Hon. Rob Mer­ri­field re­sponds to province’s de­ci­sion to end his ap­point­ment in Washington

The McLeod River Post - - Viewpoint -

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.

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