Canada's new top diplomat seen as pragmatic, savvy

Fri Aug 28, 2009 3:30pm EDT
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By Allan Dowd and Roberta Rampton

VANCOUVER/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Gary Doer, Canada's choice as its next ambassador to the United States, is a pragmatist who is skilled at reaching out across partisan and international boundaries, according to friends and observers.

Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper surprised political pundits on Friday by selecting Doer, a member of the left-leaning New Democratic Party who has served as premier of the Prairie province of Manitoba for the past decade.

The move means Canada's most conservative government in recent years will have a member of the country's largest social democratic party as its public face in dealings with a U.S. government that moved left with the last election.

Doer, who pulled his own surprise on Thursday by announcing his retirement as premier, had a good working relationship with Harper despite any political differences, said Paul Thomas, a University of Manitoba political scientist.

"He's a very pragmatic person," Thomas said.

Doer, 61, entered politics from the labor movement, and served as leader of Manitoba's official opposition for nine years before the NDP finally won power in 1999. He has been re-elected twice as premier.

Known for his Cheshire Cat-like grin and sense of humor, Doer was the longest serving of Canada's provincial and territorial premiers, and observers say he has shown an ability to work with leaders from other political parties.

"If there was one bit of magic that has worked for Gary Doer politically, and I think will work for him diplomatically, it doesn't really matter what political stripe you are," said Paul Samyn, who covered Doer extensively for the Winnipeg Free Press.   Continued...

<p>Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper (L) looks at former Manitoba Premier Gary Doer during a meeting in Harper's office on Parliament Hill in Ottawa August 28, 2009. REUTERS/Chris Wattie</p>