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From left, Malawi's Callista Mutharika, Japan's Nabuko Kan, Russia's Svetlana Medvedeva, Canada's Laureen Harper, Ban Soon-taek from the United Nations, the Eurpopean Council's Geertrui Van Rompuy, Nigeria's Patience Goodluck Jonathan and Margarida Barroso of the European Commission sign a canoe in Toronto (Chris Young/CP)
From left, Malawi's Callista Mutharika, Japan's Nabuko Kan, Russia's Svetlana Medvedeva, Canada's Laureen Harper, Ban Soon-taek from the United Nations, the Eurpopean Council's Geertrui Van Rompuy, Nigeria's Patience Goodluck Jonathan and Margarida Barroso of the European Commission sign a canoe in Toronto (Chris Young/CP)

Spouses make do with second-best Add to ...

Some spouses of the G20 leaders were cheated out of two of the summit's most-hyped sights Friday: the Muskoka landscape and U.S. first lady Michelle Obama.

While the G8 leaders took in the real scent of pine and in-person lake views at Deerhurst Resort, a small group of political spouses settled for the best Muskoka experience their host Laureen Harper's staff could create in the sprawling Territories Room at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel in Toronto.

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"It was logistics and so everyone could have the experience of Muskoka in Toronto," Prime Minister's Office spokesperson Julie Carmichael said.

The most-anticipated guest among the spouses, Ms. Obama, was a no-show. The White House confirmed that the wife of U.S. President Barack Obama will arrive in Toronto Saturday.

It was another disappointment for Ms. Harper, whose other high-profile invitees, Carla Bruni and Samantha Cameron, also were absent. Only four official-member spouses participated, as well as three partners of non-member invitees.

The small group of women spent the morning and afternoon at the Royal York, where an Algonquin craftsperson demonstrated beading on baby moccasins, and Parry Sound, Ont., boat builder Pam Wedd from Bearwood Canoe Company taught them how to make ribbed canoes. The spouses then signed two canoes, which will be donated to Camp Oochigeas, a program for children with cancer, and Camp Huronda, a network of national camps for children and youth with type 1 diabetes.

After their arts-and-crafts session, the women were treated to a summery lunch, taking their taste buds to Huntsville with a soup made from chilled Muskoka strawberries, peppered organic cream and drunken berries.

That course was followed by a fillet of freshwater pickerel served with nasturtium butter and fennel pollen, dill braised carrots, cauliflower puree and a sweet summer pea emulsion.

Then they were served a treat almost as Canadian as the BeaverTail: an Algonquin canoe filled with mascarpone cranberry mousse and a chocolate canoe paddle. They sipped on Cabernet Rose from the Niagara region.

When G8 leaders returned to Toronto Friday night, they were still sequestered from their partners for a working dinner. The spouses ate on their own.

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