Parties, Laureen Harper focus of WikiLeaks cables

The federal parties have taken their hits while on the campaign trail, but secret cables released by the WikiLeaks website show they have a pretty tough critic lurking in the background — the U.S. Ambassador to Canada.

The federal parties have taken their hits while on the campaign trail, but secret cables released by the WikiLeaks website show they have a pretty tough critic lurking in the background — the U.S. Ambassador to Canada.

In his cables to Washington, David Jacobson takes on the Conservatives' tough-on-crime agenda and the rough ride the Liberals had after prorogation of Parliament in 2008, according to the documents published online by WikiLeaks on Thursday.

A U.S. cable from another writer even talks about the popularity of Conservative Leader Stephen Harper's wife Laureen.

Laureen Harper and Stephen Harper at Niagara Falls on Thursday. (Canadian Press)

On the Conservatives, Jacobson wrote that "they have used the crime agenda to great effect, making it an essential part of their 'brand,' in spite of the fact that they have not actually passed most of their proposed crime and security legislation," Jacobson wrote in early 2010.

"The PMO apparently provided no explanation why it will end up waiting four months to enact its own sentencing credit law, but the delay has not prevented the PM from using crime — and the bill — as a partisan issue and to prep for imminent Senate appointments," according to a cable from Jacobson that took a close look at the crime agenda of the Conservatives.

A Christmas list for Harper

Following are excerpts from a 2008 U.S. cable written by embassy charge d'affaires Terry Breese outlining a tongue-in-cheek Christmas list for Stephen Harper:

  • "President Obama's first phone call after the inauguration is to PM Harper, with an invitation to visit the White House ASAP to learn from Harper's insights and experience;"
  • "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;"
  • "The Liberal Party national convention delegates in May 2009 unanimously pick discredited ex-leader Stéphane Dion as the party's new permanent "Leader-for-Life;"
  • "Scientists discover that Canada's oil sands have a positive effect on climate change and can be efficiently extracted even at a world oil price of $10 per barrel;"
  • "Russia abandons all claims to the Arctic and donates its nuclear submarine that remains wedged between two ice floes to the Canadian Navy, thereby doubling Canada's blue-water capabilities;"
  • "The Taliban and al-Qaeda give up and 'go home,' peace and stability emerge throughout Afghanistan, and the Canadian Forces and other ISAF troops depart in victory;"

A leaked cable from December 2008 suggests that U.S. Embassy officials in Ottawa saw Harper's appointment of senators as "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."

On the Liberals, Jacobson wrote that the party's "muted response" to Harper's late December 2008 prorogation of Parliament suggests a lack of energy and hands-on leadership.

"[Michael] Ignatieff has reportedly not yet returned  from vacation in France. The Liberals have also just lost their second national director in one year and have yet to name a replacement," wrote Jacobson.

"The Liberals face a tough road ahead if they hope to beat the Conservatives in the next federal election, whether in 2010 or 2011."

Harper's wife called 'extroverted and friendly'

A cable written by U.S. Embassy charge d'affaires Terry Breese in 2009 talked of Laureen Harper and how she is helping out her husband.

"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," said the cable from the Ottawa embassy.

It goes on to say she is "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."