On November 17, University of Ottawa Chancellor Calin Rovinescu hosted U.S. Ambassador to Canada Bruce Heyman at the inaugural event of the Alex Trebek Forum for Dialogue series. The series, launched in May 2016 with a $5 million gift from Jeopardy! host and uOttawa alumnus Alex Trebek, aims to stimulate discussion about the pressing issues of our time. Before a packed audience in uOttawa’s Huguette Labelle Hall, Ambassador Heyman touched on the U.S. election results, enduring U.S.-Canada ties, President Obama’s legacy and much more. A few snippets from a wide-ranging conversation:
On Canada-U.S. ties:
In this short ambassadorial period, I have been here for two elections — yours and ours. And in both cases, there was a change in party that was fairly significant in terms of philosophies and ideals. … Regardless of who occupies the White House or 24 Sussex, the relationship is strong. … I don’t think that’s going to change. Canada will continue to be our best friend, our closest ally, our largest trading partner. …
Gallup did a poll of Americans a few months ago and asked Americans, by country, who they like. Canada is #1 — 93% of Americans love Canadians. They love what you represent. They love your value system. Americans love the beauty of your country and your people, your humour — your comedians are awfully darn funny. Americans love Canada, and we’re not saying that enough in this time period. …
I think we need to study in each other’s countries more. The reality is that we don’t have very many Americans coming up to Canada to study, and that’s an unfortunate missed opportunity. When students come and study in another country, they end up falling in love with that country and they go back and bring some of its values. … What a wonderful place to study — and I think [Canada] is economically probably attractive for students as well.
On the post-election United States:
In the United States, we have very close elections. Even when we have landslides, they’re close. I’ve never seen a time when the one side won and the other side was OK with it. They were upset! But that’s the way it works. We have a great democracy in the United States. I think our system works effectively, and is a shining light, actually.
We compete actively during elections, and when the election is over, we move on. We’ve had peaceful transfers of power for very many years now, party to party or president to president. And if people are frustrated, well, here’s the deal: We’ll have another presidential election in just four years. I think we’re going to be fine.
On how U.S. ambassadorships work:
About two-thirds of U.S. ambassadors are career diplomats. … One-third are political appointees [with] direct relationships with the president. That one-third works at the pleasure of the president … but the two-thirds are on a three-year cycle.
I’m working at the pleasure of the president. The president has asked all of his political appointees to submit letters of resignation on January 20. That gives the flexibility to the new president. … If he would like a complete clean deck, nobody from the Obama administration, then that will be available to him. If he wants to keep some people, then that will be the process. We’ll see, but know I’m here until January 20.