Canada at 150 worth celebrating

July 3, 2017, 11:42 am

John Gormley John Gormley

John Gormley is a broadcaster, lawyer, author and former Progressive Conservative MP whose radio talk show is heard weekdays from 8:30am – 12:30pm on 650 CKOM Saskatoon and 980 CJME Regina.


Most baby boomers will not be around for Canada’s 200th birthday party in 2067 so this year’s Canada 150 birthday bash was our last big symbolic patriotic party.

While governments have promoted the sesquicentennial, the whole thing seems to lack the enthusiasm and panache that Canada’s Centennial had in 1967.

That year, Canada also hosted Expo 67, the Montreal World’s Fair, which brought our 100th birthday celebration to the World. And the World came by for a look.

It might be that, for birthdays, the number 150 just doesn’t have the same flair as a centennial or bi-centennial.

It may also be our tendency to remember things as being larger and grander than they actually were. Maybe 1967 wasn’t so great. No—wait a minute, it was.

While people balk at $500 million being spent by government this time, the 1967 party had federal funding equivalent of nearly $800 million in today’s dollars.

Combine that with the capital costs of Expo 67—over $2 billion dollars in today’s money—Centennial 67 was not only well funded but also embraced by every school, community and public organization across the country.

The 1967 legacy of dozens of theatres and cultural centres remains today.

And there was Bobby Jimby’s ultimate ear worm, the “Ca-na-da” song. Maybe this year’s festivities could have been better promoted by a catchy national tune.

Centennial 67’s Canada was a different country, readying for a huge wave of social change that swept the nation as baby boomers came of age.

Canada fifty years ago more resembled a staid colony of Britain than today’s more mature, independent and self-reliant nation.

Canada is a more worldly, experienced and resilient place now. Sure, we are often under siege from politically correct snowflakes but that is not the true fabric of Canada.

We are a place where democracy and the rule of law means that we settle disputes and elections without resorting to bloodshed.

And while some in the U.S. still credit us for hockey players, cold fronts, saying “sorry” too much and providing America with comedians, woe betide the person who underestimates the grit and determination of Canadians when we commit to a cause.

Our diversity and tolerance have strengthened us as a nation but have also made us define and uphold some core Canadian beliefs that most people readily embrace, whether newcomers or Canadian born.

There is also a demonstrable pride and literally a lot more flag waving going on now than years ago.

In the run up to Canada Day 150, the Historica Institute commissioned a national survey on Canadian symbols and asked respondents to say the single word that best describes Canada for them.

25 per cent of people volunteered either freedom or liberty as their word—not surprising, given our nation’s record of political, economic and social freedom. The word chosen by 20 per cent of people was “home.”

The list of the runner-up words included: opportunity, best, equality, multi-cultural and inclusive. On my radio show, we had other great suggestions from listeners, from togetherness to wonderful, spectacular, nature, magnificent, courteous, pioneering, big, clean, diverse and “taxes.”

One guy did try to slip in a compound word made by adding “Hortons” to Tim.

Another important part of the Canadian experience is a relationship to nature, from people actually living on the land they farm to city dwellers whose consciousness connects them to weather extremes, four distinct seasons, three oceans, mountains, vast sweeping plains and parkland beneath immense open skies, the boreal forest and, in Saskatchewan alone, over 100,000 surveyed bodies of water.

To be in Canada is to be embraced and moved by the sheer size and grandeur of the nature that envelopes us.

It is a remarkable country, this place, brimming with immense opportunity and great people.

Happy 150th Canada!