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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 2

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 2 • Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6

To add your opinion, go to our submissions page.


Prime Ministers Day? What a horrible idea. Picture it if you will: Brian Mulroney Day. Our dear Queen would not be amused. For it has been said that the reason The Queen does not play political favourites is because, in Her Majesty's view, all politicians belong to the same class.
R. D. Scott

Prime Mininster's Day is a great and long overdue idea. However Canadian history has to get a few things straight; Sir John may be Canada's greatest prime minister but he isn't the first. That honour belongs to Sir Louis-Hippolyte LaFontaine in 1848. Sir John is the first post-Confederation prime minister. While we're at it let's change Canada Day to Confederation Day to more accurately reflect what happened on the 1st of July, 1867. Let's have a "Founders Day" in June to honor Cabot, Cartier, Champlain & Alexander Mackenzie.
Russ Gallant

I am a proud Canadian, now living and working in Taipei, Taiwan (NOT a part of China.) When I went home to Ontario for Christmas, I returned to Taiwan with some Canadian money. While paying for my coffee at my favourite coffee shop, I accidentally pulled out a Canadian $10 bill. The coffee shop owner asked me, "Is that the father of your country?" It was a natural question. Who else's picture would you put on a $10 bill. How could I, as a Canadian, explain to my Chinese friend, that although Sir John A. Macdonald was the first prime minister and the man who built Canada, he was not considered our national father. I didn't even want to get into the idea that we had several "Fathers of Confederation." In Taiwan,(officially known as the Republic of China) only two political figures appear on the currency: Sun Yat Sen and Chiang Kai Shek. Sun Yat Sen never saw his dream of a united China. Yet even in Communist China, he is honored as "the founder of modern China." Sun Yat Sen never lived in Taiwan. Still, here in the ROC, he is honored as "the father of the country" and his birthday is celebrated as a national holiday. Isn't it about time that we, as Canadians, did the same for Sir John A.?
Stephen A. Nelson
Taipei, Taiwan (ROC)

Creating a new public holiday to honour dead Canadian Prime Ministers is a tremendous idea. Canadians could use a day off in February to help us get through the long stretch between the New Year and Easter breaks. Canadians could also benefit from learning more about their history and this day could be used for such a purpose.
Ken Van Aalst

I am replying to the poll regarding the creation of a public holiday to honor our past Prime Ministers. I personally think that it is a very good idea. So very often Canadians have no knowledge of our past and how and by whom we are all living here. A noted holiday would arise an acknowledgement of those that have lead our country in the past. I however, do not agree that the holiday should focus on one. A holiday that would bring attention to all past Prime Ministers would be best. Even though certain ones have had more of an impact or may be perceived as being more important than others, they all, collectively, should be celebrated and looked back upon as stepping stones for our present and to our future.
Rebeca

There should only be a Sir John A. Macdonald day rather than honouring all of the country's former prime ministers. Why are we in Canada so afraid to honour greatness or is it that one political party has been in power so long that their views of great personalities have become the acceptable view? Why should there be more 'talk' of Louis Riel who at the time of his death was an American citizen, than the founder of the country? Why is the CBC devoting four hours to a miniseries of Trudeau (plus various other hours previous) when it will take a number of years to evaluate his impact both positive and negative on the country? Yes it is definitely time for our history teachers to be given more classroom time to acquaint Canadians with past Prime Ministers and their part in the making of the country.
Jean Dyck

With all due respect to Mr. Turner, perhaps he should visit Batache, Saskatchewan and ask the Metis people what they think of the man who murdered hundreds of their people and executed Riel.
Jan Braun

I think it says something about this country that the inspiration for a Prime Ministers holiday seems to come from emulation of the U.S. presidents day and celebrations. Instead of leadership and truly celebrating we copy down to the month an American celebration. Let's remember the President is head of state and Prime Ministers are not and of course should not be. How about a day to celebrate Parliament, but then if you think about it there isn't much to celebrate there. Why? In part because not one of these Prime Ministers brought in significant reforms there to reinvigorate it and make it truly responsive to the electorate.
A. Stoddart

Of course a day honouring Sir John A. Macdonald is appropriate. I do not think the business community would like to pay people not to work for yet another day. If we want to do this we should get rid of another holiday and make January 11th Prime Ministers' Day, always honouring Macdonald and every year throw in another one so people will at least be familiar with their names. Under no circumstances should Laurier be held on par with Macdonald as the woman from the Dominion Institute seemed to be pushing during an interview on the radio yesterday.
Annabelle

When we get a Prime Minister worthy of honouring then I think we can discuss the issue of a national holiday. I'm still waiting.
Ross Pollard

