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Canada's prime ministers: A day of honor

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The Dominion Institute
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  Saturday, Feb. 4, 2006

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Have your say - responses, Part 1

Here is what some globeandmail.com visitors had to say about who their favorite prime minister is and why. You can find links to other responses at the bottom.

Part 1 • Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6

To add your opinion, go to our submissions page.


Prime Minister's Day is an excellent idea and one that is long overdue. We as Canadians know far too little about this great land and far too much about our neighbours to the south. I believe that we must do more to learn and develop a greater sense of Canadian patriotism. It needs to start in Kindergarten and continue through gr. 12. I would be in favour of making Canadian history mandatory to receive a high school diploma. Let's wave our flags on Prime Minister's Day and be thankful for what we have and who we are.
Brent Elgie

I am opposed to creating a new public holiday in the month of February. We already have too many public holidays. Perhaps we should scale down these public holidays to Remembrance Day to remember our military past and those that gave their lives so that we may enjoy freedom. We have Christmas day and New Year's Day and Labour Day and Canada Day to celebrate our National Past. If you want to create a special day to recognize our first Prime Minister then do so using what is now known as Civic holiday to John A Macdonald Day.
William Gordon

I am very pleased to hear of this group that is trying to promote our history and heritage. Well overdue, but never too late. I would like to see our Prime Ministers on more currency, stamps, etc. Further, I would also like to see this for the provinces too - Simcoe day in Ontario for example. Hopefully, in my lifetime, we will become a nation proud of accomplishments. This is a world-class country that sometimes needs to be reminded of that.
Ian Bryan

I strongly disagree with the idea of a Prime Ministers' Day. Although Canadians elect their local MPs, they are not able to cast a vote directly for the office of Prime Minister. Until this changes, along with the quality of our leadership, the 'Bastards and Boneheads' that hold the office will not be deserving of such respect. A Prime Ministers Day would merely be an opportunity for the governing party to promote its own past leaders for partisan purposes, and further confuse the values and symbolism of the governing party with that of the nation. What we should have instead is a national Canadian History Day to celebrate the achievements of great Canadians from the many chapters of our history. An arm's length committee should be established to solicit votes from across the country and every province on which historical figures to profile in a given year.
Andrew MacSkimming, Montreal

It's interesting to read how dismal the results of the survey were (including my own!). I would bet that if you had included a question on who was the first U.S. president that nearly 90% of Canadians would answer correctly. Canadians know more about U.S. history and can name far more U.S. presidents than they can Canadian Prime-Ministers. Why? The media. In everything from sitcoms to movies (à la the ending of Tim Burton's planet of the apes) to comic strips, American media often alludes to elements of their history. Every Canadian is guaranteed to hear at least a dozen things a year about American history. But Canadian history? Well, I had a history course in grade 11 and that's about it. Take some Canadian history and add it to pop culture (if we had some pop culture that wasn't American in origin) and people will remember it. Confine it to classrooms and documentaries and it will remain largely forgotten.
Marc

If we are considering a public holiday for Prime Ministers. I would like to see the Dominion Institute and more Canadians push for an official public holiday for Remembrance Day across all of Canada and not only in certain provinces. Our veterans and war dead deserve better. While some may debate the importance and contribution of certain Prime Ministers to Canada. No one can deny the sacrifice and efforts of those who have fought and died for Canada, and of those who continue to serve in our Armed Forces.
Tom Amerongen

Silly question about which dead PM should be celebrated if you have such a day then all PMs should be celebrated.
Adam

Personally, I think when you ask the question you should have an alternative. Just give people a third choice ie what would you suggest!! and see what the results are. Everyone wants a holiday and they won't care what you call it.
Gerrie Randall

Je ne crois pas qu'il soit essentiel de désigner un jour spécifique pour "célébrer" les Premiers Ministres canadiens. Après tout, il n'ont fait que ce pour quoi ils avaient été élus, c'est-à-dire veiller aux destinés de la nation et, dans maintes cas, ont poursuivi un agenda tout à fait personnel une fois élus à leur fonction. De plus, à ce compte, tant qu'à avoir une journée pour les Premiers Ministres, pourquoi n'aurions nous pas une journée pour les CEO, une autres pour les éclésiastiques, et d'autres encore pour tous les corps de métier ... ainsi nous retrouverions nous à être tous les jours en congé, payer à célébrer.
J. B. G. Fortin

Either the second Monday in February or the third Monday in February is the ideal day of the week to designate as the statute holiday to honour the Prime Ministers of Canada. Since the official raising the national flag on February 15 of 1965, the federal government had always considered, on-again, off-again, to establish February as Heritage Day. John Connolly

