Allan MacEachen deserved the sobriquet ''the Celtic sphinx.''From 1982 to 1984, while he was Deputy Prime Minister and Secretary of State for External Affairs, I served as his legislative assistant, having won the assignment probably because I wore my clan's tartan tie to the interview. (MacEachen was very proud of Canada's Scottish heritage.) Shortly before Question Period I would enter his cavernous office, across from the House of Commons, to brief him while he finished the plate of cottage cheese and fruit prepared by his indispensable assistant and gatekeeper, Pearl Hunter (who had started her career in the office of Justin Trudeau's grandfather, Jimmy Sinclair). MacEachen would listen, nod and then slowly walk over to the House. Three months had gone by and he had not said a word to me.
During my 20-year career in the Canadian foreign service, I had occasion to work for 10 different ministers of foreign affairs. By far the best of them was Allan MacEachen. He was both intelligent and perceptive. He fully understood how the international system works. He knew many of the major actors on the world stage. He had a rare grasp of Canada's national interests and of how to pursue them.