Something from Saskatchewan
Because this issue is hot in the news today, I interrupt all this commentary and speculation for a very Canadian anecdote -- one of my favourites.
Back in 1994, when Jean Chretien conducted his first Team Canada trade mission to China, he liked to tell a story about the tour's significance in the eyes of the Chinese government. In fact, he said, the Chinese leadership saw the Canadian visitors as so important that they dispatched their minister of trade to accompany the tour as it made its way through China. Chretien joked that he could never remember/pronounce the minister's name, so he simply gave him a nickname related to the minister's top-of-mind concern. Potash. Chretien called the minister: Mr./Monsieur Potash.
Flash forward a month or two after the tour and Chretien was out in the West, giving a speech. He pulled out the anecdote, now oft-told. Except that this time he couldn't remember the nickname he gave to the man whose name he couldn't remember. (Chretien's forgetfulness around names was legendary.) So he said instead: "I called him.... [long pause] something from Saskatchewan."
This is the part of the story I love. The crowd started tossing out suggestions. "Wheat?" a couple of people in the audience prodded. "No, no," Chretien said, "not wheat."
Finally, someone yelled out: "Potash?"
"That's it," Chretien said. "I called him Mr. Potash."
I think I like this story so much because it says so much about Canadian generosity, and even some forgiving affection toward their politicians. Rather than boo or taunt the prime minister who couldn't remember names or a vital Saskatchewan resource, they leaped in to help. It's an anecdote with only a tenuous connection to today's events, but it's fun to have even a flimsy excuse to put it down in writing.