The last three days have been very busy traversing the Atlantic Provinces. On Thursday after a meeting at the Newfoundland Department of Natural Resources we spent the morning taking a tour of St. John’s. The highlight was Signal Hill which is the place where Marconi received the first wireless signal from Europe. While that’s pretty special, the thing that I will remember most about the place is how windy it was. I come from the Windy City and I have never seen anything quite like Signal Hill. I took some pictures of the beautiful scenery but I could barely stand up and it was impossible to keep the camera steady.
The Consul General , Anton Smith and I had lunch with Mayor Dennis O’Keefe and a group of civic leaders from St. John’s where we discussed energy, local politics and local history.
Ambassador Jacobson with Mayor Dennis O'Keefe of St. John's, Newfoundland
Afterward we flew from St. John’s to Halifax for a major international security conference put on by the German Marshall Fund of the United States. But before we left the airport in Halifax we got a tour of the U.S. border preclearance facilities which make it much easier for travelers from both the United States and Canada to fly across the border.
In preparation for the conference, a large number of political and military leaders were streaming in to Halifax from around the world. One of them was U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates. I met him at the foot of his plane. It was a thrill to see a big blue and white plane pull up that says “United States of America” across the fuselage.
On Friday morning I attended a meeting between Secretary Gates and his Canadian counterpart, Defense Minister Peter MacKay at the Citadel in Halifax. It was explained to us that the Citadel, which was built in 1749 ended up costing twice its budget. And by the time it was completed, military technology had advanced to the point where it was indefensible. All of the senior military figures in attendance got a kick out of that one.
After the meeting we all headed for the opening of the International Security Forum and speeches by both Minister MacKay and Secretary Gates. Then we launched in to two days of panel discussions on a range of security topics ranging from pirates to the Arctic to the role of law in international affairs. One particularly interesting panel was about the way forward in Afghanistan with Senator John McCain, (Ret’d) Gen. Rick Hillier, Najam Sethi, the editor of the Pakistani newspaper “The Daily Times”, and Michael Semple of Harvard who has lived and worked in Afghanistan for many years. As I told Minister MacKay, I have been to many conferences over the years on a wide variety of topics. But the discussion of Afghanistan was about the best thing I had ever seen at any of them.
Ambassador Jacobson, Senator John McCain and Senator Mark Udall and staff
I ducked out of one session to meet with Darrell Dexter the Premier of Nova Scotia. We had a great conversation about energy (he had just returned from a meeting with the Atlantic Premiers in Churchill Falls where they had talked about the Hydro Quebec/New Brunswick Power deal) and our respective backgrounds. It turns out we are both the first in our families to graduate from college and both of our fathers had similar jobs. The Premier’s father was a sheet metal worker. My father made medicine cabinets out of sheet metal.
Ambassador Jacobson in New Brunswick with the Confederation Bridge to PEI in the background
On Sunday morning we got an early start and drove from Halifax to Charlottetown. This gave me a chance to see the Confederation Bridge (Charlottetown is the “Cradle of Canadian Confederation”) which stretches for 8 miles from New Brunswick to PEI. We spent some time driving around the rolling hills of the PEI countryside (reminds me of Iowa) and then had lunch in Charlottetown. We are now in the car driving back across the Confederation Bridge on our way to Fredericton to have dinner with New Brunswick Premier Shawn Graham.