Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the appointment of Dominic Barton — who grew up in Chilliwack — as Canada’s Ambassador to China.
The PMO announcement cited Barton’s experience in Asia, his mastery of global economics, and stint advising cabinet as relevant background for the appointment.
Those were some of the reasons why he’ll make “a great choice to represent Canada — and Canadian interests — in China,” PM Trudeau was quoted as saying in the Sept. 4 release.
Barton will advise the PM directly on China, with the delicate goal of mending the relationship between the two countries, since his predecessor, John McCallum was forced to step down in January after key missteps.
Barton said he looks forward to the new challenge.
“It is an honour to be appointed as Canada’s Ambassador to China. The relationship between Canada and China is an important one, and I will work hard to represent our great country and to resolve the challenges that currently exist,” Barton said.
Some folks remember when Barton was a teenager in Chilliwack.
Barry Penner, a former B.C. Liberal cabinet minister and long-time MLA for Chilliwack-Kent, remembers the Barton family moving to Chilliwack in the mid-1970s. They lived on Edson Drive near Sardis secondary, and that’s where Penner met Anthony, Dominic’s younger brother.
One day, Anthony brought an election sign and stickers into the classroom, which was not appreciated one bit by the teacher of a different political persuasion, Penner remembered. The lawn sign was for Alexander Patterson, the sitting Tory MP.
“I remember that Dominic was quite active politically as a member of the Fraser Valley Young Progressive Conservatives,” Penner said.
His dad, Rev. John Barton was the rector at St. John’s Anglican, where the Tory MP at the time, Alexander Patterson, attended church.
MP Patterson represented the PCs from 1972 to 1984 for Fraser Valley East.
“It’s interesting that he (Barton) seems pretty close these days to the Prime Minister and (Foreign Affairs Minister) Chrystia Freeland,” Penner said.
It’s clear Barton had a taste for politics from quite early on.
An excellent student, Barton was a scholarship winner and a champion debater while at Sardis Secondary.
He enjoyed the privilege of attending the Forum for Young Canadians in Ottawa in 1980, where he toured the House of Commons and participated in mock Parliament as the leader of the Opposition.
“It was a great opportunity to meet people and see how Canada is run,” Barton is quoted as saying in an April 9, 1980 story in the Chilliwack Progress, maybe foreshadowing a tad.
He raised $400 on his own to attend the forum in the nation’s capital.
Barton was also mentioned in The Progress, for his valedictorian speech of June 18, 1980, where he waxes eloquent on the shining potential of his classmates:
“Barton exhorted the gathering of parents and friends to recognize the abilities and eagerness of the graduating class in tackling the problems that lie ahead for us all,” according to The Progress article.
“He pressed his point saying, ‘And those of you who don’t think there are problems and an energy crisis — wake up!’”
Barton eventually graduated from the University of British Columbia with an Honours Bachelor of Arts in Economics, and studied as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University, where he obtained his Master of Philosophy in Economics.
He also holds eight honourary doctorates from academic institutions around the world.
But it’s Barton’s expertise in Asia that will serve him particularly well in the new role.
He is a Senior Trustee of the Brookings Institution, a member of the Singapore Economic Development Board’s International Advisory Council, and a member of the boards of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City and the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada.
He is one of the founders of FCLTGlobal (Focusing Capital on the Long Term), has co-authored four books, and is an Adjunct Professor at Tsinghua University in Beijing. He chaired Trudeau’s Economic Growth advisory council, and became chair of Teck Resources last October. From 2009 to 2018, Barton was the global managing partner at McKinsey & Co., gaining prodigious experience in international business and trade.