1. They're lumberjacks, and that's okay. Monty Python made fun of Canadians with their lumberjack song, but in Haiti the nickname is one of respect. Defence Minister Peter MacKay told The Globe this morning that the engineers aboard HMCS Halifax, which arrived a few days ago in Jacmel, are being referred to by locals as the "lumberjacks."
"The engineers aboard the HMCS Halifax, they are doing so much woodcutting and clearing of the road because, as you can imagine, there was just devastation around the roads and mobility is so important. But they are referring to the Canadian soldiers there as the 'lumberjacks,' clearing roads and removing rubble."
The Defence Minister said the field hospital that is coming from the Canadian Forces base in Petawawa, Ont,. should be in the region by mid-week. Capacity of the Jacmel airport is also being increased to allow for increased air traffic. There are now 1,200 soldiers on the ground in Haiti.
Meanwhile, there is no ministerial briefing on Haiti this morning as Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon is off to Washington to meet U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in advance of the Montreal reconstruction conference scheduled Monday.
2. Jean Chrétien's Olympic vow. If you see a 76-year-old man who looks vaguely like a former prime minister being dropped by helicopter on to a B.C. mountain full of powder any time soon you'll be looking at Jean Chrétien.
Seven years ago, Mr. Chrétien made a vow to a Norwegian friend, who was in charge of checking out venues in British Columbia for the Vancouver's Olympic bid, that if Canada won the 2010 Winter Games, he would go heli-skiing. Mr. Chrétien recalled yesterday that he was 69 when he made that promise.
Well? As he says, "I always keep my word."
In Vancouver yesterday for a speech, he corralled Premier Gordon Campbell into his daredevil world. Mr. Campbell credited him publicly for helping to win the bid - at the time, the prime minister jumped on a plane, traveled to Prague, where the Olympic leadership was deciding on the host city, and lobbied in between the ballots. Vancouver won by three votes on the second ballot edging out South Korea. The B.C. Premier has promised to join Mr. Chrétien heli-skiing.
The former prime minister, who was headed to Saudi Arabia from Vancouver last night, says he was out practicing Quebec's Mont-Sainte-Anne last weekend. He's a bit of an extreme athlete, especially for a guy in his mid-70s.
(Photo: Canadian troops hit the ground in Jacmel this week. Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)