© 2005 The State
COLUMBIA, S.C. – Word finally came down last week that House Speaker David Wilkins is President Bush’s choice to be U.S. ambassador to Canada.
Of course, the Greenville Republican is thrilled with the nomination because it will put him as far away from John Graham Altman as he can physically get in North America. No, actually he’s thrilled because it’s a cushy gig. He gets to live in this beautiful mansion and be called “Mr. Ambassador” by a fawning staff.
Life, no doubt, will be dramatically different in the Great White North. Wilkins claims to have read up on Canada.
“I have a lot to learn; I’m willing to learn it,” he said last week.
Well, then, he probably could learn a whole lot from a real Canadian. So Talk contacted the unofficial Canadian ambassador to the Palmetto State — Columbia Inferno hockey coach Scott White — for some pointers on how to survive north of the border.
White is a native of Ormstown, Quebec, which is less than two hours east of Wilkins’ soon-to-be new home of Ottawa, the Canadian capital. A terrific hockey coach and even nicer guy, White — Talk’s distant Canadian cousin — was more than glad to help.
White’s first tidbit was fitting, considering Wilkins’ political background.
“There’s not a president,” White said. “There’s a prime minister.”
(And just so you don’t have to look it up, Mr. Speaker, the prime minister is Paul Martin.)
White also feels strongly that Wilkins needs to learn to say, “eh.” It’s sort of like how White had to learn to say “y’all.”
Hey, Coach, do you ever say “y’all”?
“I do sometimes,” he said.
And do you feel comfortable saying it?
That isn’t White’s only language tip.
“He needs to tune up on his French. Ottawa is a bilingual city. He should be ready to say, ‘Bonjour. Comment ca va?’”
Wilkins also needs to bone up on the national sport.
“The pastime is hockey, and the team in his town is the Ottawa Senators,” White said. “He’d better know what division they’re in and who their best players are. And he’d better get on the bandwagon about getting hockey going again.”
(In case the Speaker was unaware, the NHL didn’t have a season because of a labor squabble between owners and players. White compared to passion for hockey to the Southern passion for SEC football, only on a much larger scale.)
Naturally, there are some cuisine differences worth noting.
“He has to learn to eat poutine,” said White.Poutine, for the uninformed, is the dish of french fries, cheese and gravy that’s a favorite in Canada.
“It’s a little like boiled peanuts down here,” he said.
The weather will be a factor as well, especially since Ottawa has an average of 157 days a year when the temperature is below freezing.
“He’ll need a good tuque,” White said.
Uh, a tuque is a warm hat, like a toboggan. Only don’t call it a toboggan in front of White.
“A toboggan is something you slide on,” he said.
(We’re pretty sure White was not taking a cheap shot at Wilkins’ bald head with this tuque tip.)
That’s not all either.
“He’ll need some good mitts, he’ll need some rubbers to go over his dress shoes, and he will have to wear his thermals.”
White noted the importance of learning Canadian geography and the differences among the diverse people.
“I hope he knows 10 provinces and three territories,” White said.
The biggest adjustment might come with living in a place with different political views. The locals could view this Southern conservative very skeptically.
“He’ll get ragged on a little bit,” White said. “Canada’s pretty liberal, as you know. But he’s a smart man. He’ll adjust.”