Yesterday was the 196th anniversary of the birth of our first Prime Minister.
John A. Macdonald arrived as the third child of Glaswegian Hugh Macdonald and Helen (Shaw) in 1815. By the time he was five years old, following the failure of his dad’s business, his parents had emigrated to the capital of Upper Canada – Kingston.
Yesterday, we Canadians did as we do regularly when historical days of note come and go each year. That is to say, basically nothing. It is sad. It is a weakness in our national psyche.
I lived for several years in Kingston area – on Wolfe island to be precise – and even in those days of the late ’70s and early ’80s there were good folks busying themselves trying to establish some sort of official recognition of our first PM. Locals contributed funds to fix up the headstone and burial site. Heck, even the K&I Liberal Association donated, though I do recall engaging in some good-natured debate as to the wisdom of using scarce money to honour the ‘opposition’ (the riding was solidly Tory in those days both federally and provincially).
I was a newcomer and didn’t truly appreciate just how serious Kingstonians were about their home-grown hero. Fittingly, I was set straight sipping a single malt…or two…in the Prince George Hotel more than likely. A spot where Sir John himself may have spent some relaxation hours during his visits to the constituency.
Some more major successes have occurred over the years. In 2002, Conservative Senator John Lynch-Staunton introduced An Act Respecting Sir John A. Macdonald Day and Sir Wilfrid Laurier Day in the Senate of Canada. The Jean Chrétien Liberal government of the day saw the Bill through to Royal Assent. No doubt, even though he was Speaker at the time, the current MP for Kingston and the Islands, Peter Milliken, would have approved of that legislation. Senator Lynch-Staunton may have been aided in his non-partisan effort by the fact that Mr. Chrétien, as well as having a keen sense of our history, shares the January 11th birth date with Macdonald.
Almost 30 years after I lived in the riding, it is good to see that the effort to honour one of our leaders of Confederation continues. The first national leader of a country deserves a special place in the heart and history of any nation. We should be making it so here in our own land.
I read in yesterday’s Toronto Star that Arthur Milnes continues his push to get special recognition for Sir John A. on the bicentennial of the great man’s birth. He is leading a valiant effort and I wish him well. I also encourage politicos of all stripes to embrace this small measure of pride in our historical traditions.
You can bet that those of us at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute will help in whatever way we can. In fact, I would dare say we think both our first PM and our first French-Canadian PM should have special recognition. But, we do have more time to work on the Laurier bicentennial celebration. He was born in 1841.
Although, come to think of it…perhaps the current Conservative government could replicate the non-partisanship of the Chrétien era and do something special to recognise the hundredth anniversary of Laurier’s last day as PM which just happens to occur this coming October 5.
Posted by GY