Alberta representative in U.S. criticizes NDP on way out

Former Conservative MP Rob Merrifield is fighting back on his last day on the job as Alberta's senior representative to the United States.

'Now is not a time to send mixed messages about Keystone XL,' says Rob Merrifield

Rob Merrifield resigned as Conservative MP for Yellowhead in 2014 to work as Alberta's representative in the U.S. In September, the NDP terminated his contract. (Gero Breloer/Associated Press)

Former Conservative MP Rob Merrifield is fighting back on his last day on the job as Alberta's senior representative to the United States. 

In a written statement released Wednesday, Merrifield defended his work in Washington and offered sharp words for Alberta's NDP government. 

"It is obvious that I have a different perspective than Alberta's current government on market access, and it is natural for a new government to put their own person in this important international position," he wrote. "I am concerned that this government is pulling resources and sending mixed messages at a critical time."

Earlier this month, the NDP announced Merrifield's contract as Alberta's representative to the U.S. was ending three years early. The office of Premier Rachel Notley issued a statement Wednesday which thanked Merrifield for his service, especially the work he did on country-of-origin labelling (COOL), but also gave one last shot.

"We are looking to replace Mr. Merrifield with a professional diplomat, for reasons Mr. Merrifield has just demonstrated," read the statement. "Alberta's office in Washington is very important to our government. It continues to operate and we will be announcing a new representative soon."

Merrifield was appointed by former premier Jim Prentice in September 2014 and was widely criticized by opposition parties as a patronage appointment. Merrifield sat in the House of Commons at the same time as Prentice when he was a federal Conservative MP.

Mixed messages?

In the statement, Merrifield referenced Keystone XL, a project he lobbied for during his tenure, saying "now is not a time to send mixed messages about Keystone XL. It is time to ensure our strong presence in Washington."

Merrifield said he's concerned specifically with energy, agriculture and forestry — industries he says are being compromised by decisions made in Washington.

"It is therefore more crucial than ever that we have a strong and influential voice in Washington to lead the pending negotiations, and to ensure that the interests of Albertans, and Canadians, are kept front and center," he said.

Despite his departure, Merrifield said he will continue to look for other opportunities to advance Alberta's interests, saying he's "leaving this position with unachieved goals for Alberta."

Merrifield leaves his post in the U.S. without a severance package, as it wasn't part of his negotiated contract under the previous government.


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