It was exactly midnight at 7 Rideau Gate, a residence reserved for visiting dignitaries, as Helmut Schmidt, Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, and his wife, Hannelore, bent over a game of double solitaire. An onlooker casually inquired what had most impressed the chancellor that day, the first during his official visit to Ottawa in mid-July. “The old man, Diefenbaker,” replied Schmidt, recalling a spat between the feisty Conservative and the Prime Minister which he had watched
in the House of Commons earlier in the day. “At 81, he is so aggressive and so cognitive.”
The rush of praise for John Diefenbaker, a Canadian with German blood, mirrored the forthright and unequivocal character of Schmidt himself. His main purpose in visiting Canada was to exchange views with Prime Minister Trudeau following this country’s ban on uranium sales to West Germany at the beginning of the year because there are no agreed nuclear safeguards.Ten days later Schmidt left Canada “with a feeling of encouragement,” both men agreeing that an interim arrangement might be worked out in which Canada would supply existing West German nuclear reactors with uranium for a two-year period.
Ironically, the Schmidt-Trudeau talks came at a time when the prospects for Ca-
nadian export sales of uranium generally were becoming increasingly clouded. Earlier in July, Atomic Energy president John Foster was suddenly fired, following a report showing the Crown corporation had lost more than $180 million. Meanwhile, Polysar Ltd., the government’s petrochemical firm, was also castigated by a Commons committee for paying kickbacks of $4.8 million in its dealings with foreign customers.
But in spite of these ominous preludes to the chancellor’s visit, the talks were so fruitful for West Germans that one embassy official commented Schmidt might secretly have longed for only one more concession—an organ at Ottawa’s official residence where, in cathedral-like splendor, the talented leader could have played the works of his favorite composer, Johann Sebastian Bach.
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