Celebrating a milestone like a country’s 150th birthday can’t be done on the cheap. Nevertheless, people have raised eyebrows over how much our government will spend on remembering the past rather than fixing the present.
With the revelation that the ads celebrating our 150th will cost $4 million, NDP critic Mathieu Ravignat said this much funding so far from the anniversary smacks of political posturing. He accused the Conservatives of misusing public funds for partisan purposes, which sounds vaguely familiar. The Minister of Heritage Shelly Glover—the one whose opposition to the regulation of broadcasters may see porn air on major networks—defended her government’s spending by pointing out that 2014 is the 150th anniversary of the Charlottown Conference. For those who can’t remember their history, the Atlantic colonies organized this conference to discuss a potential maritime union. Macdonald, Cartier, and Brown then arrived with free booze to woo the colonies into joining the United Province of Canada in Confederation.
Glover and several political scientists don’t believe that the ads are Conservative propaganda per se. Then again, the Conservatives’ penchant for taking sole credit for great events may give credence to those accusations. On their website, a page titled “Canada’s Founding Party” describes Confederation, women’s suffrage, the Canadian Bill of Rights, and NAFTA as Conservative achievements.
Here’s what’s not included on the Conservative website:
- The Bill responsible for women’s suffrage originally disenfranchised conscientious objectors and immigrants from enemy nations who had arrived between 1902 and 1914.
- The somewhat toothless nature of the Bill of Rights or the controversy which continues to surround NAFTA.
Most disconcerting is the fact that the Conservatives call themselves Canada’s founding party, even though a Grand Coalition founded Canada. That coalition started with Macdonald, Cartier, and Brown before the Charlottown Conference. One can hope that, in their celebrations, the Conservatives will remember the above fact. Otherwise, they might finally prove that the government is abusing public funds for its own gain.
Money seems to be a non-issue for the government when it comes to commemorations for the 150th. Yet it’s a touchy subject for the Tories right now as reports stress how poorly equipped the Armed Forces are to deal with combat—the navy being in the news most recently. Of course it’s not like we’re going to war…oh, wait.
Prime Minister Harper once wrote to then Defence Minister Peter MacKay and said, “as a result, it will be imperative that we make every effort to ensure that each dollar currently devoted to defence is targeted towards enhancing our operational capabilities.”
According to documents released in March, the “Operational Capabilities” of the DND include the preparations for the 150th, which means commemorating old battles, past wars, and rich white men drinking themselves into a stupor. This means that the expenses of Canada’s big 150th have taken precedence over the new planes, new ships, new ports, new uniforms, and new ammo the DND actually needs.
The Liberals call this plan of action irresponsible and they may be right, especially considering the aforementioned revelations of military incapability and the cuts to Veterans Affairs. Tories are quick to point out that they’ve increased military funding by over 25% from the funding Paul Martin set aside for the government, but that’s if you don’t factor in inflation.
We dish out millions to commemorate events long past, while we slice off millions for people who are still living. Yeah, nostalgia is a great way to greet the future.