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Bruce Heyman asked to leave, announces departure effective inauguration day

U.S. ambassador Bruce Heyman resigning

OTTAWA — Bruce Heyman is stepping down as the top representative of the United States government in Canada, forced out of his post alongside other political appointees as president-elect Donald Trump prepares to take office.

The U.S. ambassador will step down effective Jan. 20, the day Trump is officially sworn in as president, Heyman said in a statement Friday that makes it clear he is not giving up the job of his own volition.

"As requested, I have resigned as U.S. ambassador to Canada effective (Jan. 20)," Heyman said in a message posted on Twitter and Facebook.

"(Wife Vicki) and I will depart on or around that date."

His wife later added a statement of her own, calling it an "honour and complete delight" to represent the U.S. in Canada. "We will miss all of you but promise to stay in touch."

The New York Times reported this week that Trump's transition team had issued a blanket request that ambassadors appointed by President Barack Obama surrender their posts by inauguration day.

The Times said the order was delivered by a State Department cable just before Christmas.

A State Department official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed the White House "requested and received resignations from all politically appointed chiefs of mission," calling the move "standard practice."

The edict could leave Canada and other countries without diplomatic representation from the U.S. for several months as their successors undergo a lengthy confirmation process.

For Canada, it removes — albeit temporarily — a vital connection with the U.S. government as a dispute brews between the two countries over softwood lumber exports.

The U.S. International Trade Commission found Friday there was a reasonable claim that softwood lumber products from Canada materially injured American producers, setting the stage for the imposition of preliminary duties that could force plant closures and job losses in Canada's struggling construction lumber sector.

Several former incoming presidents, including Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, have made exceptions to allow ambassadors to wrap up personal affairs before departing their posts, especially those with school-aged children. The Heymans have three grown children and three grandchildren.

Within a couple of hours of his announced resignation, there were nearly 100 responses on Heyman's Facebook page, with many urging him to remain politically active south of the border.

"Please continue to make a difference on your home soil," wrote Melanie Jean Wills of Gatineau, Que. "Your country needs people like you more than ever right now. Don't be silent."

Heyman has served as ambassador to Canada since being appointed by President Barack Obama in early 2014.

Gerald Butts, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's senior political adviser, commented on the news, saying the couple "served your country with honour."

"We'll miss you guys," Butts wrote.

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Terry Pedwell, The Canadian Press