CBC, G&M, and Maclean’s Dish on Bruce Heyman: But Are They All Missing the Real Story?

By Keith Edmund White

Bruce Heyman has taken his post, and is generating headlines across Canadian newspapers.  But is the coverage focusing on the right issues that will determine Heyman’s  effectiveness in his new post? 

Update 4/14/14:  In fairness, this CBC article does highlight more than Keystone to the Canada-U.S. relationship.  But still, it seems spurring effective crossborder law enforcement efforts and speeding up all pre-existing bordercrossings are areas where an effective ambassador could help move the ball more than Keystone.  And is oxycodone really holding up BTB and RCC?

CBC, G&M, and Maclean’s (courtesy of The Canadian Press) all dish on Bruce Heyman.

While they all focus on important aspects of the Canada-U.S. bilateral relationship (copyright, Keystone XL, the long delay in getting a new ambassador), they miss all the smaller issues that dominate the day-to-day management of the Canada-U.S. relationship.  What are these issues?  Progress on the Regulatory Cooperation Council (RCC) (from meatcut regulations to environmental standards), enhancing border security and trade through the Beyond the Border Action Plan, and making sure our various (big and small) land-crossings have the customs stations they needGreat Lakes water-trade continues in the face of changing water levels and harsh winters, and cross-border policy issues are being addressed.

It’s these smaller items that may have more to do with enhancing the longterm value of the Canada-U.S. bilateral relationship than today’s headline-dominating issues.

And it’s these smaller items that a skilled ambassador can make a difference on.

Read more on G&M‘s positive-spin coverage and Maclean’s harsher take below.

G&M gives a nice bio on Heyman, keeping a positive and upbeat tone on the Canada-U.S. relationship while mentioning the Keystone XL divide:

In his first interview since taking office, Mr. Heyman, a 33-year Goldman Sachs veteran and major Democratic Party fundraiser, told The Globe and Mail he’s here to do business by promoting trade and investment. He vowed to get personally involved in deal-making and sees his priority as promoting trade in both directions.

“I think I can be helpful in that, especially across borders, when there are opportunities to do foreign direct investment, and when there are opportunities for trade,” Mr. Heyman said. “I think I can inject myself, and be an advocate for outcomes.”

And what matters is growth, not in which direction trade is flowing, he said: “I am an agnostic about whether there is more trade going north or more trade going south. I just want more.”

He promised to engage with state governors, provincial premiers and business people to make that happen in his first months on the job: “I’m going to call as many of them as I can … as early as I can,” he said.

It’s an emphasis that fits the background of the investment banker, who now finds himself in a very different, diplomatic world. Mr. Heyman, 57, and his wife, Vicki, a former Obama fundraiser and campaign official, have been in Canada for just over a week. On Tuesday, Mr. Heyman presented his credentials to Governor-General David Johnston, and had his first meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper, before speaking to The Globe and Mail at the ambassador’s residence.

Mr. Heyman’s interest in business deals should make him the kind of Obama envoy that suits Mr. Harper – who has instructed Canadian diplomats to focus more on business. Trade often tops Canada’s agenda with Washington.

Mike Blanchfield take a harsher cut, noting Heyman has “nothing new to offer” on Keystone, noting the 9-month absence of a U.S. ambassador to Canada, and highlighting expert commentary suggesting Heyman’s role would be limited as he is serving a lame duck U.S. president.  From Maclean’s:

[Centre for International Governance Innovation Canada-U.S. expert Fen] Hampson said Heyman’s effectiveness as an envoy will be limited because he serves a “lame duck” president.

“That could change depending on the outcome of the congressional elections, but if Obama loses the Senate and Republicans dominate both houses of Congress, then we will see a truly hobbled presidency,” said Hampson.

Republicans, not Democrats, are more closely aligned with the Harper government’s priorities, particularly the Keystone pipeline, he added.

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