Canada names social democrat as envoy to U.S.

Fri Aug 28, 2009 1:06pm EDT
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By Randall Palmer

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper named a gregarious member of the left-leaning New Democratic Party on Friday to advanced Canada's interests as ambassador in the Democratic-dominated United States.

Harper said ambassador-designate Gary Doer, who has served for 10 years as premier of the Prairie province of Manitoba, had been "a strong advocate of both good and assertive relations with the United States."

Doer said he would go to Washington as a Canadian rather than as a member of a particular party, but his political affiliation will not do him any harm with the Obama administration or the Democratic-controlled Congress.

He replaces Michael Wilson, a former cabinet minister in the Conservative government of Brian Mulroney, who helped negotiate the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement and had good ties with the Bush family.

"It's a good fit in the same way that Michael Wilson was a good fit for George Bush's America," University of Toronto foreign relations expert John Kirton commented.

Doer stepped down as Manitoba premier on Thursday, but declined to say what he would do next. His appointment as ambassador the next day came as a surprise.

He has come across as a populist social democrat, heading a Manitoba government that balanced budgets and brought the province a string of credit rating upgrades.

Doer said he was impressed that Harper had reached across party lines, and likened his appointment to President Barack Obama's naming of Utah Governor Jon Huntsman Jr., a potential Republican presidential candidate, as ambassador to China in May.   Continued...

<p>Former Manitoba Premier Gary Doer takes part in a meeting with Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper (not pictured) on Parliament Hill in Ottawa August 28, 2009. REUTERS/Chris Wattie</p>