Yes to Prime Ministers' Day. I have lived abroad (Japan, United States & Morocco) for the past 10 years and met many people from all over the world. I am overwhelmed by the positive views I hear about Canada. Our nation is admired, envied, respected and many, if they could, would live there. I am all for anything that would encourage us to learn more about our country and feel the attachment that I could only develop after leaving Canada. The Prime Ministers, be they dead, living or even Mulroney, deserve some recognition.
William Kennedy

I support the creation of a Prime Minister's Day. It is a shame that Canadians do not take more pride in their history and, besides, we could use a holiday in the middle of February. As for who we should honour, how about a rotating schedule? Start from Sir John A. and move forward a decade with each new year. So, year one, we'd honour McDonald. Year two, we'd honour Alexander MacKenzie, etc. Those short-termed PMs like Turner, Campbell and Meighan would be lumped in with the other Prime Ministers of their decade.
James Bow

Yes, I've always thought we should have a holiday in February. Since the U.S. has President's Day, we should have Prime Ministers' Day. February would be a great month. Many people suffer from the Winter Blues and this would give people a lift, and perhaps even boost the economy with families planning long-weekend trips!!
Carol Chester-McLeod

Symbolism is important for any country and Canada needs more of it (especially when our most recent PMs have been dismantling, by intention and by apathy, what little we did have). National recognition of Sir John A. is long overdue - the man had the guts and vision to help build a northern democratic alternative to the U.S. Perhaps such a national holiday would act as a catalyst for scrutiny of why Canadian history has not been taught comprehensively in Canada's school system. Could it be that our collective ignorance is related to education falling within provincial jurisdiction? This has certainly led to ad hoc, weak and sputtering delivery (if it occurs at all in most provinces) of Canadian history curriculum. A national Canada history curriculum can only happen with provincial and federal cooperation and leadership. When was the last time you observed either happen? Keep in mind that Canada is a country that has implemented free trade with the U.S., without aggressively implementing free trade and harmonization within Canada's borders. If he were leading us today, I doubt Sir John A. would have let such a contradictory situation happen.
K. Donaldson

A PM Day is well overdue. But this day should commemorate all PM's, not just a single one (but if it has to be one, it has to be John A. Macdonald). Others may argue against this idea, but - love 'em or hate 'em - every one of them did their best to lead our great nation. Some were more successful than others, but they all deserve recognition (in our classrooms as well) for just reaching the office and doing the best they could.
Stan Nowak

Yes it's a great idea, and very Canadian to do it mid-winter. I can see winter fairs across the country shifting towards this day, because it will be a three day holiday, and what a way to celebrate Canadian culture! It is really the only barrier to entry here: can you stand the winters? Beside the point we'd have to work really hard to drum up as many holidays as, say, France.
Kate Santos

We should not have a holiday for dead PM's because we do not pick them. They are really only party leaders, so I have no interest in them, and feel nothing for them.
Bill Richardson

I think that the current "Heritage Day" should in fact be called Sir John A. Macdonald Day. We are disgraced as a nation because we are one of the few countries in the world that has not honoured its first leader. Maybe it is because predominantly the Liberal Party, the one currently in power has a history of Francophone prime ministers and of course they do not want too much attention paid to any of the Anglophone leaders. Bill Knapp, an alderman with the city of Kingston from 1978 to 1985 tried unsuccessfully to get the federal government to recognize Sir John A. Macdonald and to make the so-called Heritage Day a national holiday in his honour. There have been several groups who have tried unsuccessfully to get the federal government to pay homage to our first prime minister. Let's get with the program. A holiday to honour all former prime ministers doesn't cut it.
Margaret Knapp

Honour Pierre Trudeau. 1) He is currently not on a currency bill. 2) February has Valentine's Day, a romantic interlude, - and Trudeau was a "romantic" figure. {Note the prevalence of the rose}. We must have a truly national day to celebrate this man's attitude. 3) It could also be considered a multi-cultural holiday (carnival).
Michael Twiss

Get rid of that stupid "Easter Monday" holiday that seems only available for government workers. Then, perhaps business would respond to another paid holiday in Feb.
Vic Hutsello

These results are appalling and embarrassing. No wonder we Canadians have an inferiority complex. How is it possible to be patriotic when we are not even aware of what we can be patriotic about? If this proposed holiday can lend a greater consciousness of who we are as a proud nation, then bring it on.
Michael Patterson

I think a "holiday" is a bad idea. A national commemorative day would be better. Far better that children should be in school, doing Canadian heritage-focused activities then off school watching American TV. The recent trend to treat Remembrance Day as a holiday has diminished the intensity with which its true meaning is commemorated, rather than increasing it. Also, this PM day idea should be combined with the Flag Day (Feb 15) that others have been trying to promote. One day, properly devoted to studying and celebrating Canadian history, politics and heritage would be a big improvement over the current lack of attention. John Coo

