I know I have been a real deadbeat at making blog entries. But Parliament is back in session. So I guess I should be too.
Just so you don’t think I have been asleep at the switch over the last few weeks, let me give you a few highlights.
The week before last, Speaker Pelosi and Congressman Markey visited Ottawa. They were here to listen and learn about energy and environmental issues in Canada. They met with elected officials, industry leaders, heads of environmental groups, and chiefs of First Nations. Pretty much everything that happened was extensively reported and commented on by the press. So let me give you a couple of things the press hasn’t covered.
Speaker Pelosi was unfailingly kind to everyone she met. I know this isn’t what the press typically focuses on with public figures. But it was certainly true. I always believe you can tell a great deal about people based on the little things they do for people who aren’t in obvious positions to return the favors. While I could make a long list about the Speaker, two come quickly to mind. First, when we were meeting with the group of environmental NGOs and First Nation Chiefs, we were planning on going around the table in an order that had been agreed upon by the NGOs and the First Nations. Speaker Pelosi insisted on reversing the order. Explaining that the Chiefs were from the FIRST Nations and that she wanted to start with a better understanding of how the oil sands had impacted their communities. Later, we were at the airport as she was about to leave. She delayed her military plane while she stopped and had her pictures taken with EVERYONE: The RCMP who had been with her on the trip. The staff at the airport. The drivers. Everyone. And she had small gifts and mementos for every single person. Pretty nice.
During one of our meetings we were talking about the U.S. Stimulus package. Congressman Markey told a wonderful joke which made his point very effectively. There was a boy who hates kreplach (a Jewish traditional food which is kind of like ravioli – this joke would probably get more laughs in New York). Every time his mother serves it he says “Oh no. I hate kreplach.” One day his mother has had enough and she takes the kreplach apart for her son. She says, “You like meat don’t you?” The son says, “of course.” She says, “You like potatoes don’t you?” The son says, “Yes.” She says, “You like dough don’t you?” The son says, “Sure.” The mother then rolls up the ingredients and hands them back to her son who says: “Oh no. I hate kreplach.” As the Congressman explained, people love the tax cuts in the stimulus. They love the money for alternative energy. They love the money for schools and roads. But they hate the stimulus.
Last week I went to Saskatchewan and Alberta. I started out with a tour 640 meters underground at the world’s largest uranium mine in McArthur River. Then I went to Saskatoon where I gave a speech about energy and the environment. I followed it up with a meeting with a group of students at the University of Saskatchewan. I love these events. Students invariably ask the best questions. And their enthusiasm is infectious. It was also fun to run into two students I had met at the G-20 meetings in Toronto as part of the global student leaders meetings.
The next morning we flew to Calgary were I gave another speech on energy and the environment and met with the editorial board of the Calgary Herald. I’ll let them cover the substance of our conversations. But one thing I must mention is that we visited the tree they planted in front of the building to honor Michelle Lang, the reporter who was with us in Afghanistan last Christmas and who was killed there two days after we left. I said to her former colleagues what I said at the time. She loved her work. And she did it very well.
On Thursday morning we drove to Banff to attend the Global Business Forum. Great sessions with a group of very interesting people. There were two highlights – at least for me. First, my three predecessors, Ambassadors Giffin, Cellucci, and Wilkins were on a panel together to talk about the upcoming midterm elections in the U.S. and the impact they might have on Canada. I was very happy to see that there was life after being an Ambassador. It also made it clear to me why everyone tells me my predecessors were so great. (And why the long-time staff at the Embassy tells me I ought to be funnier.) Second, I was on a panel with Ambassador Doer where we talked about the status of U.S.-Canada relations. We both agreed they were generally great except for the hard feelings south of the border about hockey!
I then flew to Montreal to have dinner with Julie and my son on his 21st birthday – pretty special.
I finally made it back to Ottawa where I spoke on Sunday morning at the Terry Fox Run. Then on Sunday night we began a three day meeting with the seven United States Consuls General from around Canada where we plan for the future and compare notes on the past. We just finished up that meeting with a walk in Gatineau Park and lunch at the Mackenzie King Tea Room.
Lots going on. I am going to try to keep up a little better so these things don’t have to be sooooooo long!!!