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Gary Doer is new ambassador-designate to U.S.

OTTAWA -- Gary Doer has been named ambassador-designate to the United States, just a day after announcing he would step down as New Democrat Party premier of Manitoba.

OTTAWA -- Gary Doer has been named ambassador-designate to the United States, just a day after announcing he would step down as New Democrat Party premier of Manitoba.

The appointment must be officially accepted by the U.S., but that is considered a formality.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper named him to the post -- Canada's most important diplomatic job -- less than 24 hours after Doer announced his departure from provincial politics.

The prime minister said Doer has "always been an advocate of good and assertive relations with the United States."

"We look forward to seeing you in Washington," Harper said as he introduced the new diplomat at a brief photo opportunity.

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"We're all part of one Canadian team," Doer said. "It is a very, very important challenge."

Despite his NDP affiliation, Doer was rarely driven by strict ideology in his decade in power in Manitoba. He earned an image as a "Teflon premier," who walked a careful line between cutting small-business taxes and bolstering social programs.

Paul Dewar, foreign affairs critic for the federal NDP, said Doer is a pragmatist.

"He does want to get things done so he doesn't stand behind rigid ideology -- which is why he's been successful," the MP said.

Dewar welcomed Harper's selection.

"I believe he's chosen someone who is more than capable to do the job and who will represent Canada very well," he said. "And it probably doesn't hurt the prime minister that he is not from the Conservative party."

Paul Thomas, a political studies professor at the University of Manitoba, said Doer's shrewd nature and knack for negotiation made it possible for him as premier to work with people of all political stripes, including Harper. That's something that would serve him well in Washington.

Even as premier, he kept a common touch and was often seen walking alone in Winnipeg, without the expected entourage.

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The 61-year-old Doer replaces Michael Wilson, a former Progressive Conservative finance minister who has held the job since March 2006.

Doer was the longest serving among the current premiers when he unexpectedly announced his departure on Thursday.

Before he entered politics, Doer was a guard at a youth jail in Winnipeg and head of the Manitoba Government Employees Union.

He served as a cabinet minister in the government of Howard Pawley from 1986 until Pawley's 1988 election defeat. Doer subsequently won the party leadership.

He led the party from the opposition benches for 11 years, before winning the first of three consecutive majority governments in 1999.

Doer is the second former premier in the last five years to get the Washington job. Frank McKenna, New Brunswick premier 1987-97, was named ambassador in 2005.

And the appointment of a New Democrat ambassador by a Conservative premier is nothing new, either. In 1984, Brian Mulroney named Stephen Lewis, a former Ontario NDP leader and scion of one of the party's leading families, as ambassador to the United Nations.

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