Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Ambassador Doer's door always open

Manitoba's ex-premier runs a hospitable Washington embassy

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Ambassador Gary Doer, Team Canada's captain in the U.S. capital, has a reputation for hosting fun parties.

KEN GIGLIOTTI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES Enlarge Image

Ambassador Gary Doer, Team Canada's captain in the U.S. capital, has a reputation for hosting fun parties. Photo Store

WASHINGTON -- More than four years after accepting the job to be Canada's ambassador to the U.S., Gary Doer has carved out a reputation for being friendly and even the most respected Canadian voice in the U.S. capital.

"He knows his issues and he knows how to represent Canada," said David Biette, director of the Canada Institute at the Wilson Center, a Washington think-tank named in honour of Woodrow Wilson, the only president to hold a PhD.

"He was well-respected before he came to Washington because he had been to the (Capitol) Hill before. People knew him, he knew how to lobby."

Doer's office is chock full of things that remind him of home, proving you can take the man out of Winnipeg, but you can't take the Winnipeg out of the man. There's the Ivan Eyre painting on the wall, donated by Hartley Richardson, a pair of Hudson's Bay Co. Canada mittens and a Team Canada hockey jersey.

The former Manitoba premier told a group of Canadians touring the embassy Thursday he would have shown off his Winnipeg Jets jersey, "but I wore it home a couple of days ago."

A regular at Winnipeg Jets games when he's home on weekends, Doer said he doesn't have any trouble getting his sports fix in Washington.

"I go to Capitals games. The great thing about those games is you can wear a Team Canada sweater and it's red (so you fit right in). You've got the (baseball) Nationals down the street, Camden Yards for the Orioles just up the street in Baltimore. If you like sports, which I do, it's a great city."

His sixth-floor office, which has floor-to-ceiling windows, is at "centre ice" between Capitol Hill and the White House. It features a giant rooftop patio, which he said is the best place in the city for watching the presidential inauguration parade.

Doer has garnered a well-deserved reputation for hosting fun parties. Just a few weeks ago during the Olympics, he opened the doors to about 600 people, including 200 Canadians, to watch the Canada-U.S. men's hockey semi-final and the women's hockey final.

"We had all the hockey and curling games on at the embassy. The Olympic torch was held very high here. Our teams did very well. Our American friends who expected wins didn't get them and they didn't avenge the Vancouver Olympics (hockey losses), so we had a lot of fun," he said.

In a building full of beautiful paintings, Doer jokes that the best art on the walls is the row of Canadian teams' hockey jerseys signed by the players.

The beer fridge is temporarily empty, but Doer quickly notes there is a "great big Crown Royal bottle" in the cupboard.

"Made in Gimli, Manitoba," he said with pride.

When he does fill up the fridge, it's usually with Alexander Keith's or Moosehead beer, both of which can be picked up in a small store in the embassy's basement.

After the Chicago Blackhawks visited U.S. President Barack Obama in the White House following their 2013 Stanley Cup victory, Doer welcomed the team, including one of his favourite players, Winnipegger Jonathan Toews, to the embassy. Jets owner Mark Chipman has also brought his team to the embassy.

"When we have the hockey teams here, we have sliders and beer. We don't cut the crusts off sandwiches," Doer said.

geoff.kirbyson@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 29, 2014 A8

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