What’s the big deal, anyway?
By Cazzy Lewchuk, Opinions Editor
As soon as it became 2017 on January 1, I began seeing ads about Canada’s 150th. The country officially formed on July 1, 1867, so it looks like we’ll be hearing about it for the next six months.
The federal government is spending $500 million on this anniversary. While that’s a rather high number, looking at the details shows that the money goes to causes I generally support in regards to uniting and reflecting Canada. Much of the money is being spent on arts and culture, and half a billion isn’t a lot of money from a political view. (For contrast, Canada’s defence budget was over $18 billion in the last year.)
It’s great to make people aware of the campaigns being launched this year, and even greater to have people actively involved. However, it’s the advertising that really gets to me. We know Canada is turning 150 already. We know that a country forming 150 years ago is somehow a milestone, despite nothing actually that important happening. We don’t need to hear about it several times a day.
Canada is actually quite a young country. The US is older than us. So is Mexico. So is pretty much every European country by hundreds of years. For such a young country, Canadians are privileged and honoured to be as involved in international affairs as we are, and occupy a unique niche as peacekeepers around the world.
A lot of Canada’s 150th revolves around unification, connection, and getting Canadians to find more common ground. The Canadian national identity is fragile, and barely tangible. It’s unclear what our collective values and interests are. It’s foolish to say that Canada isn’t divided, or that all of its citizens enjoy a high standard. We can find things to unite us, but the lingering issues that divide us remain.
I don’t like to make everything about partisan politics, and I support much of the Liberal government’s efforts in strengthening Canadian culture. However, when Trudeau is faced with sobbing Canadians who can’t afford carbon taxes, one in seven citizens living in poverty, and increased disappointment in his broken promises, I wonder if Canada’s anniversary should really be a top priority.
Trudeau has always welcomed Canadians to ask important and sometimes tough questions to him directly. His engagement is much more than his predecessor, or many other political leaders, and I welcome that. Part of this celebration involves sending him across the country to visit with real Canadians who ask hard-hitting questions. This tour can be seen as a photo-op and opportunity to curtail with party donors, or as a genuine attempt to get personal with citizens and improve his governing. It’s probably both. I know Canadians will ask him the tough questions, and many already have. I hope he can find genuine answers that truthfully acknowledge his flaws.
We should be proud of our country for many reasons. Turning 150 is not one of them. We should use Canada’s birthday as an acknowledgement of how to make the country better, while celebrating previous accomplishments.