1. Sour Puss and tax policy at 'Lake Harrington.' Award-winning Alberta singer Jann Arden, whose haunting songs about doomed relationships belie a hilarious personality and perfect comedic timing, spent Sunday afternoon with Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his wife, Laureen, at their Gatineau Hills residence, Harrington Lake.
Ms. Arden related the story of her day with the prime ministerial couple at her concert last night. She was in Ottawa for two shows, Saturday and Sunday. She said she received an invitation from Laureen Harper, (herself a small-town Alberta girl), to go out to what Ms. Arden referred to as "Lake Harrington."
She and her little dog, who travels in a purse, were picked up by a friend of the Harpers and taken out to Gatineau. She said she barely recognized the "man in the toque" and blue jeans, who met her and just happened to be Prime Minister. She spent the day enjoying "Beaver Teeth" tarts (she was joking; they were actually Sugar Pie tarts) and having sips of Goldschlager (it's a liqueur with gold flecks in it) and a raspberry liqueur called Sour Puss.
Ms. Arden and Mrs. Harper really hit it off. During the show, Ms. Arden thanked Mrs. Harper for introducing her to the Prime Minister and allowing her to ask about "income taxes."
"Why, Stephen. Why?" Mrs. Harper attended the concert and clearly loved it as she sang along to many of Ms. Arden's hits.
As part of the show, meanwhile, Ms. Arden painted a picture on stage, signed it, and later auctioned it off to raise money for the Haitian relief effort. The painting - a Picasso-meets-Chagall-type figure of a woman with a heart in her chest - raised $2,500. Her Saturday night painting raised $4,000. Not bad money for three minutes of art on stage. These funds will be matched by the federal government.
In addition to spending the afternoon at Harrington Lake, Ms. Arden was given a tour of 24 Sussex Drive. She said that she was struck by the fact that the Prime Minister had a copy of Hockey for Dummies in the prime ministerial bookshelves. Stephen Harper is a huge hockey fan and is working on a book about the history of hockey.
2. The genesis of the Haitian mission. Canada's Haitian earthquake relief effort began in a Challenger jet at 35,000 feet as it was flying from Edmonton to Ottawa. Chief of Defence Staff Walter Natynczyk told CTV's Question Period yesterday the story of how the pieces fell together to mount what is an incredible Canadian effort.
The General was in Alberta visiting wounded soldiers: "It [the earthquake] occurred while I was there," he said. "I found out while we were driving to the airport that there was an earthquake. I didn't really understand the magnitude until we were actually up in the air."
Gen. Natynczyk said it was fortunate they were flying in a Challenger jet, which has a communications suite that allowed him to immediately contact Defence Minister Peter MacKay and his operational commander. "And basically from the moment we understood the magnitude, we were at 35,000 feet crossing Canada, we started putting all the pieces in place to get the reconnaissance team of the DART, the Disaster Assistance Relief Team, to get them to move," he said. "We started putting all the pieces in place … just before dawn broke the next morning they were moving."
The Chief of Defence Staff said he initially requested a large number of troops - in fact there will be nearly 2,000 Canadian troops in Haiti this week - to ensure that this operation was done properly. The government had no problem supporting his request.
3. An eyewitness account. Air Canada Chief Operating Officer Duncan Dee flew to Haiti on Saturday, delivering 50,000 pounds of cargo, two doctors and 10 relief workers. Air Canada, along with the Onexone Foundation, brought back more than 100 evacuees, who applauded as the plane landed in Montreal.
Mr. Dee, meanwhile, was able to see and hear what exactly was going on at the Port-au-Prince airport. "I'm sitting in the flight deck on our descent into Port-au-Prince and I cannot be more proud to be Canadian," he told The Globe in an an email Saturday. "There are four aircraft on approach to the airport - three are Canadian - us, the Canadian Forces Hercules and a Canadian Forces C-17. The fourth is a Russian Ilyushin. The banter between the tower and the aircraft is music to our ears - 'Air Canada, CanForce, Air Canada, CanForce.' You'd think the only ones here are the Canadians."
Mr. Dee said that from the air everything appeared to be so "peaceful."
"We see small towns ringed by mountains, then the Caribbean. The only proof anything is wrong is a U.S. aircraft carrier sitting offshore, which we see clearly from 28,000 feet."
Mr. Dee said air traffic control was being handled by the Haitians but the Americans controlled the tower and ground control. Space and accommodating the planes is a problem, he said, as the tarmac was never designed to handle such large planes, too. The other issue is the unannounced humanitarian flights.
"As we circled for approximately two hours, there were three flights (one Dominican, one South African and one American) that attempted to request clearance to land and yet never applied for a land slot," he wrote. "The Haitian air traffic control told them that they couldn't land several times and yet they asked if they could continue circling in hopes that a slot would free up. These unannounced flights not only cause huge headaches for an already strained situation, they also take up the time of already, over-burdened air traffic controllers who are working under very challenging circumstances and trying to manage the many flights that do hold landing slots."