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Canada's new ambassador-designate to Washington, Gary Doer, 61, met with Prime Minister Stephen Harper in his Parliament Hill office this morning.

The Manitoba Premier thanked the Prime Minister for the "honour," saying he recognized it was "a very important challenge." He will replace Michael Wilson.

Mr. Doer arrived in Ottawa last night after the surprise announcement yesterday that he was stepping down as premier after 10 years in the job. He had served as leader of the provincial NDP for 21 years and had won three elections and majority governments.

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An Ottawa insider said the current move makes sense because it changes the channel on the Senate appointments that were made by Mr. Harper yesterday, which included three very partisan Harper acolytes. Indeed, the appointment of Mr. Doer shows that Mr. Harper can be non-partisan by appointing a New Democrat to the coveted post.

And the move is not without precedent. As prime minister, Brian Mulroney appointed former Ontario NDP leader Stephen Lewis as Canada's ambassador to the United Nations.

Mr. Doer is the dean of premiers, having served for 10 years. He's had what some describe as a "pragmatic" relationship with Mr. Harper. Those who know him say Mr. Doer believes it's more important to get along with the federal government than to pick fights. And he is well-liked by U.S. governors of the western states. In fact, he has quite a rapport with California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, having bonded with him over environmental issues.

Les Campbell, a former senior Doer staff member, who is now with the Washington-based National Democratic Institute, said Mr. Doer has the necessary attributes for an ambassador on the international stage. "He dresses well, he's handsome, he's well-groomed and he speaks well."

Mr. Wilson assumed the position on March 13, 2006, after stints as chairman of UBS Canada and with RBC Financial Group.

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