U.S. Ambassador David Jacobson’s visit to Red Deer on Thursday was one for the local history books.
“I’m quite sure we’ve never had an American ambassador visit before,” said Red Deer archivist Michael Dawe.
If it ever did happen, it was not publicized and very low-key, or they have been drive-throughs as ambassadors travelled to Edmonton or Calgary, he said.
Red Deer Mayor Morris Flewwelling called the visit “very brief and very important.”
“I think it’s important that the American ambassador has chosen to come to Red Deer on his cross-Canada tour to allow him to get a sense of Canadians both urban and rural,” Flewwelling said.
Late Thursday morning, Jacobson met with about 40 Red Deer city and county officials, business leaders, provincial and federal representatives at the Capri Hotel.
Several guests also lunched with the ambassador.
“I feel very much at home here. It feels a lot like where I’m from,” said Jacobson about Central Alberta.
Jacobson, a Chicago business lawyer who was a key fundraiser for U.S. President Barack Obama, was appointed ambassador three weeks ago.
He will spend two more days in Alberta before heading to Saskatchewan.
Jacobson has toured Alberta’s oilsands, seen as both an environmental challenge and an energy source for the United States.
“Canada is clearly a pillar in our energy security and I think the oilsands will have a place in that,” said Jacobson, who called the massive bitumen recovery project an “extraordinary set of facilities.”
“You can read about it. You can hear about it. But until you actually see it, you can’t appreciate it.”
Jacobson said other issues the U.S. and Canada will probably face while he is ambassador involve trade, the border and international affairs and he expects to resolve them amicably.
“The measure of the relationship is not whether there are problems from time to time, but rather whether both countries demonstrate the resolve to address those issues in a constructive fashion and move forward. I think when you measure the relationship by that standard, this relationship is the strongest it’s ever been.”