PM Day is a great idea! Aside from giving us a much-needed holiday in the middle of winter, it would be a good reminder of our history - especially if it made it onto all of the calendars (we all know when the various U.S. holidays occur because our calendars have them marked). Most of us Canadians could probably name more U.S. Presidents and know more about them than about Canadian PMs - which is quite sad, but not surprising given the amount of American culture that we 'digest' on a regular basis. We need more books/television programs/promotional ads that share bits of our history in an attractive, interesting manner. For example, I'd love to hear a radio minute about various historic Canadian figures done in the style of Paul Harvey's Rest of the Story; or a television commercial similar to the ones on now with the Irish immigrant kids and the woman's right to vote etc... A book that tells the stories of the Fathers of Confederation - including interesting anecdotes and quotes - would be great to own!
Ruth-Ann

Yes, I would like to see a Prime Ministers Day implemented in Canada; second week in February seems appropriate too. Thanks for thinking of it, it's a great idea. Especially since it will encourage children and young adults to study and be proud of their heritage.
Marisa Azzoli

There are far too many citizens who do not know how special this day of January 11 is regarding our first Prime Minister. The educational systems in Canada should be obligated to teach all our history. Where are the voices of the politicians to demand this?
C. Hudson

I do not think we should be addressing the question of which dead Prime Minister should be commemorated first. The day should be for all Prime Ministers, just as the United States has for its Presidents. The advantage with this approach is that individual prejudices and dislikes for specific Prime Ministers would be less likely to stand in the way of support for this worthy idea.
Georges Augustin

I knew Canadians had a poor understanding of our history, but I am shocked that so few people recognize Sir John A. as our first Prime Minister! How can someone go through 15 years of public school and the required Canadian History classes and not know this one simple fact? I wonder what is being taught in our Canadian History classes if it does not include our founding fathers!
Benjamin Atkinson

Today being January 11th, I plan, as has happened for a number of years, to celebrate John A. Day with a number of friends drinking Canadian whisky and telling ribald jokes and stories. Have a great day everyone!
G. Betts

I think it's a great idea, a history lesson about our prime ministers, it will get people talking. I vote yes!
Veronica Black

What is the real reason for such a holiday? Is it to honour our Prime Ministers whom most Canadians don't know? Is it to encourage a more respectable knowledge of Canadian history that provinces refuse to include as a constant in their educational curriculum? Or is it for a plain and simple holiday? In this case why mask the reason? Knowledge of Canadian history and personalities is pitiful in this country by young and old. What would, to me, be far more important a task for this organization to do, is to develop a complete K-12 Canada curriculum that each province would mandate for their students. This is the only way we will be able to change Canadian attitudes toward our history.
Kent

I would prefer to see an official national holiday honouring our war Veterans (i.e., Remembrance Day).
Shauna

Since Pierre Trudeau all of our Prime Ministers have been abysmal. We have no international prestige and we cannot even mount a full and committed regiment to defend ourselves. Our problem is that we don't stand for anything so we fall for anything. We should have a Prime Minister's Day once we start to stand for something again. We could have been a contender but complacency and patronage killed us.
Lisa Burns

I must admit that while I am very proud to be a Canadian, I know very little about our history, political or otherwise. I urge everyone to find out more about the history of our great nation. A simple start is to pick up a book called Canadian Firsts, which details Canadian innovations in fields such as medicine, politics, health and sport. As a Canadian living abroad it gives me great pride to hear others speak of Canada with high regard, now we have to begin to believe it!
John Glover

A holiday in February? What is there to do in Canada in February?! If they're going to make up a holiday, at least have it at a sensible time like June, so we can spend the long weekend as God intended (with a case of beer at the lake)!
Ian Smith

The idea of honoring past Prime Ministers is an excellent one. But why honor only dead Prime Ministers? Would it not be appropriate to honor all past Prime Ministers?
Michael G. Graham

Not only is a stat holiday in February a great idea, but wonderful to have it be one which recognizes our all to often neglected political past.
Lore Marlborough

Thank you for the opportunity to participate in the survey. I believe that it is crucially important for a nation that wants to have a strong, vibrant future to know its past - to understand its roots. To learn from the past, we can gain insight as to how to progress. To learn of our history is not only to honour the nation but can instill a great sense of quiet pride--it is an expression of love for this great nation that we take interest and take time to celebrate Canada--and never take her for granted.
Bradley Penyk

Totally Canadian responses - get a grip. Of course have a P.M. Day.
Trisha

I doubt that you will print this, but it is an honest opinion. Get real! How many of the men you propose to make immortal deserve any praise - let alone honour? I agree there are a few, but in the main - particularly in recent years - we learn that the holders of the 'highest office' are 'just politicians'. This isn't a compliment! It might be, that they do what they have to do, but politics isn't something anybody can really be proud of. The system we, the Public, have allowed to evolve, seriously diminishes any 'honour' that once might have been present in politics.
Roy Anderson

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