I really believe that the young people of today need to know more about the history of their own country. There should definitely be more of an emphasis on Canadian History in the education curriculum. Alas it is sad to say that students can graduate from high school with only one history course. On whose feet can we lay this blame when the curriculum is so packed with Math and Science? Indeed we need a holiday in February but the question is - what should it celebrate? We can honour the Prime Ministers starting with Sir John A or we can commemorate Flag Day. on Feb. 15 or Heritage Day or Black History Month. There is so much to celebrate that we could have a National Week to celebrate being Canadian. We could have a day off then celebrate in the schools the heritage, the flag, our Prime Ministers and our black history. There is a wonderful book entitled Our Canadian Prime Ministers by Scholastic. Every classroom should have a copy. Indeed go for the holiday, it is past due.
Lois Rouble

An excellent idea. We not only need a holiday in mid-winter but it would also be an opportunity to learn more about our prime ministers. Who was the first (and only) female prime minister? I wonder how many remember Brian's fall guy (fall gal) Kim?
Jack Lewis
North Vancouver, B.C.

I think that Canada should have a Federal Department of Education to regulate curriculum across the country. It is becoming more evident that we as a nation are losing our national history in favour of more regional history. How can we "Stand on Guard For Thee" when we do not know what we are standing on guard for?
Raymond Dube

I don't think the answer is inventing one day for people to remember what few ever learn. The problem isn't the memory of Canadians, it's the curriculum of the schools. Of course people remember who the first President is, and not the first Prime Minister. It hasn't been too long that I've been out of school, that I don't remember History class. Seventy five percent American History, twenty five percent European History, and if time permits... a little bit of Canadian History. I only hope my four year old son grows up knowing more about this country than his parents.
Jay Panasuk

I think the first dead Prime Minister to be commemorated on the first Prime Minister's Day should be Sir John A. MacDonald. A close second would be Pierre Trudeau. The ones that should be left out are John Turner, Brian Mulroney and Jean Chretien. Mulroney started the G.S.T. and Chretien will not stand up to the Americans on our lumber issues. He also will not stop dumping steel from foreign countries.
Ruth Olar

It is the responsibility of educators at the elementary and secondary level to teach children about their country. I remember learning about the European explorers that discovered Newfoundland, (as the Vikings had done 300 years before them), but never did we learn about our great Canadian leaders. I suspect that if a survey of school children were done, they would be able to name more former American Presidents than Canadian Prime Ministers. The same could be said about some adults, I am sure. The Globe's quiz was not hard, and the percentages reported are astonishingly low and disappointing. To explain the low score, I suggest that some adjustments be made to the textbooks of Canadian school children. Some may argue that we (as Canadians) are just not interested in who was Prime Minister in 1899, but this simple poll is a harbinger of far larger problems. If we don't know our own history what is to stop us from formally becoming the 51st state of the USA? The political history of our Country is far more interesting than that of the United States, we should be proud of our Prime Ministers, past present and future for representing us with distinction and prestige at home and abroad.
Andrew Teliszewsky
McMaster University Student

The idea of a prime minister's day couldn't be a bigger waste of time. Citizenship should be taught in elementary school. M.C.

As I sit here pondering the value of honouring "dead prime ministers" with a national holiday my mind is reeling with the news of the closing of the truck plant in Oakville, Ont. I'm certain that the idea of recognizing past prime ministers is well-intentioned but I do have some significant concerns. My point is that holidays are expensive, reducing our GNP and raising labour costs. Whether employees stay home on a paid holiday or work the day at holiday rates their labour, per unit, becomes more expensive. Do we really want to do anything that will make product from the big three even more difficult to sell? Perhaps your "D.P.M. Day" could be melded with Flag Day, February 15th. What's the point of a national holiday if the result is that your plant is closed and you're on indefinite lay-off because foreign imports have an edge? I really think that more attention should be paid to the impact that the holiday would have on the economy of our country. I'm no economist but I think someone is being just a bit hasty here.
N. Wightman

I do not believe that Canada should create a special day to remember its Prime Ministers. For one reason, it seems like copy-cat concept of President's Day in the U.S. As the list of reasons for creating national holidays goes, I'll bet this is somewhat unique (looking at other countries), compared to religious or other reasons. Secondly, Canada isn't a very strong federation. Canada has prided itself on its regional difference and in pushing powers out to the provinces. So, why celebrate a long history of rather weak federal leadership and weak federal leaders? Finally, Canada is famous for it's generic holidays (e.g., Family Day in Alberta, Civic Holiday in Ontario and B.C., Canada Day itself versus the reason implied by an "Independence" Day, Victoria Day which is not even recognized in England). Canada, be happy with your blandness and let this second hand idea pass.
Steve
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