Politics

Canada-U.S. relations 'significantly better' on this 4th of July, says U.S. ambassador

Diplomatic relations between the Canadian government and U.S. Ambassador Bruce Heyman appear to have warmed up after a reportedly frosty welcome to the capital a little over a year ago.

Bruce Heyman recalls a hot sauce taste test that warmed up an evening at 24 Sussex

U.S. Ambassador Bruce A. Heyman says he and his wife, Vicky, enjoyed a recent dinner with Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his wife, Laureen. A hot sauce taste test added spice to the evening. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Diplomatic relations between the Canadian government and U.S. Ambassador Bruce Heyman appear to have warmed up after a reportedly frosty welcome to the capital a little over a year ago.

Heyman had been ambassador to Canada for less than two weeks last April when the U.S. government put off once again a final decision on the Keystone XL pipeline. With a presidential permit for the controversial pipeline hanging in the balance for a sixth year, the Prime Minister's Office expressed disappointment and dismay over yet another delay.

In an interview airing Friday on CBC Radio One's Ottawa Morning, Heyman said he and his wife, Vicki, were recently invited over to 24 Sussex for dinner with Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his wife, Laureen — an evening that included a taste test of hot sauces.

"The complexity of the U.S.- Canada relationship should not be taken for granted," Heyman told CBC's Robyn Bresnahan on the eve of the Fourth of July.

"You could name anything that you can think of, off the top of your head … the U.S. and Canada have a role to play in each of those," Heyman said, citing joint efforts in the war against ISIS, the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, the crisis in Ukraine and policies involving energy and the environment.

"We are virtually on the same side of most of those," Heyman said.

While no issue has soured the Canada–U.S. relationship more than the Keystone XL pipeline, Heyman noted that "the United States is buying about 3.2 million barrels a day of oil from Canada. This is up from 200,000 barrels in 1980. This represents today about 45 per cent of our total imports."

"We buy more from Canada every day," Heyman said.

Asked if a final decision would come before the end of U.S. President Barack Obama's second mandate, Heyman said he could only hope.

"That would mean there's a decision before I leave, and I'd love to see that get resolved — but no guarantees."

Relations 'significantly better'

Asked about a Globe and Mail report that he was put "in the diplomatic freezer" by the Harper government over the Keystone XL pipeline, Heyman responded with a good-natured laugh.

"Things are going significantly better than the news might have reported," Heyman said.

Pressed again on whether he felt that the Harper government was giving him the cold shoulder, Heyman said, "I don't. At this point in time, I'll tell you, I can have any meeting that I want in town and people have been receiving me well."

"We've been having active discussions, not only with this government but also with all the other parties as well," Heyman said.

The U.S. ambassador added that he met with "the leaders of every party over the last 60 days," not insignificant given that recent polls have all three major federal parties locked in a three-way race before the next federal election set for Oct. 19.

Heyman said he and his wife had enjoyed their dinner at 24 Sussex during the last few weeks.

"It was such a great evening," Heyman said.

"We tried some great hot sauce," added Vicky Heyman, the ambassador's wife.

"That's the secret that nobody knows," Heyman said.

Asked half-jokingly if his conversation with the prime minister got a little heated, the U.S. diplomat said, "there was no heat in the conversation, it was all really fun."

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