In a possible indication of the easygoing and friendly relationship between Canada and the United States, the nominee for U.S. ambassador to Canada answered questions on Wednesday from a single U.S. senator who turned up at his confirmation hearing in Washington. The hearing room has seating for 21 senators.

U.S. President Barack Obama’s nominee, David Jacobson, told Democratic Senator Ted Kaufman from Delaware in an unusually low-key one-on-one hearing, that after trade and commerce, he expects energy, the environment and border issues to constitute the bulk of his work, should he be confirmed.
Jacobson gave a long list of areas of critical importance to the U.S., noting that contrary to the beliefs of many Americans, Canada is the country’s biggest energy supplier. He also praised Canada’s efforts in Afghanistan, calling the deaths of 127 Canadian soldiers in the war “an amazing commitment.”

Jacobson also spoke about the ability of Canada’s banks to weather the global economic crisis better than their American counterparts because of more conservative lending practices, adding “perhaps it’s something we can learn from.”

The nominee is a married father of two college-aged children, one of whom may consider studying at McGill University in Montreal, he said. Like most of his predecessors, he does not speak French, but said his wife speaks a little.

Jacobson’s experience in Canada comes mostly from vacations. Recently, he’s spent time at a friend’s home at Mt. Tremblant, Que., 130 kilometres northwest of Montreal, and in his opening statement, he spoke fondly of a childhood trip to Niagara Falls.

When asked about how he would handle winters in Ottawa, he said, “Hey, I’m from Chicago,” referring to the Windy City’s icy reputation.

The 57-year-old litigator has been working at the White House since January as a special assistant in the Office of Presidential Personnel.

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