Break between US envoys not unusual for Canada: former diplomat
by Terri Coles (feat. Colin Robertson)
January 6, 2017
U.S. president-elect Donald Trump’s request that politically appointed ambassadors leave their posts by inauguration day on Jan. 20 breaks with a decades-long tradition that envoys be granted extensions as their replacements are nominated, but doesn’t necessarily leave affected countries without representation in D.C., says a former diplomat.
“It is normal for the political appointees to the current administration to resign at the end of the administration, because they serve the administration,” Colin Robertson, a fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, told Yahoo Canada News.
It’s a break from the past few administrations that no ambassador is being granted an extension, Robertson said, but not surprising that they are expected to resign for inauguration day or that there will be a gap between one envoy leaving the post and the next taking it up.
On Friday Bill Heyman, U.S. ambassador to Canada since April 2014, confirmed via a tweet that he had tendered his resignation and would leave the country on or around the inauguration. President-elect Trump and his transition team have not yet indicated who may be nominated as the next U.S. ambassador to Canada. The U.S. Embassy did not respond to a media request before publication.
The State Department informed envoys the day after the election that they were expected to tender letters of resignation effective Jan. 20. But it also said anyone seeking an extension should request it in writing.
Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama all granted extensions for some envoys for various reasons while their successors were being confirmed.
Trump’s move is an extension of his apparent hard-line stance on leaving any Obama appointees in place, even in instances where extensions are not outside the norm. Several ambassadors confirmed to the New York Times that the decision has left them scrambling to secure visas where they are posted or to move children mid-way through the school year.
The move could leave the United States without envoys to countries including Canada, Germany, and the United Kingdom for months.
But in the meantime the deputy chief of mission — currently Elizabeth Moore Aubin in Canada — will serve as the acting head. And both the incoming U.S. secretary of state and existing counterparts will be involved in managing the relationship with Canada before the next ambassador takes up the post, Robertson said.
That last time the presidency changed hands, ambassador David Wilkins left his post the day of Barack Obama’s inauguration and his replacement, David Jacobson, took up the posting seven months later.
With senate approval needed for the new ambassador, Robertson predicts the post should be filled by September.
And that person could find themselves quite busy, considering that Trump has expressed support for both Keystone XL and revisiting NAFTA.