Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS King Philippe and Queen Mathilde of Belgium sample freshly made maple syrup taffy at Richelieu Park Sugar Shack during a state visit in Ottawa Monday.

‘I love space,’ Belgian king tells former astronaut and Gov. Gen. Payette

OTTAWA — Self-described space buff King Philippe of Belgium began a weeklong visit to Canada on Monday with his wife, Queen Mathilde, saying he wanted to view the country through the eyes of an astronaut.

He was, of course, referring to his host, former space explorer-turned Gov. Gen. Julie Payette, who greeted the royal couple at Rideau Hall at the start of their whirlwind state visit.

“I love space,” King Philippe said to the delight of Belgian flag-waving onlookers as he was formally welcomed to the nation’s capital.

“So I’m very happy to see the country and the world through your eyes, the eyes of an astronaut,” he said to Payette.

The king and his wife were scheduled to take part in more down-to-earth pursuits over the rest of the five full days of their tour — the first Belgian state visit to Canada in over 40 years.

Monday’s events included the planting of a sugar maple tree in the frozen ground of Rideau Hall, a visit to a sugar bush, the placing of a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the National War Memorial and meetings on Parliament Hill bringing together delegations from Canada and Belgium.

A meeting planned with Heritage Minister Melanie Joly, to discuss cultural ties between the two countries, was cancelled, however, after Joly’s flight to Ottawa was abruptly grounded by computer system disruptions at Air Canada.

And officials narrowly avoided a hitch in the tree-planting ceremony.

“While we were preparing for the tree planting ceremony on the grounds of Rideau Hall, it was brought to our attention that there was a mix up with a small flag that was used to help identify the tree planted by Her Majesty Queen Fabiola in 1977,” Marie-Eve Letourneau wrote in an email, adding that the situation was rectified before the current royals arrived.

One of the main thrusts of the state visit is a “thank you” of sorts for Canada’s involvement in the liberation of Belgium during the First World War, the king said.

“We owe our freedom to the military men who came to our country 100 years ago to end the First World War,” he said as he was greeted by Payette.

“We in Belgium, we don’t forget that.”

To mark the closing of the centennial commemorations of the First World War in both countries, the royal couple was scheduled to attend a ceremony Tuesday where a cannon from the war was to be loaned to the Canadian War Museum.

With Europe facing down a protectionist administration in Washington — the latest measure being steel and aluminum tariffs announced last week that Canada has seemingly, temporarily avoided — the royal visit also provided an opportunity for both Brussels and Ottawa to tout the positive impacts of free and open trade.

“The globalization of (trade) is increasing,” Payette noted as she welcomed the couple.

“And with the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement that has been made with Europe, we will increase and progress for the benefit of all countries.”

Just Posted

Rural transit service rolled out

2A South Regional Transit will link Innisfail and Penhold with Red Deer

Some Red Deer waste collection schedules change due to holiday season

Tuesday collections will be moved for two weeks

Red Deer ‘champion’ helps hospital by sharing ongoing petition

It’s been about three years since many physicians at Red Deer Regional… Continue reading

Red Deer Airport’s prospects are looking up for 2019

Ultra-low-cost passenger service is on the horizon

Funding down for Red Deer Christmas charities

Food hampers and toys for children going out to those in need

Alberta’s Sundial starts shipping to AGLC this week

Sundial’s Rocky View facility has received the green light from Health Canada… Continue reading

Penny Marshall dead at 75, best known as TV’s Laverne and director of ‘Big,’ ‘A League of Their Own’

Bronx-born Penny Marshall, who found ’70s sitcom success on “Laverne and Shirley”… Continue reading

Chabot scores overtime winner to lift Senators over Predators 4-3

OTTAWA — Thomas Chabot saw an opening and he took it. And… Continue reading

Canadian Marielle Thompson earns World Cup ski cross bronze in season opener

AROSA, Switzerland — Canada’s Marielle Thompson captured bronze at the opening World… Continue reading

Canada doesn’t make Oscars short list for best foreign language film

LOS ANGELES — Canada is no longer in the running for best… Continue reading

Warrant issued for arrest of ‘Schwimmer lookalike’ suspect

LONDON — A British judge has issued an arrest warrant for an… Continue reading

Moneywise: Canadian workers unhappy with pay, want pension plans

Many working Canadians are feeling underpaid and are so worried about their… Continue reading

Brazil police say faith healer has turned himself in

RIO DE JANEIRO — A celebrity faith healer accused of sexually abusing… Continue reading

B.C. hockey coach creates ‘gear library’ to remove cost barrier of sport

VANCOUVER — Nicola Froese says she has always loved playing sports, but… Continue reading

Most Read