One-on-one with Bruce Heyman, U.S. Ambassador to Canada
Published Friday, March 11, 2016 7:50PM EST
As Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wrapped up his three-day visit to Washington on Friday, CTV’s Chief Anchor and Senior Editor Lisa LaFlamme spoke to Bruce Heyman, the United States Ambassador to Canada.
LaFlamme and Heyman discussed Thursday night’s state dinner, the economic relationship between the U.S. and Canada, and cross-border travel.
LaFlamme: Give me your thoughts on how the last few days have unfolded in this relationship between the two countries.
Heyman: About as good as anyone can expect. It was magical the last few days. I mean, we sat down with the Canadian government and planned this out for months. And yet as good as the planning can be, you never really know how something is going to actually unfold until you’re in the middle of it. And it was better at every step than we ever would have imagined so very much enjoyed the moment.
LaFlamme: And so the bilateral meeting, that has all unfolded to the degree people expected or was there a sense you could go further on that?
Heyman: Well we can always go further, right? I mean, so the meetings went exactly I think as we expected, but the relationship building between these two leaders was profound. You could see the friendship developing as you were sitting there in the oval office, watching them have a dialogue, talking about world issues, talking about the bilateral things we were facing together. And it was all ‘Let’s do things, let’s get things done, let’s work together.’ And it felt good.
LaFlamme: How does that impact or change what you do when you go back to Ottawa?
Heyman: Well, you know, we’ve been working every single day since this new government has come into office. Working on U.S.-Canada bilateral opportunities as well as geopolitical issues we jointly face. I don’t think that changes. But what it does is cement the relationship across our governments to enable things to be tackled. And so if something comes up, people feel very comfortable because they now have developed a substantive relationship and pick up the phone and call each other and say, hey let’s work through this.
LaFlamme: Now the timeline of course, as we all know, President Obama, you know there will be a change of government in November. What has he instructed as your marching orders to try to move some files forward before he leaves?
Heyman: He has a very strong message. And the message is he is leading by example. We’re not going to slow down. We’re not lame duck. We’re going to work every single moment of every single day doing the things we need to do as part of the United States and you, Mr. Ambassador as our representative all the way until January 20. And so he has every intent giving, as they say, running right through the tape and with a lot of enthusiasm.
LaFlamme: And does he sort of have one file? We all talked about how climate change is such a legacy issue for him. Is there a sense now that you will be going back to Canada and sort of communing with Canadian business leaders to try and push that agenda forward?
Heyman: I think the United States is so large and he has so many things that are priorities. I don’t think there’s any one thing that this is it, this is the most important. But there are a number of things we’ve been working on together. I think importantly we need to continue to enhance our economy. And work together and doing the things that are necessary so we can have economic growth in Canada and the United States. I’ve always said a strong Canada is in U.S.’s best interest. A strong U.S. is in Canada’s best interest. But what’s best of all is when we’re strong together.
LaFlamme: And we’re not right now. Our economies are completely out of sync. So how do you think we move forward on that front, with Canada being so devastated by the plunging oil prices?
Heyman: So there are several things we’re working on together. I think the announcements yesterday of all the border initiatives we’re working on will thin the border and make it better for access for goods and services as well as for consumer travel and tourism. So that’s one file.
The other is, we’re trying to find Canadian businesses that want to expand internationally and want to come to the us. And we are running a program called ‘Select U.S.A.’ We’d like you to the select the U.S.A. to grow and we’re running a conference here in June. I’d like to invite as many Canadian businesses who are thinking of expanding to the U.S to join me as part of this delegation in June. Also encouraging governors to come up on trade missions. We continue to look for ways to enhance our economic opportunities together.
LaFlamme: But with the dollar the way it is right now, isn’t that an increased challenge for you to try to get Canadian businesses into this country?
Heyman: Well, we have a $17 trillion economy. And if you’re already maxed out in some of your businesses in Canada and looking to expand, we have a strong consumer here in the United States and I think great opportunity for Canadians to expand business.
LaFlamme: How quickly do you think these border initiatives can be put in place to do, as you say, speed things up at that level?
Heyman: Well, I think it’s going to be dependent on enabling legislation. Congress presented that legislation just this last week. It needs to be passed by Congress, but it was submitted on a bipartisan basis. I’m looking forward to Parliament doing the same. Once this is done, we can move pretty quickly and then beginning to look at adding four pre-clearance locations within Canada, perhaps even expanding some into the United States.
LaFlamme: So it’s definitely some serious accomplishments over these few days. I have to ask you though, because of course we are all well aware of the relationship that did exist with former prime minister Harper and the U.S. administration was a lot colder, frostier than this one. What is it for you personally? What is that change like for you personally going from one government in Canada to now this one?
Heyman: I’ve grown a lot personally as a person over the last several years but I am always, everyday an incredible optimist. I’ve loved my opportunity that I’ve had in Canada. I’ve travelled to every province and every territory. Canadians have welcomed me with open arms from coast to coast to coast or sea to sea to sea. And I think that this now gives us the opportunity to move forward on some of the files the president and the prime minister are both very excited about and I was very excited the last few days to see us continue to move ahead on some of those.
LaFlamme: And last night, the state dinner, do you have a highlight for us?
Heyman: You know, I was thinking about that this morning. The reality is, I think the whole experience is a highlight. There isn’t any one singular moment that was a highlight for me. You know, you walk through the White House. You hear the marine bands playing, you look at the incredible beauty of the flowers, etc. But that’s not it. What it was, looking at our two leaders and the camaraderie they have built together, the smiles they had on their face. Watching, I would say, the First Lady and Sophie and the immediate connections they had. I sat there and I just relished in that moment sitting back, looking at the four of them and how they were interacting. You know, I’ll tell you, Canadians and Americans should feel very good that the U.S.-Canada relationship … is better than it’s ever been and it’s a good feeling.
LaFlamme: Perfect note to end on. Ambassador, thank you so much.