Posts Tagged ‘Saskatchewan’

October 17, 2009: Saskatchewan

Sunday, October 18th, 2009

We had breakfast with the Lieutenant Governor of Saskatchewan, Gordon Barnhart and then took a tour of the Depot Division of the RCMP where Assistant Commissioner Dale McGowan showed us the training facilities that are the first step for every RCMP recruit. After a turn in the driving simulator I realized I don’t have a career ahead of me in law enforcement.

At the RCMP chapel in Regina

At the RCMP chapel in Regina

We then drove from Regina to Saskatoon. The countryside was beautiful and we were lucky enough to drive past two lakes where the snow geese were assembling for their trip south. When we were approaching the first lake I saw tens of thousands of white lumps on the lake. I had no idea what they were. As we got closer I was amazed at the assemblage. I understand they congregate in the same locations every year. How do they know?

We then joined Peter MacKinnon, the President of the University of Saskatchewan for a tour of the Canadian Light Source Synchrotron. Since I am not a nuclear physicist I must say a lot of the technology went over my head. But I was impressed that the largest science project in Canada was located in Saskatoon. I was also impressed with the level of cooperation between the CLS and similar projects in the United States and around the world. A similar facility is being built in Lebanon for researchers from nations in the Middle East. World leaders (and diplomats) have a lot to learn from scientists.

After watching the Stampeders and the Roughriders on TV fight to a tie (which allowed me to be diplomatic to my friends in both Alberta and Saskatchewan) we had dinner with Rob Norris, the Saskatchewan Minister of Advanced Education, Employment and Labor, along with his wife Martha (who is a professor of American History at the University of Saskatchewan) and a large group of people who are active in civic affairs. Their pride in Saskatoon and Saskatchewan was palpable.
One thing Rob mentioned was that the room we were eating in was the same one where he and many Saskatoon citizens had watched the returns on November 4 when Barack Obama was elected. That a group of citizens from Saskatoon were interested enough in the US political process to spend their night watching our results was very rewarding and emblematic of the closeness of our two people.

Tomorrow it’s off to Manitoba.

Regina, Saskatchewan

Saturday, October 17th, 2009

Friday morning we took the short flight from Calgary to Regina. We met our hosts for the day, Premier Brad Wall and his lovely wife Tami. Julie and Tami toured Regina while the Premier and I had a great discussion of our political experiences, the challenges and opportunities facing Saskatchewan and western Canada, and the close state of the relationship between his province and the United States – particularly the neighboring states of Montana and North Dakota. I also got a detailed briefing on Saturday’s big game between the Roughriders and the Stampeders. (Premier Wall has a weekly sports radio show where he makes his picks in the CFL and the NFL.) Among other things, I learned that Saskatchewan is responsible for about 1/3 of the world’s mustard production. So the next time I have a hot dog at Wrigley Field in Chicago I’ll be thinking of Saskatchewan!!

Premier Brad Wall and Ambassador Jacobson

Premier Brad Wall and Ambassador Jacobson

We also had a chance to visit with Don Toth, the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan, June Draude, the Provincial Secretary, and a variety of civic, business and educational leaders in the Province. The Premier and I then flew to the world’s largest carbon capture and storage (CCS) facility located in Weyburn, Saskatchewan. This is a great story and could be part of the solution to address carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in Canada, the United States and around the world. I learned that CO2 from the Great Plains coal gasification plant in Beulah, North Dakota is compressed and shipped via pipeline to a mature oil field in Weyburn where it is used for enhanced oil recovery.

At a CO2 capture project site in Weyburn, Saskatchewan

At a CO2 capture project site in Weyburn, Saskatchewan

The CO2 is pumped in to the existing well structure at very high pressures where it mixes with the oil trapped in the rock and allows the oil to escape. As the oil is brought back to the surface, the CO2 is separated and recycled back into the wells for the next loop to extract more oil. Not only does this enhanced oil recovery process allow Weyburn to continue producing 28,000 barrels per day from wells that would otherwise have been abandoned, it will store over 30 million tons of CO2 during the life of the project (through 2035). That reduction in greenhouse gas emissions is equivalent to getting 6.7 million cars off the road for a year. While this project does seem to be a great success, there is still much work and study that needs to be done before it can be used commercially in other contexts such as to capture the CO2 at coal fired power plants. I was pleased to see the level of cooperation between the coal gasification plant in my country and the CCS facility in Canada.

The Ambassador with Royal Regina Rifles Regiment Reservists

The Ambassador with Royal Regina Rifles Regiment Reservists

But the highlight of the day was unquestionably the chance Julie and I had to go with Premier Wall to a dinner honoring a group of Royal Regina Rifles Regiment Reservists who are about to deploy to Afghanistan. It truly was my honor to meet and talk with these young men (one of whom was about to embark on this third tour of duty in Afghanistan). It reminded me and Julie that we are not sending statistics or even just soldiers off to war. We are sending people. Brave young men and women with mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers and wives and husbands. I hope to welcome them back upon their safe return. It was a humbling experience to be in their presence. DJ