In an unexpected move, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has appointed Manitoba’s long-serving premier to the post of ambassador to the United States—our country’s most important and prestigious foreign post. Doer, 61, will replace Michael Wilson who has served as our man in Washington since February 2006 when he became Canada’s 22nd representative to the United States.
Ambassador Wilson, 71, stressed that the decision to step down as Canada’s envoy was initiated by himself and not the prime minister’s office. In an interview Friday, he said he believed Ottawa needed an ambassador who would remain in Washington for the duration of the first Obama administration—a renewed commitment he wasn’t prepared to make after spending three and a half years in the job.
“All good things come to an end. And I have, I must say, some mixed feelings leaving,” said the ambassador.
Indications are that Doer, a former corrections officer, union leader and MPP, will hit the ground running in Washington.
As premier of Manitoba, Gary Doer has undoubtedly built a list of senior-level American contacts, particularly among state governors he has worked with on issues like climate change and border security. He has formed cross-border alliances with several U.S. states and signed greenhouse gas reduction deals with California, Kansas, Iowa, New Mexico, Oregon, Arizona and Minnesota.
Doer has also established relationships with several top Obama administration officials, including Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, the former governor of Kansas, and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, the former governor of Arizona.
Doer played down the ideological differences between himself and his new boss, PM Stephen Harper, saying:
“I was extremely impressed that he [Harper] did reach across party lines. I also believe that, as premiers, we take our uniforms off when we go into the meetings because we’re representing all the people of our provinces as the prime minister is. He’s representing all of Canadians when he meets with the president of the United States.”
As might be expected, the federal NDP praised Doer’s appointment. There has also been strong praise from Liberal ranks.
Sounds like a positive move to me. Doer is more a small “l” liberal than he is a socialist. And given his apparent flair for international relations, I believe he’ll do just fine.
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© 2009 Russell G. Campbell
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