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Former envoy says Doer well-suited for the job

Well-known social skills will be big asset: Gotlieb

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A former Canadian ambassador to the United States -- who also hailed originally from Winnipeg -- has advice for new ambassador-to-be Gary Doer: be sociable.

Allan Gotlieb, who was ambassador from 1981 to 1989, said the job is such that no wallflowers need apply.

"Mr. Doer has a reputation for being sociable and that is a good thing because you have to meet a lot of people," Gotlieb said on Friday.

"In Washington, because of the U.S. political system and Congress being the premier body, you need to get to know dozens if not hundreds of people.

"Being social is an essential thing."

Gotlieb, born in Winnipeg in 1928, served as Canadian ambassador to the United States under prime ministers Pierre Trudeau, John Turner and Brian Mulroney. While in Washington, Gotlieb got to know President Ronald Reagan, Vice-President George H. Bush, and senior officials in the White House including James Baker III and George Schultz.

Gotlieb, and his wife Sondra, also gained a reputation for their parties, which attracted high-profile politicians. Sondra later wrote a book, Washington Rollercoaster, about their time in the nation's capital.

Gotlieb said Doer will be able to entertain politicians and diplomats at either the Canadian Embassy, located between the White House and the Capital building on Pennsylvania Avenue, or his official residence near Embassy Row.

"You have to get the power shakers, including the media, into your dining room," he said.

"When an ambassador makes a phone call to a powerful congressman, he'll return the call once, but after that you have to make a personal relationship."

As for Doer's NDP roots, Gotlieb said the soon-to-be ex-premier will have to prune them off.

"He has a reputation for pragmatism, which is good because he has to take the government line from now on," Gotlieb said.

"He's not independent. When you open your mouth, you speak for Canada."

In fact, Gotlieb said Doer's new American neighbours expect that.

"He is there to represent Canada. If he isn't representing the views of the government he wouldn't be credible. No one will be interested in his personal opinion. They'll be interested in his getting their message through to the government."

Gotlieb said Doer will also get a chance to travel in the role. He said key places to go will be New York City and Los Angeles.

"It is a 24-7 job," he said. "You are always ambassador. Everything you do is official. Everything you say is official.

"But I think it is the most fascinating job in the country."


Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has just announced a new ambassador to Washington: Gary Doer, who will resign as the New Democratic Party premier of Manitoba. The NDP of course is Canada's left-most party, although Doer is a relatively centrist NDPer as they go. Back when Republicans were important, Harper sent one of Canada's leading conservatives: Michael Wilson, a close friend of George Schultz, and a legendarily tough-on-spending former finance minister. The steely-eyed Harper has apparently assessed however that the Dems are going to be running the show for some time. So he has suppressed his own inclinations and sent to Washington someone who can speak the language of Pelosi and Obama. Just another example of how the implosion of the GOP has ramifying implications for conservatives around the world.


--, a blog written by Conservative David Frum

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 29, 2009 A7

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