Border communities push back against North Carolinian nominee for US Ambassadorship to Canada

A full third of the Canadian Parliament resides within a two-hour drive of Buffalo, NY. Why then, many Buffalonians have been wondering, did President Donald J. Trump nominate a retired physician from North Carolina as the United States Ambassador to Canada, when the role would be so much more meaningful to Western New York in terms of cultivating cross-border trade relationships and exploring ways to better evolve the US – Canadian trade relationship. After all, border communities like Buffalo and Detroit have been the hardest hurt from the North American Free Trade Agreement, but the region also stands most to gain from a more balanced and reciprocal trade relationship.

That’s why some in Western New York’s business community (who are perhaps the most fiercely supportive of Trump’s political coalition) are so concerned that nominating a North Carolinian ahead of the election is a mistake. The role, they postulate, could be used to speak to the Rust Belt constituency that’s been hard hit by the relocation of auto plants and steel mills just across the boarder. NAFTA and other trade policies were so devastating to the midwest for so long that the issue comes with enormous electoral consequence. Indeed, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Ohio all hang in the balance.

Western New York has no shortage of contenders for the position, including the Buffalo area real estate developer and 2010 Republican nominee for Governor, Carl Paladino; the billionaire founder of Paychex and former owner of the Buffalo Sabres, Tom Golisano; the billionaire owner of Rich Products, which does extensive cross border business, Bob Rich; and logistics executive Patrick Whelan.

Bob Rich is the Chairman of the Cleveland Clinic, which treats a surprisingly large number of Canadians. He owns the privately held multi-national food processing company headquartered in Buffalo, the Rich Products Corporation.

“Western New Yorkers feel that the United States Ambassador to Canada should be someone from Western New York’s business community, not just because of our proximity to Canada and the obvious sense it makes to be cultivating these cross-border business relationships,” one State Department official based in Toronto explains to The Chronicle. “The region has endured the brunt of NAFTA with the loss of auto plants and steel mills, so the least Trump can do is start this tradition — which makes all the sense in the world.”

“What the heck does Buffalo or Detroit get out of a retired physician from North Carolina? It makes absolutely no sense,” he adds. “Ontario takes the factories and cities like Buffalo and Detroit get left in the cold.”

President Trump’s current nominee, Aldona Wos, is a Republican Party fundraiser who formerly served as the United States Ambassador to Estonia during President George W. Bush‘s administration. She was born in Poland and has extensive contacts in Eastern Europe. She currently serves as Vice Chair of the President’s Commission on White House Fellowships. She is a well respected figure in Republican circles, and has an extraordinary family history. Her parents helped Holocaust survivors escape the Warsaw ghetto during the Nazi occupation of Poland.

Some in the administration close to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo suggest that her background and family history could make her a powerful asset in Eastern Europe, where there are currently vacant ambassadorships in Belarus, Estonia, and Ukraine — all seen as pivotal positions in promoting democracy, market capitalism, and European integration. Others suggest she could also be appointed as the United States’ diplomatic attache to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, a formal ambassadorship based in Vienna that has been vacant since January 20, 2017. Supporters of the President believe that role could be helpful in encouraging European allies to meet NATO-related defense commitments.

Tom Golisano is the billionaire founder and Chairman of Paychex, a payroll processing company based in Rochester, NY. Among his many philanthropic endeavors is the Golisano Children’s Hospital. His former ownership of an NHL franchise could be a key cultural touchstone in the diplomatic engagement of Canadian officials.

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