EDMONTON – Alberta’s outgoing senior representative to the United States took some parting shots at the NDP government on the final day of his contract.
Rob Merrifield said Wednesday that Premier Rachel Notley’s decision to dismiss him comes as Washington grapples with key economic and trade issues that are critical to the province.
He said those include the proposed Keystone XL oilsands pipeline and the U.S. country-of-origin meat-labelling law.
Merrifield said now is not the time to send mixed messages about Keystone.
And he suggested that leaving Alberta without strong representation in Washington during Canada’s federal election is short-sighted and could affect whether the U.S. repeals the meat-labelling law, which has cost Canada’s beef and pork industries more than $1 billion over the years.
“There is significant work in progress on a number of files of critical importance to Alberta’s long-term economic interests,” Merrifield said in a release.
“I am concerned that this government is pulling resources and sending mixed messages at a critical time.”
Merrifield also noted that the softwood lumber agreement with the U.S. comes to term next month.
He said as energy, agriculture and forestry are key industries in Alberta, it is more crucial than ever to have a strong and influential voice in Washington.
Merrifield, a former Conservative MP, was appointed to the post last year by former Progressive Conservative premier Jim Prentice.
Merrifield’s contract was to run until Sept. 30, 2018, but Notley said earlier this month that she wanted to consider a new direction for the office.
Cheryl Oates, a spokeswoman for the government, responded to Merrifield’s broadside by thanking him for his service, but she added a twist.
“We are looking to replace Mr. Merrifield with a professional diplomat, for reasons Mr. Merrifield has just demonstrated,” she said in an email.
“Alberta’s office in Washington is very important to our government. It continues to operate and we will be announcing a new representative soon.”
Wildrose Leader Brian Jean said he agreed with Merrifield’s comments.
He said Notley cut ties with an effective, highly qualified representative in Alberta’s most important trading relationship without giving details on when he will be replaced.
“This requires an approach that goes beyond ideology or lines of partisanship and focuses on doing what’s best for Alberta,” he said.
Jean, who is also a former Conservative MP, served in the Harper government with Merrifield.
Merrifield’s salary in Washington was $243,000 a year. His contract did not include severance.