Julie Payette received a wet, but warm, welcome Monday morning in her first official visit to P.E.I. as Canada’s 29th governor general.
A small, enthusiastic group of well-wishers sought shelter from the rain on the veranda of Fanningbank to watch the formal arrival of Payette at Government House in Charlottetown.
Payette was greeted by Lt.-Gov. Antoinette Perry and Premier Wade MacLauchlan before inspecting a 100-person guard of honour while receiving a 21-gun salute.
She shook hands and chatted with most, if not all, of the couple of dozen people eager to extend greetings.
Gail Feehan of Charlottetown was impressed with Payette’s friendly and unrushed interaction with the spectators.
“She’s very personable,’’ says Feehan.
“She’s down-to-earth. You can tell she enjoys meeting the public and she has a very nice way with people. Wonderful.’’
Feehan described as a thrill having the opportunity to shake hands for the first time with not only a governor general but a former astronaut.
The precision of all the pomp and circumstance, she adds, was a treat to take in as well.
“I’ve never been to a function at Government House other than the levees and I thought this would be a wonderful way to see how things operate when important dignitaries come to the Island,’’ she says.
“I just want to be part of it.’’
Payette made her way to UPEI in the afternoon to learn about innovative projects being developed at the School of Sustainable Design Engineering. She also visited the UPEI Climate Lab to learn about Coastal Impacts Visualization Environment or CLIVE.
Payette participated in a round-table discussion with business, research and government partners from the Prince Edward Island BioAlliance on collaboration and innovation in the province’s bioscience sector.
Perry and MacLauchlan then hosted an official reception at Fanningbank in honour of Payette’s visit to P.E.I.
The premier told Payette in front of a room filled with dignitaries that Islanders’ hearts and spirits were warmed by her infectious personality and her “inquisitiveness in the fullest sense and by the encouragement that you’ve given to people from Grade 4 students to the bioscience researchers.’’
Payette noted she is intimately familiar with P.E.I. having camped here many times.
“It’s always a homecoming, but I really thank you for welcoming me on this first official visit as Governor General,’’ she said during a short speech at Government House.
“We’ve been talking all day about Prince Edward Island and its extraordinary appetite for innovation and doing things in a very modern way.’’
Payette had a special surprise for Island singer-songwriter Lennie Gallant when she called him forward to “return’’ Gallant’s CD, ‘When We Get There’, that she took aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour in 2009.
She informed a beaming Gallant that his CD flew 10.5 million kilometres and orbited the earth 248 times.
Payette flew on to Nova Scotia in the early evening in preparation for a busy itinerary Tuesday, which will include boarding the Bluenose II.