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Usher of the Black Rod Kevin MacLeod enters the House of Commons as the MPs prepare to vote for a new Speaker, Nov. 18, 2008. - Usher of the Black Rod Kevin MacLeod enters the House of Commons as the MPs prepare to vote for a new Speaker, Nov. 18, 2008. | Tom Hanson/The Canadian Press

Behind the royal tour, a businesslike Usher of the Black Rod

From Monday's Globe and Mail

Kevin MacLeod is pushing deadline.

The Usher of the Black Rod, Canadian Secretary to the Queen, has hundreds of pages of “daily sheets” to get to press – schedules elucidating every walkabout, seating plan, bathroom break and meet-and-greet of the upcoming royal tour, “almost to the minute.”

Those thick binders – along with a reference book with cheat sheets on everyone the couple is scheduled to meet – will be the bible of this week’s royal visit, as Prince William and his wife, Kate, make their first foreign foray with a trip to Canada that’s already garnering frenzied attention internationally.

And Mr. MacLeod is the man in charge of making the magic happen – of crafting a visit that’s as much about the Canadian citizenry’s relationship with the Royal Family as it is about showing the future king of Canada and his bride a good time.

He’s got a fraction of the normal prep time in which to do it. So the stress is understandable.

You must be crazy busy.

Ah, yeah, there are a few things on the go.

How’s it been?

It’s been interesting. It’s been challenging. But it’s been kind of fun challenging. Normally, we have upwards of 12 months to organize a royal tour of this magnitude. In this case, we have three. It kind of makes the mind focus very quickly.

What are the challenges in this case?

Well, everything stems from the timeframe, because there’s a prescribed process. It ranges from the delineation of what regions of the country are going to be visited, what the thematic of the visit is going to be. One of my personal challenges, at the federal level, is to ensure there’s a proper balance in the program. Obviously you don’t want to end up with 12 aboriginal events or 15 barbecues. You want there to be a very nice variety right across the country. Sometimes there’s negotiations with the provinces and territories: “Might you want to consider doing an event like this?”

So who decides the theme?

I drafted one and shared it with the government, the Minister of Canadian Heritage, the Prime Minister’s Office, and they thought it resonated well. It was submitted to the provinces and territories, and there was some tweaking along the way.

What’s riding on this visit?

The modus operandi of this tour is to allow them to get to know Canada and Canadians better, but also to allow Canadians to get to know them. So it’s a two-way street. … This is a huge opportunity – and I’m speaking sort of from a quasi-Machiavellian point of view – it’s a tremendous opportunity for the world to have an interesting insight into Canada. So it’s going to be a very important visit for a number of reasons.

Who chose the provinces and territories?

We tend to organize royal tours of Canada on a rotational basis. … So there is a formula that is used; it’s not just by happenstance. For example, in the North, Her Majesty was in Nunavut in 2002, the Prince of Wales was in Yukon in 2001. So the last visit to the Northwest Territories was in 1994, by the Queen. So it was very much the Northwest Territories’ turn, if you will.

How are they travelling?

I think we’re the only Commonwealth country left where the Royal Family comes to Canada on a Canadian Forces aircraft. Mid-Atlantic, when they cross into Canadian airspace, they are here as members of the Canadian Royal Family. I’ll be going to London in advance, and myself, the Canadian police officer and the Canadian equerry will be on board the aircraft when they leave London, and we will be taking a prominent role as soon as we cross into Canadian airspace.

So what happens when you cross the line?