The Reminder is making its archives back to 2003 available on our website. Please note that, due to technical limitations, archive articles are presented without the usual formatting.
Mitchell Sharp and I went together to Beijing in 1972, intentÐand succeedingÐin bringing Red China into the world community and out of its insulation; strange, since it contained more people on earth than any other nation. This would be, of course, Pierre Trudeau's plan to officially recognize the communist regimeÐbefore Washington nervously got around to doing the same thing. Sharp was our External Affairs Minister. We took along, on Canadian Pacific Airlines, 200 Canadian businessmen to set up a two-week trade fair. The corporate crew set out to do business. This scribbler tucked into the Chinese chow. The French think, as we all know, that they are kings of cuisine around the globe. The Chinese, as they demonstrated this trip, regard the French as promising apprentices, trying to master the sauces and juices and nuances of the dinner table that the Inner Kingdom taught them centuries past. It's the same as when Marco Polo, coming back on the famous Silk Road to his hometown Venice bearing, along with spices and jewels, noodles. And the Italians now think they invented pasta. (It's a standard Beijing line that Chou en-Lai was asked what he thought of the French Revolution. His answer? "It's too early to tell.") We all know that Trudeau, as a bearded, sandal-wearing young man, roamed the world, as any rich kid could doÐand went to China, along with a companion he later appointed to the Senate. He had some understanding of the place. And, obviously, wanted to beat Washington to the punch. This all comes to mind, last week, as we attend beneath the magnificent vaulted roof of Christ Church Cathedral in Ottawa, just above the river, for a wonderfully-named "In Thanksgiving for the Life of Mitchell Sharp, P.C., C.C." Anyone who is anyone in Canada was there. If you weren't there, you're nobody. Otto Lang, Rhodes Scholar, Trudeau cabinet minister, flew in from Winnipeg, Mitchell's home town. The place dripped with grey-haired mandarins who could have come from Central Casting and graceful matrons whose black hose revealed very neat knees. As always, even at a wonderful funeralÐfunerals are not for the dead, they are for the livingÐwas the vicious politics that makes Ottawa such a delicious town. The new prime minister sat six pews ahead of the previous prime minister and did not talk, or acknowledge, him. The previous prime minister delivered the opening eulogy and did a wonderful job. Understandable, since Sharp discovered this young ambitious kid from Quebec, definitely unilingual, and made him his parliamentary secretary. And took him one day to a meeting with the poohbah of the Bank of Canada, the finance minister, and heads of Big Five banks to discuss interest rates, the bond market, state of the dollar and such. As they left, as Chretien explained to the funeral audience, Sharp explained to the rookie everything said in that room was sub rosa. "Done worry, Mister Sharp," said the rookie, "I dinna unnerstan a god-damn ting." And the former prime minister, to applauseÐa rather unusual thing at a funeral, the scribbler thoughtÐstepped down from the podium and walked past the present prime minister and neither one acknowledged the other. Such is petty politics. As more than one pundit has pointed out, the new prime minister is running against the Liberal party that gave him the throne. A strange tactic, which may or may not work with the voters at the election that now cannot come until the fall, thanks to the incumbent's goofy tactics that are not working. To add to the juvenile activity, the mob of anyone who was anyone in Canada was invited to go to the Cathedral Hall affixed next door for "a sharing of refreshments, memories and friendship." The former prime minister and ever-gracious wife attended. The present prime minister fled in his limo. Such is Canada. Such is the Liberal party. X x x AND ANOTHER THING When Mitchell and I arrived back in Canada on Labour Day of 1972 we found the revolution in fact was not in China but in British California because after 20 years the NDP under Dave Barrett, the first Jew to become a Canadian Premier, had just overthrown Wacky Bennett's Social Credit. Bad timing.