Her Excellency visits one of Nova Scotia’s ‘crown jewels’

by Mike Girard


On a sunny, warm, late June afternoon in Lunenburg the crew of the Bluenose II worked hard polishing the brass and wood of the nation's most famous schooner while waiting for their viceregal visitor, the Governor General of Canada, Julie Payette.

"This place is so beautiful," the former astronaut said as she walked to the wharf from the Fisherman's Memorial statue.

Welcomed to the iconic Nova Scotia fishing community and UNESCO World Heritage site by Premier Stephen McNeil and Lunenburg Mayor, Rachel Bailey, the Governor General strolled along the wharf stopping to say hi and shake hands with onlookers.

Payette took obvious pleasure connecting with the dozens of children and teenagers that lined the wharf to welcome her to town.

Two children in particular had a special chat with the Governor General. After a short exchange with a young brother and sister, that included "high fives" from Payette, the little girl's eyes opened wide with a smile to match when she was told that Payette was a former Canadian astronaut and had been to space twice.

Payette boarded the Bluenose II with McNeil for an hour-long tour of Lunenburg's famous harbour courtesy of the ship's Captain Phil Watson, before attending a reception at the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic.

In his official remarks McNeil praised the historic town and its people.

"Coming here to this beautiful waterfront, I told Her Excellency that this is one of our crown jewels. This is a wonderful town and waterfront that is not only the home of the sailing ship Bluenose, but it's also a working dock where we see people making a living on the ocean."

Bailey was as enthusiastic about the viceregal visit.

"It's very exciting that someone of her stature has come to Lunenburg. It's not often that you get to welcome Her Excellency to town, and we're proud to do so today," said Bailey.

A small group of seven protesters from the Campaign to Protect Offshore Nova Scotia' assembled on the public wharf hoping to catch the ear of the premier.

The group is opposed to the McNeil government's advocacy of offshore oil exploration by BP Canada. The exploration is taking place of the coast of the South Shore.

"We definitely feel that [an oil spill] is a possibility," said Marylin Keddy. "Our emphasis has been the Canada Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board (CNSOPB), which is industry biased and has no input from the communities most effected: the fishery, tourism, and coastal health."

Keddy says her group believes that the regulations governing oil exploration on Nova Scotia's offshore are "very weak" and asked rhetorically, "... so why do the Norwegians come here to drill? Because they have very good regulations in their country and we don't, so they come here to drill."

Keddy pointed to the recent reported spill of 136,000 gallons of the synthetic material referred to as drilling mud used to drill wells. The spill was reported by the CNSOPB Friday, June 22.

"We think that the recent leak of mud is an indication of the potential destruction that could result from this project. It's just luck that they didn't strike oil, just luck, and we can't stake our sustainable industries on luck," she concluded.

Under light but present security, the group managed to catch McNeil's ear as he walked quickly past the protest and toward the Bluenose II. He thanked the protesters for sharing their views but did not stop to talk.

Payette praised Nova Scotia's youth saying that after her visit to the Discovery Center in Halifax earlier that morning she "is convinced you're in good hands.

"I have had the immense privilege of wearing the Maple Leaf in space twice and getting to see this beautiful country and this part of it from 350 kilometres above the Earth.

"I will be presenting the Premier of Nova Scotia with photographs of the province from space for everyone to view our place in the world from a unique perspective" Payette said, concluding her opening remarks.

The Governor General's tour of Atlantic Canada included a stop on Prince Edward Island June 25. At Province House in Halifax, the Premier and Lt. Governor of Nova Scotia welcomed Payette with military honours, including a 50-person Honour Guard, the Viceregal Salute and a 21-gun salute from the Maritime Forces of the Atlantic, 5th Division and the National Band of the Naval Reserve.

The day following her stop in Lunenburg, the Governor General visited and toured a Canadian Coast Guard vessel and 12 Wing Shearwater.

Payette concluded her Atlantic Canadian tour in Halifax June 27, where she opened the 40th edition of the Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo.

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