It seems that speculation about an upcoming diplomatic appointment for Premier Gary Doer was right on target. And it's now clear why Mr. Doer's retirement announcement yesterday had the air of having been hastily-convened: What better way for Prime Minister Stephen Harper to deflect criticism of his Senate appointments than to follow up with naming a New Democrat to replace former Mulroney cabinet minister Michael Wilson as Canada's ambassador to Washington?
In fact, the appointment makes sense all around. Gary Doer gets to bail out of Manitoba with his popularity intact, leaving to his successor the tough budgetary decisions that will be necessary in the wake of the deep recession. Whether to cut programs, for example. Or whether to harmonize the provincial sales tax with the GST. And, let's face it-hot and muggy Washington summers are easier to take than cold and dry Winnipeg winters. Not to speak of the restaurants and cultural life of the US capital.
While officials at the Pearson Building will not be thrilled, our embassy in Washington has increasingly become a political, as opposed to a career foreign service posting. And Mr. Doer, with his easy manner and ability to make friends, will be very effective in the role of ambassador.
With a Democratic administration in power, it will be good for Canada to be represented by someone on the left rather than a Conservative. And, knowing Mr. Doer, one can safely predict that he'll not get involved in debates concerning death panels and the other health care bogeymen filling US airwaves these days.
For Stephen Harper, too, the appointment makes a whole lot of sense. I doubt that many, if any, NDP voters will come his way in the next election. But Mr. Harper - who's seen by many as hyper-partisan-gets a chance to show his non-partisan side, however minuscule, to Canadians. Much as Brian Mulroney did in appointing Stephen Lewis as Canada's ambassador to the United Nations. And, just as Mr. Mulroney - who famously governed on the basis of "you dance with the one that brung you" - you can bet that Mr. Harper will remind Canadians, including Jack Layton, of the appointment from time to time.