Newspaper article The Canadian Press

PM's Plane Carries Historic Delegation to Mandela Funeral, with Baggage

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

PM's Plane Carries Historic Delegation to Mandela Funeral, with Baggage

Article excerpt

Planeload of Cdn PMs flies to Mandela funeral


OTTAWA - It sounds like the start of a joke.

So the prime minister of Canada and his wife and three former prime ministers get on a 30-year-old plane with two former governors general, four provincial or territorial premiers, the head of the Assembly of First Nations and the leader of Her Majesty's Official Opposition.

However it was no joke Monday -- just standard operating procedure -- when Prime Minister Stephen Harper's aging Airbus A310 touched down at Air Force Base Waterkloof, just outside Pretoria, South Africa.

The Canadian delegation for the memorials for South African icon Nelson Mandela includes an impressive list of past and current leaders.

Aboard Harper's 18-hour flight were former governors general Adrienne Clarkson and Michaelle Jean, Alberta Premier Alison Redford and Nova Scotia's Stephen McNeil, Yukon Premier Darrell Pasloski and the Northwest Territories' Bob McLeod.

Tom Mulcair of the NDP was there, as were Shawn Atleo, AFN national chief, several MPs and a senator.

Harper also provided a lift to three of his predecessors: Jean Chretien, Kim Campbell and Brian Mulroney (while Joe Clark arrived by his own means).

This might seem like simply an efficient way to travel to a distant land.

After all, the Government of Canada's travel policy recommends that "ministers should make every effort to ensure joint travel in the interests of efficient use of government resources."

The same policy includes an important caveat: "However, for security purposes, no more than eight ministers of the Crown may travel on the same aircraft at the same time."

In the United States, the president and vice-president never travel in the same plane, helicopter or armoured limousine. On inauguration day, a single senior government official is always secured away from Washington in case of an attack.

Such precautions are not the stuff of Cold War paranoia.

In April 2010, the president of Poland and his wife died in a plane crash with 95 others, including top Polish political, military and bank officials.

A number of large corporations have had travel policies designed to protect succession in the event of disaster ever since a 1987 plane crash that killed Chevron USA's president and three top managers, along with three Pacific Bell officials. …

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