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Usher of the Black Rod Kevin MacLeod enters the House of Commons as the MPs prepare to vote for a new Speaker, Nov. 18, 2008. (Tom Hanson/The Canadian Press/Tom Hanson/The Canadian Press)
Usher of the Black Rod Kevin MacLeod enters the House of Commons as the MPs prepare to vote for a new Speaker, Nov. 18, 2008. (Tom Hanson/The Canadian Press/Tom Hanson/The Canadian Press)

Behind the royal tour, a businesslike Usher of the Black Rod Add to ...

Kevin MacLeod is pushing deadline.

The Usher of the Black Rod, Canadian Secretary to the Queen, has hundreds of pages of "daily sheets" to get to press - schedules elucidating every walkabout, seating plan, bathroom break and meet-and-greet of the upcoming royal tour, "almost to the minute."

Those thick binders - along with a reference book with cheat sheets on everyone the couple is scheduled to meet - will be the bible of this week's royal visit, as Prince William and his wife, Kate, make their first foreign foray with a trip to Canada that's already garnering frenzied attention internationally.

And Mr. MacLeod is the man in charge of making the magic happen - of crafting a visit that's as much about the Canadian citizenry's relationship with the Royal Family as it is about showing the future king of Canada and his bride a good time.

He's got a fraction of the normal prep time in which to do it. So the stress is understandable.

You must be crazy busy.

Ah, yeah, there are a few things on the go.

How's it been?

It's been interesting. It's been challenging. But it's been kind of fun challenging. Normally, we have upwards of 12 months to organize a royal tour of this magnitude. In this case, we have three. It kind of makes the mind focus very quickly.

What are the challenges in this case?

Well, everything stems from the timeframe, because there's a prescribed process. It ranges from the delineation of what regions of the country are going to be visited, what the thematic of the visit is going to be. One of my personal challenges, at the federal level, is to ensure there's a proper balance in the program. Obviously you don't want to end up with 12 aboriginal events or 15 barbecues. You want there to be a very nice variety right across the country. Sometimes there's negotiations with the provinces and territories: "Might you want to consider doing an event like this?"

So who decides the theme?

I drafted one and shared it with the government, the Minister of Canadian Heritage, the Prime Minister's Office, and they thought it resonated well. It was submitted to the provinces and territories, and there was some tweaking along the way.

What's riding on this visit?

The modus operandi of this tour is to allow them to get to know Canada and Canadians better, but also to allow Canadians to get to know them. So it's a two-way street. … This is a huge opportunity - and I'm speaking sort of from a quasi-Machiavellian point of view - it's a tremendous opportunity for the world to have an interesting insight into Canada. So it's going to be a very important visit for a number of reasons.

Who chose the provinces and territories?

We tend to organize royal tours of Canada on a rotational basis. … So there is a formula that is used; it's not just by happenstance. For example, in the North, Her Majesty was in Nunavut in 2002, the Prince of Wales was in Yukon in 2001. So the last visit to the Northwest Territories was in 1994, by the Queen. So it was very much the Northwest Territories' turn, if you will.

How are they travelling?

I think we're the only Commonwealth country left where the Royal Family comes to Canada on a Canadian Forces aircraft. Mid-Atlantic, when they cross into Canadian airspace, they are here as members of the Canadian Royal Family. I'll be going to London in advance, and myself, the Canadian police officer and the Canadian equerry will be on board the aircraft when they leave London, and we will be taking a prominent role as soon as we cross into Canadian airspace.

So what happens when you cross the line?

Well, it's not as though I magically go running up to the front of the aircraft. It's highly symbolic, but very, very important.

If Canadians have been a little hazy on the details of how the monarchy works, are you hopeful this tour will change things?

I think it'll create a great deal of interest. And I think, once you've got someone's interest, you're in a much better position to say, "Well, once I've got your interest let me explain to you … ," that sort of thing.

So what's next, in terms of planning?

We have to go to print very, very soon on all the official documentation. You'll see us all carrying these binders containing what we call the daily sheets. It lists every single movement - seating in motorcades, seating in aircraft, movement from A to B to C. That's the bible we all use. There's also a large reference manual. So the people the royal couple are meeting, the history of Prince Edward Island, a bio of Premier [Robert]Ghiz, a bio of the Lieutenant-Governor. There's a huge amount of material.

How detailed are those?

It's almost minute-by-minute. But there, again, I refer to flexibility: If the royal couple is taking a walkabout and it's a scheduled 15-minute walkabout, well if they're enjoying themselves it's not Kevin MacLeod who's going to go and say, "Excuse me, Your Royal Highnesses, time is up. You have to go now."

This interview has been edited and condensed.


Prince William and his wife, Kate, arrive in Canada this week. Here's a quick look at their plans.

Thursday, June 30 - The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will attend a wreath-laying ceremony at the National War Memorial in Ottawa and drop by Rideau Hall to greet the Prime Minister and the Governor-General.

Friday, July 1 - The pair will sit in on a citizenship ceremony at the Canadian Museum of Civilization and join the noon-hour Canada Day show on Parliament Hill.

Saturday, July 2 - After two more brief appearances in Ottawa, William and Kate are off to Montreal for stops at a hospital and a tourism school.

Sunday, July 3 - Still in Montreal, the couple will go on board the frigate HMCS Montréal, then visit a centre for homeless youth.

Monday, July 4 - In Prince Edward Island, Prince William will pilot a Sea King helicopter while taking part in a search-and-rescue exercise with the Canadian Coast Guard.

Tuesday, July 5 - William and Kate join a session of the Northwest Territories' youth parliament in Yellowknife and meet members of the Canadian Rangers, the reservists who patrol Canada's north.

Wednesday, July 6 - No itinerary has been released for this day.

Thursday, July 7 - The royal couple will visit a University of Calgary research centre and attend an evening reception with Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Friday, July 8 -William and Kate kick off the 2011 Calgary Stampede Parade.

Kim Mackrael

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