11/09/2011 12:16 EST | Updated 01/09/2012 05:12 EST

Former Calgary mayor Dave Bronconnier named Alberta's trade envoy to Washington

CALGARY - Former Calgary mayor Dave Bronconnier will be Alberta's trade envoy in Washington for the next nine months.

Premier Alison Redford made the temporary appointment Wednesday to fill the post left vacant by Gary Mar, who resigned earlier this year to seek the Alberta Progressive Conservative leadership.

Redford says Bronconnier has the knowledge and political skills needed to speak up for the province in the U.S. capital.

"He has a proven track record for success and he is an advocate that can really make a difference, both in the country, and around the world," Redford said.

"Dave will bring a strong understanding of our economy to Washington, but just as important from my perspective, I think we share the same hope and vision and enthusiasm about the future of Alberta."

Redford's announcement comes as she prepares to leave for the U.S. capital to lobby for the oilsands, including TransCanada's (TSX:TRP) proposed Keystone XL pipeline.

The pipeline would connect Alberta's oilsands to U.S. Gulf Coast refineries. The proposal is staunchly opposed by environmentalists who say the line would increase U.S. reliance on "dirty" Alberta oil and risks spoiling major sources of drinking water along its proposed route.

Earlier this week the U.S. State Department announced it will review how officials handled an environmental assessment of Keystone, possibly delaying a final decision on the $7 billion project.

Redford said she is aware of reports that a U.S. decision on Keystone could be delayed, perhaps for up to 18 months.

The premier called such reports speculation, but said it is important for Alberta to keep a watchful eye on the project and the U.S. regulatory process.

"We have to make sure that we are advocating as we can on behalf of the province, and that is what Mr. Bronconnier will be doing," she said.

"Any further comment on speculating whether it is two months or 16 months or 18 months is just not helpful."

During her first foreign trip as premier Redford hopes to meet Monday with U.S. lawmakers in Washington. On Tuesday she is to meet with the Council on Foreign Relations in New York City. The council is an independent, non-partisan think-tank.

Redford then heads to Toronto, where she is to give a speech Wednesday to the Economic Club of Canada, including remarks on Alberta's oilsands and the environment.

The premier said Bronconnier's appointment is temporary because the province will be reviewing its trade offices around the world. She said she wants Alberta's trade offices to have a stronger and a higher profile.

The former mayor, known affectionately to many Calgarians as "Bronco", said he is looking forward to speaking up for Alberta, adding the province is sometimes overlooked in the United States.

"This is a very important assignment," he said at news conference in Calgary. "I am very much looking forward to doing my very best as an Albertans to communicate what Alberta's story is really all about."

Bronconnier was first elected Calgary mayor in 2001 and served three terms before stepping down last year.

In 1997 he ran unsuccessfully for the federal Liberals in Calgary.

Redford said her Tory cabinet and caucus unanimously support Bronconnier's appointment.

Bronconnier suggested he has some knowledge of how Washington works, citing previous trips he has made to the capital with former premiers Ralph Klein and Ed Stelmach.

"The premier has been very clear that there are a number of key issues for Alberta, and I don't intend to let her down," he said.

— By John Cotter in Edmonton