prevent a worldwide recession, she said.

"What the coalition is proposing is more in line with the global norms than what Harper was initially proposing," she said. "It's the same kind of policies the International Monetary Fund is taking."