A native of Wichita Falls, Texas, Tillerson came to Exxon as a production engineer from the University of Texas at Austin in 1975 and has been with the world’s fifth largest company by market capitalization ever since. As the Associated Press reported, Tillerson, groomed for an executive position, came up in the rough-and-tumble world of oil production, holding posts in the company’s central United States, Yemen and Russian operations.
Exxon has operations in dozens of countries, including Russia, which has leaned heavily on Western companies for technology and know-how to tap its vast oil and gas resources. Exxon also has operations in Indonesia, Azerbaijan, Chad, Equatorial Guinea, and many other countries, from the Arctic Circle to the southern tip of Australia. Africa and Asia were its leading sources of oil production in 2015.
“Like other oil companies, Exxon has had to develop its own diplomacy and foreign relations, so many skills Tillerson honed at Exxon could help in his new role,” said Antoine Halff, head of the global oil markets program at Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy.
Given Tillerson’s resume, it is safe to say that his experience in international diplomacy is close to unmatched compared to any other American in private industry (and public office for that matter). And that is a key point that separates the American political system from others including Canada’s.
In the United States, it is not a requirement to be an elected official to hold a position in public office at the federal level. And because of that clause, elected officials such as Donald Trump have the ability to appoint the most qualified people in their judgement to carry out important cabinet positions.
Instead of being pigeonholed by being limited to choosing cabinet members from a swath of elected people (which drastically reduces the talent pool), the ability to cast a wider net and choose more qualified individuals not in public office is possible.
For example in Alberta, our Finance Minister, Joe Ceci’s background is as a social worker. That’s not to say he doesn’t know what he’s doing – that is up for debate. But if Alberta had a similar political system in place as in America, Premier Notley could have chosen an individual with far better experience and know how for the what the job demands.
The same can be said at Canada’s federal level. Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr has very limited experience in Canada’s natural resources industry compared to other Canadians (albeit who are unelected) who have spent their entire careers in natural resource industries such as oil and gas, or mining.
Canada’s provincial and federal political system hurts provinces such as Alberta the most. Alberta is home to world class businessmen and women – especially considering its small size in relation to other jurisdictions – yet the province’s political system can’t directly access these people to make the best use of their skills for the critical policy making jobs at hand.