Canada says leak was "blatantly unfair" to Obama

Wed Mar 5, 2008 5:02pm EST
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By Randall Palmer

OTTAWA (Reuters) - The leak of information about Barack Obama's position on the North American Free Trade Agreement was "blatantly unfair" to his campaign, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said on Wednesday.

Harper said the government was mounting an "internal security investigation" to find out who leaked the information, which suggested Obama's campaign had said not to pay too much attention to his protectionist rhetoric on NAFTA.

"This kind of leaking of information is completely unacceptable and in fact ... it may well be illegal," the prime minister told Parliament.

"It is not useful, it is not in the interests of the government of Canada, and the way the leak was executed, Mr. Speaker, was blatantly unfair to Sen. Obama and his campaign."

Obama's rival in the U.S. Democratic primaries, Hillary Clinton, had seized on the Canadian information to try to demonstrate that Obama could not be trusted on foreign affairs and that he said one thing in private and another in public.

The issue arose when Obama and Clinton said in a debate last week they would threaten to pull out of NAFTA -- which joins the United States, Canada and Mexico as trading partners -- unless its environmental and labor standards are renegotiated.

Shortly after, a memo circulated that was written by a Canadian diplomat after a February 8 meeting in Chicago with Obama economic adviser Austan Goolsbee.

"He (Goolsbee) was frank in saying that the primary campaign has been necessarily domestically focused, particularly in the Midwest, and that much of the rhetoric that may be perceived to be protectionist is more reflective of political maneuvering than policy," the memo read.   Continued...

<p>Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa March 5, 2008. REUTERS/Chris Wattie</p>