Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Can Gary Doer It In DC

The surprise departure of Canadian Ambassador to the US Michael Wilson and the even more surprising appointment of former NDP Premier Gary Doer just continue to vindicate my position that the Conservative strategy in dealing with the US has been an utter failure.

Hopefully, there will be time to salvage matters with a new Washington face for Canada provided that there is also a change in Government policy as well. If not, we better hope that IGGY wins next time around since he at least knows people and has friends within the Obama Administration who may take pity on this country.

As you know, I use the Ambassador Bridge situation to demonstrate that Canada failed in its US dealings. Instead of working with the Bridge Company, the Canadians tried to crush its owner. It was not a smart thing to do when the owner is American and an important entry and exit to the US is concerned. Especially after the Dubai ports lesson which our Canadian Embassy in Washington seemed to ignore or about which their Ottawa masters chose to be blind.

That Wilson lasted so long is a shock to me. Whether he was directly involved or not, he should have "retired" right after NAFTA-gate. It happened under his watch. He should have been gone at the latest after the Presidential Inaugural Balls in January.

He failed in almost as many key areas as our Mayor culminating in the Three Amigos snub. We have protectionism that we can do nothing about, a thickening border, passport requirements killing tourism, Drones flying overhead, repudiation of the "bi-lateral" approach to dealing with the US and no shared border management.

Interestingly, the Times of London had a column about the US/British relationship just the other day:
  • "Special Relationship. Passed away 2009. R.I.P.

When will a Globe and Mail columnist do a similar story on Canada if our idiotic US policy continues as it has been going!

Does anyone lay it at the feet of the Ambassador....Nawwww, we make excuses for him as he rides into the sunset:

  • "Michael Wilson was seen as the right man to be the face of Canada to the George W. Bush administration – conservative, patrician, with two feet in the business community and the ear of the prime minister...

    Canadian academics who study the cross-border relationship said he had the wrong optics for Canada's diplomacy with the new team in the White House and Congress.

    He was too conservative. Too old. Maybe no longer with the ear of the prime minister.

    And possibly tainted by allegations that he leaked confidential remarks made by a staff member of Barack Obama's presidential election team concerning the North American Free Trade Agreement."

  • Axworthy said Canada’s diplomatic presence in the U.S. has not kept pace with Canadian activities in that country.

    "No criticism of (current ambassador) Mike Wilson, but for three years he was having to gear to the peculiarities of the Bush admininistration and it’s tough to shift gears"

DUH...did it take this long for Stephen to figure out the obvious, or was he listening to certain Carleton University professors and hangers on for too long!

The suddenness of it all suggests that Wilson was pushed out, given no option but to go. But that is not to be spoken about in polite company either. Instead we allow him to hold an interview and statements are made like the following since we cannot afford to have the Americans know that our Government screwed up:

  • "he made clear in an interview Friday that it was his decision to step down as ambassador to Washington...

    Mr. Wilson, 71, said he had decided he could not give a commitment to stay on for the duration of Mr. Obama's first term and so decided it was time to go...

    The job itself, he said, was demanding – with the norm being days that began at 8:30 in the morning and finished at 9:30 at night."

  • "Michael Wilson says he's stepping down as Canada's ambassador to the United States because he doesn't want to spend several more years in an often gruelling diplomatic post.

    "It's a pretty intense job," the 71-year-old Wilson, who served as ambassador since 2006, said Friday in an interview.

    "The hours are long - a normal day is 8:30 til 6:30 or 7, then you had the dinners that are two, three, four nights a week, and those are business dinners, not casual affairs. I wasn't prepared to give another four years at that level of intensity..."

    "But I know he didn't want to be here forever. His wife, in particular, wanted to be with the grandkids and be home in Ontario..."

  • "Wilson said he told the PMO in the spring that after overseeing the transition period of a new administration, he would be ready to step aside.

    "I wanted to make sure that we got through this transition," Wilson said. "I thought now is the time, the continuity is there between the two administrations ... now's the time for change."

  • he 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, Wilson 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 Wilson, 71, who was appointed Canada’s envoy in February 2006.

    "I really had a terrific time being there and yet I felt that the time had come when the prime minister should have someone that he could see in there for at least the duration of the first mandate, first term of President Obama," said Wilson, who was vacationing Friday in Ontario. "I couldn’t do that, so I felt the time had come for him to make a change."

Of course we learned from the American Associated Press something slightly different:

  • "Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Friday appointed Manitoba Premier Gary Doer as ambassador-designate of Canada to Washington...

    Former Conservative finance minister Michael Wilson, the current U.S. envoy, had given no indication he was leaving the post.

    Doer, 61, who currently is Canada's longest serving provincial premier, made an unexpected announcement Thursday that he would be stepping down from the top job in the central Canadian province after a decade in office."

And then Canadian Press told us

  • "The Prime Minister's Office announced Wilson's resignation Friday in a curious fashion: in an itinerary for Prime Minister Stephen Harper that described a meeting with "the new Ambassador-designate of Canada to the United States of America."

Why was Mr. Doer appointed. Not because of his terrific US skills and background no matter how it is played. Forget this justification because it is inconsequential:

  • "his years of work with various U.S. political groups, including governors’ associations, the North American SuperCorridor Coalition, and the Western Climate Initiative."

The appointment of Conservative Senators was clearly blunted by taking on a member of the NDP in this key job.

What lessons would I give the new Ambassador (and to help keep me at the top of the list to be appointed Senator Blogmeister)

  • Stay as it is claimed you are: pragmatic and "seldom driven by strict ideology..." "he doesn't stand behind rigid ideology - which is why he's been successful."

  • Keep remembering your comment "The old left-right jargon I believe is out of date and out of touch with the public"

  • Be careful in having to live up to the remarks of the PM "The prime minister said Doer has "always been an advocate of good and assertive relations with the United States." Yes, threatening US Presidents with an oil or electricty embargo worked wonders

  • You have a lot in common with successful US entrepeneurs but in your area of expertise. Use that to your advantage: "he was a guard at a youth jail in Winnipeg and head of the Manitoba Government Employees Union.

    He served as a cabinet minister in the government of Howard Pawley from 1986 until Pawley's 1988 election defeat. Doer subsequently won the party leadership.

    He led the party from the opposition benches for 11 years, before winning the first of three consecutive majority governments in 1999.

  • DO NOT LISTEN TO THE CARLETON BUNCH NO MATTER HOW HARD THEY FLATTER YOU. THEIR APPROACH TO DEALING WITH THE US FAILED: "In selecting Mr. Doer, he said, Mr. Harper is “sending a very strong message that we're onside, not offside.”

    “Doer obviously has a good personal relationship with the Prime Minister … and Americans will know he's someone who can pick up the phone and call the Prime Minister,” Mr. Hampson [director of Carleton University's Norman Paterson School of International Affairs and well-connected to the upper reaches of Stephen Harper's government] said. “In some ways, you can say that by appointing Doer, Harper is saying that our own partisan politics stop at the Canada-U.S. border. This is … a stunning appointment, but it's also a cunning appointment.”

Oh, and back to our border extravaganza, give Matty a call Mr. Ambassador. You don't have to wait until the next Mackinac Policy Conference to deal with the border matter.

Two self-made and pragamatic men unencumbered with policy wonks' ideological baggage who can maintain good relations ought to be able to work out a reasonably acceptable way for Canada and the Bridge Company to work together and end the possibility of lawsuits.