The New York advertising executive tapped to be the next U.S. ambassador to Canada has various Canadian connections that date back to childhood vacations in the Gaspe Peninsula.

Friday, in a telephone interview from New York, Edward N. Ney declined to confirm his expected appointment. But he had seen a report of his selection in Friday's Globe and Mail and said, "Obviously, I'm not denying the story. I can't say anything. . . . Anything official has to come from the White House itself."Ney, who has close ties to President Bush, was an informal adviser on advertising during Bush's presidential campaign. He played a direct role in marketing the 1984 Reagan-Bush re-election victory and later served on the Board for International Broadcasting.

The Bush administration has referred the name of its choice to Ottawa as part of the diplomatic protocol required before an official announcement. In addition, such political appointments must also be approved by the Senate.

Assuming he is confirmed, Ney would replace Thomas Niles, a career State Department official who was recently named ambassador to the European Community. The Ney nomination is not expected to encounter any opposition from the Canadian government, which is anxious to forge as many political ties to the White House as possible.

Ney is a former chairman of Young and Rubicam, one of the world's largest advertising agencies, and is now chairman of Paine Webber-Young and Rubicam Ventures, a partnership that offers investment banking and marketing advice on friendly mergers and acquisitions.

Ney agreed to answer several questions, emphasizing that he spoke as an individual and not a would-be ambassador.

"It's a marvelous time to have a connection (with Canada)," he said ebulliently, referring to the free-trade pact that took effect Jan. 1. "What happened with the trade bill makes the whole thing important to the president and to my country."

He said he has "enormous respect" for Canada, citing friends and business contacts there.

"I've been going there since I was 3 years old," he said, recounting family trips to the Gaspe Peninsula and fishing trips for small-mouth bass. "I really had fun there."

Japan envoy chosen

President Bush picked State Department official Michael Armacost to be U.S. ambassador to Japan, the White House announced Friday.

Armacost, 51, would succeed Michael Mansfield in the key diplomatic post.

Under secretary of state for political affairs since 1984, Armacost served as ambassador to the Philippines from 1982 until 1984.