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Allan Fotheringham Editorial

Wallin's performance a hit
The Review (Niagara Falls)
Fri 05 Aug 2005
Page: A4
Section: Editorial & Opinion
Byline: Allan Fotheringham
Column: Allan Fotheringham
Source: The Review

REGINA - Well, you see, it's Saskatchewan's 100th birthday this year and the stubble-jumpers will do anything to celebrate. Allan Fotheringham Webiste.

In May they brought in The Queen, who lives in another country - which is hard to explain to the children (and gave an honorary Doctor of Letters to a certain journalist.) Now they've brought in the Americans, who think we all live in igloos and think curling is the most stupid thing they have ever heard of.

This is the 60th annual meeting of something called the Midwestern Legislative Conference of The Council of State Governments - and the only time it has been held outside the United States.

Basically, it is legislators for 11 Midwest states - Wisconsin, Michigan, North Dakota, Minnesota etc. that bordering on Canada might have some slight knowledge (unlike from Alabama) about those of us who, as everyone in Mississippi knows, walk around in snow shoes on our way to the outdoor toilets.

There are some 500 bodies, including some reps from Manitoba, Ontario and Saskatchewan, busy from dawn to dusk with plenary sessions and "professional development meetings," interrupted each day only by a lunch that features, at each table, a large pitcher of water.

We thought the Dirty Thirties were over in the navel of the nation, but I guess wine hasn't progressed this far yet.

Things can't be completely dull, though, when the program dictated that over breakfast on Tuesday there would be a "roundtable discussion of an interstate issue: Deference Strategies and Penalties for Sexual Predators. Facilitated by Sen. Lee Schoenbeck, South Dakota." Just the thing to go with your Fruit Loops.

One of the disasters was luncheon speaker Morton Kondracke, giving A View from Washington. He is remembered from being senior editor of The New Republic from 1977-1991. He was also formerly the Washington bureau chief of Newsweek, a regular panelist on "This Week with David Brinkley" and a columnist for the Wall Street Journal.

He talked inside baseball about Washington gossip for a full hour - before he took questions.

Thus proving the old rule (this coming from someone who has covered 1,000 Rotary lunches) that anyone who speaks for more that 25 minutes should be shot.

This one was even worse than the Sexual Predators. There wasn't even enough water to go around.

One useful addition was a bright young Canadian, Colin Robertson, Minister and head of the Washington Advocacy Secretariat at the Canadian Embassy in Washington. As such, one takes it, the No. 2 go-to guy under Ambassador Frank McKenna.

He has served under four posts in the United States - New York twice, California and now Washington. And he agrees with this scribbler (therefore being very intelligent) that his boss will be the next Liberal leader in Ottawa.

Thus beating out John Manley, Allan Rock, Brian Tobin, Bob Rae and Michael Ignatieff. You read it here last.

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AND A SECOND THING One of the major hits of the conference was the performance of Pamela Wallin, the little thrush from Wadena, Sask., which is just down the road from Floral, Sask., birthplace of Gordie Howe.

Now of course our Consul-General in New York, she knows something about Americans and the Yankee gang here loved her speech. She got paid nothing, naturally, and the high-paid Morton K. could learn something from her about the length of a speech.

She wasn't shot and the applause would never stop.

Wallin, the first woman to become a bureau chief on Parliament Hill, was the emcee at that memorable We Love New York night in when she led 23,000 Canadians to Manhattan after 9/11. She likes Americans so much she can tell them the truth - coming from Tommy Douglas's Saskatchewan, the first spot in North America to invent medicare. (And where her father who just suffered a stroke may have to go to Alberta for treatment.)

She told the crowd that being a diplomat was "a journalist's dream," actually having the time to get to know a country, rather than racing to a deadline while hardly getting off the plane.

She told them of how 90 per cent of Canadians live within 100 miles of the U.S., of how surveys show 80 per cent of Americans believe in God while only 30 per cent of Canadians think religion is a large part of their life.

She pointed out that Canada does more trade with Home Depot in Atlanta, Ga., than it does with France.

And that Pierre Berton said it best: "Canada is like vichyssoise - cold, half-French and hard to stir."

Allan Fotheringham is a nationally syndicated columnist. He can be reached through:

 

Edition: Final
Story Type: Column
Length: 778 words