Hon. Rob Merrifield responds to province’s decision to end his appointment in Washington
As of September 30, the Honourable Rob Merrifield’s contract with the Province of Alberta is complete. Merrifield is therefore free to speak to Albertans about his experience in Washington, the future of Canada/US relations, and Premier Rachel Notley’s decision to end his appointment as Alberta’s Senior Representative to the United States of America.
Statement from Merrifield:
Since I was elected to Parliament in 2000 I have committed to representing the priorities of Albertans and Canadians nationally, and internationally.
As Minister of State for Transport, Chair of Canada’s Standing Committee on International Trade, Congressional Liaison for Canada’s federal government, Chair of the Canada-US Inter-Parliamentary Group, and as Alberta’s Senior Representative to the United States of America, I had the opportunity to build strong, deep relationships with members of the United States Senate and House of Representatives.
Through these appointments I was afforded the opportunity to position our province and country well on issues that are important to Albertans, and Canadians.
As Alberta’s representative in Washington I specifically focused on building Alberta’s economic and trade relationship with our largest trading partner. I have taken a lead role on energy market access, including Keystone XL, and Country of Origin Labelling.
We have won bi-partisan support for Keystone XL both in the American Senate and the House of Representatives. Although I expect a negative ruling by the President to be announced shortly, we are only four votes short of veto-proof legislation in the Senate.
Now is not a time to send mixed messages about Keystone XL. It is time to ensure our strong presence in Washington.
Four times the World Trade Organization (WTO) has ruled that US Country of Origin Labelling is illegal and discriminatory. Working very closely with industry, the Canadian Embassy and Congress, I have taken a leading role on this file, promoting the interests of Alberta and Canada. As recently as this spring, we won 300 votes of support in the House of Representatives to repeal this discriminatory practice. A Bill to repeal Country of Origin Labelling is now in front of the American Senate; it requires significant support (60 of 100 votes) to pass.
As the current federal election restricts the activities of the Canadian Embassy in Washington, pulling Alberta resources from this issue now is short-sighted. I am deeply concerned for our agricultural community – without strong advocacy, we may not see Country of Origin Labelling repealed. And if it is not repealed, the WTO will ratify economic retaliation that could damage relationships between Canada and the United States.
Likewise the Softwood Lumber Agreement is coming to full term October 12. A period of instability in the forest sector will follow, as we renegotiate trade with our largest and most important forest resource customer.
Energy, agriculture and forestry are three primary industries that drive Alberta’s economy - and thereby Canada’s – and all three are currently being compromised by decisions made in Washington. It is therefore more crucial than ever that we have a strong and influential voice in Washington to lead the pending negotiations, and to ensure that the interests of Albertans, and Canadians, are kept front and center.
It is obvious that I have a different perspective than Alberta’s current government on market access, and it is natural for a new government to put their own person in this important international position. However, there is significant work in progress on a number of files of critical importance to Alberta’s long-term economic interests.
I am concerned that this government is pulling resources and sending mixed messages at a critical time.
I am leaving this position with unachieved goals for Alberta. I will therefore pursue other opportunities to use the relationships I have developed, and my understanding of the American political process, to advance these issues on behalf of the people of Alberta, and Canada.