Updated Wed. Feb. 15 2006 8:47 AM ET

Michael Wilson will be Canada's next ambassador to Washington.

Michael Wilson will be Canada's next ambassador to Washington.

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Harper to name Wilson as U.S. ambassador: CTV

CTV.ca News Staff

Michael Wilson, a high-profile cabinet minister under Brian Mulroney, will be Canada's next ambassador to Washington, CTV News has learned.

The appointment of Wilson, 68, to the plum diplomatic post is expected to be widely welcomed in Washington.

CTV's Ottawa Bureau Chief Bob Fife says Wilson is well known in American political and financial circles, largely because he helped negotiate the Canada-United States Free Trade Agreement.

"This is a guy who can pick up the phone and call Dick Cheney, the Senate Majority leader, or President Bush's chief of staff," Fife said, adding that the announcement is expected to be made at the end of the week.

The Toronto-born Wilson was a Bay Street investment executive when he stepped on to the political stage in 1979.

He ran for the Progressive Conservative crown at the 1983 leadership convention. However, he dropped off after the first ballot and urged his supporters to vote for Mulroney, the eventual winner.

Wilson is best known as the federal finance minister who introduced the much-maligned Goods and Services Tax in 1990 during his tenure in Mulroney's cabinet. In 1989, however, he had to read his budget out in a public telecast during a NHL playoff game after a copy was leaked to the media.

Besides finance, Wilson also served as minister of industry, science, technology and international trade. In that capacity, he helped negotiate the FTA.

Wilson didn't seek re-election in the 1993 federal election that saw the Tories decimated.

After quitting politics, he returned to Bay Street and joined RBC Dominion Securities.

In 2004, Wilson was named to the Order of Canada for serving as a "force for positive change throughout his career."

The Governor General's office applauded Wilson, who has been an outspoken advocate of mental health issues since losing his son to suicide, for his "inspiring example of selflessness" that "motivated business leaders across the country to become active in public service."

In 2005, then-health minister Ujjal Dosanjh appointed Wilson as a special adviser to the ministry on mental health in the federal government workplace.

Though he bowed out of the public life, he served as Ontario's Conservative campaign co-chair in the most recent federal campaign.

Currently, Wilson serves as the chairman of the investment bank UBS Canada.

Frank McKenna, Canada's current ambassador to the United States, resigned shortly after the Liberals lost the Jan. 23 federal election, less than a year after then-prime minister Paul Martin appointed him to the crucial diplomatic post.

McKenna said he would have liked to have stayed longer, but had no choice except to resign, knowing Washington demands evidence that a country's envoy has the ear of its leader.

Speculation that McKenna might seek the federal Liberal leadership proved to be groundless, as he announced at the end of January that he would be returning to private life.

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