Queen unfazed by Toronto blackout

A major power disruption in Toronto on Monday afternoon managed to affect slightly, but not derail, the Canadian government's state dinner for Queen Elizabeth.
Queen Elizabeth and Prime Minister Stephen Harper arrive at a state dinner at the Royal York Hotel in Toronto on Monday. ((Mike Cassese/Reuters))
Even a big-time power outage in downtown Toronto couldn't hamper the wrap-up of Queen Elizabeth's visit to Canada.

A fire at a transformer station knocked out electricity to a large swath of Canada's largest city — including the Royal York hotel — about two hours before the start of a state dinner being hosted for the Queen and Prince Philip by Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

The hotel, operating on backup power, said everything would go ahead as planned. And it did.

The ballroom was a little darker than usual but this didn't seem to dim the enthusiasm of 380 assembled guests. 

Queen Elizabeth says she will retain 'excellent memories' of Canada and Canadians. ((Mike Cassese/Reuters))

In the fourth and final speech of her 22nd Canadian tour, the 84-year-old monarch thanked Canadians and said she "will retain excellent memories of this country and its people." 

"On my first visit, before I was queen, I noted that from the moment I came to Canadian soil, my sense of apprehension disappeared, because I understood that I was not only among friends but among fellow citizens," she said. "Today, many years later, I still feel as much affection and admiration for Canada."

The Queen also praised Canada's unequalled commitment to the United Nations and noted Canadian sacrifices in Afghanistan.

"This nation's international engagement is strong as ever, whether measured by the service and sacrifice of our troops in Afghanistan or gathering the leading countries of the world here in Toronto to address matters of urgent concern," she said.

In his remarks, Harper said the Queen's 22nd visit to this country had reinforced the ties between the royal family and Canadians.

"Your faithfulness to Canada over these many years has made a difference," Harper said. "It reminds us that our country itself is like a family and that we have an extended family around the world in the Commonwealth."

As a gift, Harper announced the Canadian government will make a donation to three charities in the name of the Queen and Prince Philip — the Tim Horton Children's Foundation, the True Patriot Love Foundation, and the Royal Canadian Naval Benevolent Fund.

The donation "will serve to improve the well-being of many Canadians in need, from disadvantaged children to military personnel, veterans and their families all across the country," he said.

The Queen also unveiled a new permanent display for Toronto's Hockey Hall of Fame, which includes a large photo of the Queen dropping the puck at an NHL game. 

Before the dinner, Prince Philip was at the Royal York presenting the Duke of Edinburgh Awards — a program that encourages young people to participate in community service, among other areas — when the outage occurred.

An emergency power supply kicked in at the hotel, and he handed out the awards in the dimly lit room, joking with parents in the audience.

On Tuesday, the Queen ends her tour after a brief appearance at Queen's Park, where she will hand out citizenship medals before departing for her next stop, New York City, where she will address the UN General Assembly.

With files from The Canadian Press