Friday, March 7, 2008

Harper widens NAFTA probe

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is expanding the investigation into the government leaks that rocked the U.S. presidential race, a decision that could put the future of his own senior aide in jeopardy.

At issue is Harper's chief of staff Ian Brodie's reported revelation in casual conversation to CTV News a week ago that Democratic contender Hillary Clinton's tough talk on renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement was campaign rhetoric.

The broadcaster later reported that an adviser to Barack Obama, the Democratic frontrunner, had made the same assurances to Canadian diplomats.

In a second leak, The Associated Press obtained a Canadian diplomatic memo of a meeting between Canadian consul officials in Chicago and Obama economic adviser Austan Goolsbee. The memo paraphrases Goolsbee as assuring the Canadians that Obama's "rhetoric" on NAFTA "should be viewed as more about political positioning than a clear articulation of policy plans."

The 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement signed by the U.S., Canada and Mexico, has been under attack in the U.S., where critics blame it for job losses. Clinton credited the leak of the Obama memo as a factor in her victory in the Ohio primary this week.

Harper, who criticized the Liberals' handling of Canada-U.S. relations, now finds his own government facing its most serious controversy yet on that very file.

Read the story from the Globe and Mail.

Read the story from the Toronto Star.

Read the story from the National Post.

Photo of Ian Brodie from Reuters

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