In The Media

Dion shuffles diplomatic ranks, replaces controversial Tory appointees

by Robert Fife (feat. Ferry de Kerckhove)

The Globe and Mail
July 19, 2016

Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion made a batch of diplomatic appointments on Tuesday, replacing several controversial Conservative appointees with experienced diplomats and naming two well-known Liberals to plum posts.

The Liberal government shuffled the decks in the Middle East to remove inexperienced ambassadors named by former Prime Minister Stephen Harper and filled key posts in Pakistan, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Israel and Jordan with career diplomats.

From the archives: Vivian Bercovici needs to move beyond simplistic demonization

“It is a return to normal diplomacy in terms of appointments. People with decent credibility and to give real voice to the Foreign Ministry before we had the Harper government,” said Ferry De Kerckhove, a former envoy to Indonesia and Egypt who knows many of the new ambassadors.

The large diplomatic moves come in the midst of chaos in Europe and the Middle East, with the British vote to exit the European Union, Turkey in turmoil and a series of terrorist attacks.

Canada’s outspoken ambassador to Israel, Vivian Bercovici, was replaced by Deborah Lyons, a respected diplomat who was envoy to Afghanistan. Ms. Bercovici, named to the post by Mr. Harper in 2014, was widely viewed within Global Affairs Canada as someone who was unschooled in diplomacy and too ideologically connected to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud government.

Mr. De Kerckhove said Global Affairs would be feeling “total, total elation” to see Ms. Bercovici yanked out of Israel before her normal three-to-four-year term is up.

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“In a way, she became the mouthpiece of Netanyahu. She showed no balance at all,” he said.

The Liberal government also replaced Bruno Saccomani, the former RCMP officer in charge of Mr. Harper’s security detail, as ambassador to Jordan. Mr. Harper named him to the post in 2013 after the former RCMP superintendent came under fire for the way he treated officers working within the prime minister’s security detail. Mr. Saccomani was replaced by career diplomat Peter MacDougall.

With the upheaval in Turkey, the government named Chris Cooter, who once served in Canada’s mission to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, as ambassador to Turkey and Ulric Shannon as consul-general in Istanbul. Both men had been chosen for the job before the attempted military coup.

“The focus is on having seasoned professionals, experienced diplomats in posts everywhere, including the Middle East,” said Mr. Dion’s communications director, Joseph Pickerill.

He said Global Affairs shuffles about one third of its senior diplomatic personnel every summer either to new postings, jobs back in Canada or retirements.

Mr. De Kerckhove said positions in the Middle East require “political savvy, political awareness, situation awareness and knowledge of the ins and outs of [the region].

“Chris Cooter was No. 2 at NATO. He is a balanced, pretty low-key, occasionally somewhat sombre but very smart with no specific inclination one way or another on the Middle East front,” he said. “He is a very competent guy who knows security.”

Former Brian Mulroney-era cabinet minister Otto Jelinek was removed as ambassador to the Czech Republic. The new ambassador is another career diplomat, Barbara Richardson.

The only high-profile Conservative appointee left out of the shuffle is Lawrence Cannon, the ambassador to France. Mr. Cannon, a former Harper cabinet minister and onetime Quebec Liberal cabinet minister, negotiated a deal to stay until May, sources said.

The Trudeau team was impressed with Mr. Cannon during the Paris climate change summit. He worked with the Canadian delegation and helped with introductions to the French and other Europeans players. He was at the airport to see Mr. Trudeau off when he left to return to Canada.

Janice Charette, former clerk of the Privy Council, was named Canada’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, replacing former British Columbia premier Gordon Campbell. The plum posting is seen as consolation prize after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau abruptly removed Ms. Charette as the country’s top bureaucrat shortly after taking power.

More than two dozen ambassadors are being replaced around the world in a shuffle that the government says is intended to “ensure its diplomats represent a wide diversity of Canadians and include a greater gender representation.” Thirteen women were given postings in the shuffle.

Among the appointments are two well-known Liberals:

Phyllis Yaffe moves to New York as consul-general, replacing John (Giovanni) Prato. Ms. Yaffe served as the chief executive officer of Alliance Atlantis Communications Inc., sat on the Toronto Star board and the board of the World Wildlife Fund Canada, whose former president was Gerald Butts, the principal secretary to Mr. Trudeau.

Patrick Parisot, a former adviser to Jean Chrétien and later to Michael Ignatieff, is the new ambassador to Cuba, replacing Yves Gagnon. It’s not the first patronage appointment for Mr. Parisot. Mr. Chretien named him ambassador to Chile in 2011. He also served as Canada’s ambassador to Portugal before moving to the post in Algeria.

Ian Burney, a career diplomat whose father, Derek, was Canada’s ambassador to the United States, becomes envoy to Japan, replacing Mackenzie Clugston. Mr. Burney’s father also served with the diplomatic corps in Japan.

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