WikiLeaks cable notes Harper's Senate 'about-face'

WikiLeaks released hundreds of U.S. documents on Thursday, including those with comments about the Harper government's "about-face" on Senate appointments, remarks on the Liberals' "muted" response to the prorogation crisis and criticism of Canada's failure to enact copyright reform.

WikiLeaks released hundreds of U.S. documents on Thursday, including those with comments about the Harper government's "about-face" on Senate appointments, remarks on the Liberals' "muted" response to the prorogation crisis and criticism of Canada's failure to enact copyright reform.

A leaked cable from December 2008  suggests that U.S. Embassy officials in Ottawa saw Stephen 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."

The cable goes on to say, however, that "Harper will not pay a real political price. The staunchest advocates of Senate reform are Conservatives in western Canada."

Another cable from January 2009  suggests that U.S. Embassy officials in Ottawa had been keeping a close eye on the December 2008 events in the House of Commons and the prime minister's request to have Gov. Gen. Michäelle Jean prorogue Parliament.

"Madame Jean and Prime Minister Harper appear to have a cordial but cool relationship," the leaked cable said.

It goes on to say that "some Conservatives reportedly suspect her private sympathies lean to the center left of the political spectrum, and have suggested her husband's alleged separatist sentiments may influence her own political views" in dealing with the political impasse.

Another leaked document from January 2010  returns to the prorogation issue, this time with criticism of the federal Liberal Party's handling of the crisis, suggesting the party at the time was experiencing "a lack of energy and hands-on leadership."

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

The cables released also contain one from January 2010, in which the U.S. ambassador to Canada was quoted as being critical of the Harper government's "tough on crime" stance.

"The Conservatives 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," the cable said.

'Anti-American biases'

In 2009, a leaked cable discusses how "Canada's traditionally liberal universities have often displayed some anti-American biases" and goes on to suggest that "Canada's perennial desire to differentiate itself from its larger neighbour means that some anti-Americanism will inevitably creep back in academic and public discourse."

Another cable also refers to Canadian support for the United States, this time in a leaked document from March 26, 2003, pertaining to a meeting in which the war in Iraq was discussed.

The meeting — between the Halifax Coast Guard and Rear Admiral Glenn Davidson — included the comment from Davidson that "there is fairly strong support for the war within the military services. Many of his navy officers and enlisted personnel feel that they should be part of the war effort."

The leaked cable says that Davidson raised concerns that Ottawa's decision not to go to Iraq could damage the close relationship with the U.S. military.

Copyright delays

A cable from Feb. 29, 2008, suggests that the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa was unhappy with progress being made by the federal government on copyright legislation.

"Embassy Ottawa remains frustrated by the Government of Canada's continuing failure to introduce — let alone pass — major copyright reform legislation that would, inter alia, implement and ratify the  World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Internet Treaties," the cable says.

A document from November 2008  deals with the appointment of Lawrence Cannon as foreign affairs minister.

An official at the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa describes Cannon as "an experienced and competent administrator who is likely to provide stability to a department that has had four ministers since the Conservatives took office in 2006."

The cable calls the new minister "one of very few in the national Conservative caucus with experience in government" and says "he has won high marks as a competent administrator and as a trusted advisor to PM Harper."

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa was not immediately available for comment, The Canadian Press reported.