Supporters of President Donald Trump are prodding him to nominate Buffalo businessman Carl Paladino as acting United States Ambassador to Canada. The President is allowed to make interim appointments while Congress is out of session — and due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Speaker Nancy Pelosi may prevent Congress from reconvening until as late as September.
The position has been held by an interim appointee since July 2019, when Kelly Kraft was nominated to become United States Ambassador to the United Nations.
Aldona Wos has been nominated to replace Kraft, but her nomination has been held up in the Senate for months. Wos is a retired physician from North Carolina and Republican Party contributor who previously served as Ambassador to Estonia in the Bush Administration. Some in the Trump Administration think that Wos would be better suited to fill the vacant Ambassadorship in Estonia, where she previously served between 2006 and 2008 and has extensive contacts.
Few businessmen in America understand both the full promise and the devastating peril of the United States’ economic relationship with Canada — and none more so than the Buffalo-based real estate developer and New York’s former Republican gubernatorial nominee.
One-third of the Canada’s federal Parliament resides within a two hour drive of Paladino’s South Buffalo home — and Bay Street, the center of Canada’s finaincial markets, is just an hour-and-a-half jaunt.
Beacuase he grew up in this Rust Belt city — which is now a devastated icon of American industry that lays as a ruin of its former self — Paladino understand what the nation has lost to NAFTA. His childhood neighborhood stood in the shadows of the shuttered steal mills and massive auto plants that have since moved just a shortways across the border to Hamilton, Burlington, and Oshawa.
But because he lives along the boarder and his family is deeply and intergenerationally invested here, he understands the potential for a better trade relationship with Canada as well.
Trump supporters in Western New York argue that Paladino would have a more incisive and cunning approach to US-Canadian relations that would address the unique possibilties for cross-border trade and collaboration that are particularly pronoucned in Rust Belt communities like Buffalo and Detroit.
Among the items that populate his foreign policy agenda, supporters quickly rattle several likely priorities:
- A US-Canadian Bi-National Workforce. Paladino sees the obivous potential for cross-border commuting that allows each nation to leverage the talents that exist in each other’s’ workforce. He understands that Western New Yorkers would like to commute to professional services jobs in downtown Toronto, and wants to make it easier for WNY businesses to hire Canadians without such a penalizing tax structure.
- Fully Integrated Bi-National Banking System. Paladino understands that cross border trade could grow by an order of magnitutdes if the two nations’ banking systems were more fully integrated. Canada’s excessively regulated and government sanctioned banking monopoly lags far behind the United States in terms of ease of use and consumer responsiveness. Canadian banks are regulated on three schedules, such that only Canaidan banks can accept retail deposits on accounts below $100,000 — which prevents the Buffalo-based M&T Bank from opening a branch just across the Niagara River in Fort Erie, let alone in the Greater Toronto Area.
- Shared Border Management and Preclearence. Paladino understands WNY’s aspiration for transit connectivity between Toronto and Buffalo, and understands intuitively the catalytic impact that cross-border transit systems could have in Seattle-Vancouver and Detroit-Windsor as well. He understands the public health impacts that customs and frieght inspection operations can have on border communities, and sees the national security value in pre-clearing freight before it crosses the border.
Paladino’s story is the story of the Rust Belt. An entrepreneur and real estate investor, who against the headwinds of global economic forces that crushed his hometown, was able to amass Western New York’s most wide-ranging portfolio of properties and nearly half a billion dollars of family wealth.
He is a son of the industrial working-class neighborhoods of East Lovejoy and South Buffalo and saw big-government social programs of the 1960s and 1970s — like public housing, slum clearance, and school busing — that utterly crushed once-bustling neighborhoods and caused a mighty industrial city to collapse into a state of urban decay that was (and continues to be) among the very worst in America.
In the 1970s and 1980s, Paladino saw industrial restructuring that sent lots of production to lower-taxed states in the South and West — but rather than investing in real estate in Florida and Arizona, he invested in his hometown, most often in hard scrabble neighborhoods that fell on hard times but hoped for a better day. As much as anyone, Paladino understands the full brunt of New York’s burdensome regulations and punishing taxes.
“Carl Paladino would be the best United States Ambassador to Canada that there has ever been — because the stakes of what can be accomplished are so near, dear, and personal to his hometown,” explains one source who volunteered extensively on the 2016 presidential campaign. “He is so passionate about the possibilities for places like Buffalo and Detroit that could come from a better trade relationship, that he is sure to knock it out of the ballpark.”
“Just the relationship building alone would be huge for Western New York. Imagine the Western New York business community being able to access these relationships with senior figures in the Canadian government and industry,” he asks. “It could be a transformational opportunity to cultivate new cross-border trade.”
It’s thought that Paladino might serve in the role as a recess apointment through January, or until such time as a permanent nominee is able to secure confirmation, without having to face any formal Senate confirmation process. According to Article II Section 2 of the constitution, the President can fill vacancies that happen during a recess without the Senate’s approval.
Paladino’s supporters liken the move to former President George W. Bush‘s recess appointment of John Bolton as United States Ambassador to the United Nations in August of 2005. Bolton served in that role until December 2006 without being confirmed by the Senate.
At the time, Bolton enjoyed strong support from nearly all but a few Republicans in the United States Senate, but he was unable to secure 60-votes needed for confirmation in that chamber because of controversial remarks that he made about the value of the United Nations.