Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Beyond KXL: Obama Envoy Ends First Year in Canada, Pointing to Areas of Accord

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Beyond KXL: Obama Envoy Ends First Year in Canada, Pointing to Areas of Accord

Article excerpt

US envoy points to successes, beyond KXL

--

OXON HILL, Md. - The U.S. ambassador to Canada concludes the first year of his posting acutely aware that a single irritant over an oil pipeline has grabbed so much of the attention in the Canada-U.S. relationship.

"I have noticed that. I definitely have," Bruce Heyman said in an interview this week during a trip to Washington, with his first year as ambassador drawing to a close.

Indeed, the irritant in question is so well known that Heyman doesn't even need to refer to Keystone XL by name: "I think the U.S. government is very aware of the Canadian position with regard to the pipeline."

Any doubt was extinguished early in his tenure. There was a testy exchange with former ambassador to Washington Frank McKenna at an initial public event in Ottawa. Meetings with Prime Minister Stephen Harper were rare.

The Prime Minister's Office says they've met twice, while the U.S. side notes they've met on different occasions when American cabinet secretaries were visiting Ottawa.

Heyman is keen to accentuate the positive: shared international projects, like fighting ISIL and Ebola; last week's historic border agreement on pre-clearance; countless cultural exchanges; the world's biggest bilateral trading relationship.

He says he's getting a great reception across Canada and has been meeting with community leaders, business people, premiers, and government officials in Ottawa.

"I'm having the meetings that are necessary for me to have. I feel very comfortable that we're driving outcomes in our bilateral relationship," Heyman said Monday.

"I can't be distracted by some of those things that are there. I have to just get up every day, doing the very best I can on behalf of our two countries."

Three examples from the last few days illustrate the bilateral ties beyond that bedevilled pipeline:

--Canada and the U.S. announced a years-in-the-making border arrangement last week that will let customs officers pre-screen travellers on the other country's territory, in the hope of cutting down border wait times.

--Canada deepened its participation in the U.S.-led campaign against ISIL. On Tuesday, Harper stood in the House of Commons and, promising to work closely "with our American and other allies," proposed extending Canadian airstrikes for another year in Iraq and expanding the mission to Syria. …

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