Make the 150th celebration transformative 

click to enlarge PHOTO COURTESY OF THE RED COUCH TOUR
  • Photo courtesy of the Red Couch Tour

Did you know we have a nation-building sofa, and that it is travelling across the country this year to help celebrate Canada's 150th anniversary of Confederation?

Well, we do. The red-leather affair will start its tour in the North in March and then in June and July will make its way from Newfoundland to B.C.

The cost to the federal government for this nation-building chance to lie back and share what it means to be Canadian — $155,000.

Call me cynical, but is there not something quintessentially Canadian about the fact that we are celebrating our birthday (in part) by draping ourselves on a couch and sharing both our joy and pain about being part of this great country?

Over three dozen national programs are being funded as part of the cross-country Confederation celebrations this year. They range from history exhibits to performances by Canada's national ballet school. There will also be a shore clean-up, canoe racing, a tall-ship gathering, reconciliation events and conversations on how to improve Canada — and entry to national parks is free all year.

The celebrations, according the federal Department of Canadian Heritage, are to be transformative.

The federal government has also established a national infrastructure program to support renovation, expansion and improvement in community and cultural infrastructure — all guided by the four themes of the celebration: diversity and inclusion, youth, the environment and reconciliation with aboriginal peoples.

The initial $150-million program was created by the previous Conservative government, which was accused of doling out much of the money to ridings represented by Conservative MPs ahead of the 2015 election.

The current Liberal government has added a further $150 million for more projects.

Many parts of the country have already started their celebrations — they folded in the start of the anniversary bash with New Year's Eve firework displays.

At this point, it appears that Whistler will be celebrating the sesquicentennial anniversary at its July 1 Canada Day celebrations.

Who doesn't love a party, and one that is set to last all year should fill Canadians with pride, but to suggest that these activities will be transformative may be an unrealistic goal.

But let's put cynicism aside. Unfettered by this, we must see that Canada is indeed a great nation. We are truly multicultural in a way that is rare in the world, we are a distinct society in a way that became clear as we look to Trump's America, we are successful and around the world viewed with envy.

However, more can be done and perhaps during this celebratory period we should be looking to accomplish something that is transformative — as has been pitched by the feds. How about truly reconciling with our First Nations?

Important movement has taken place on this front but while First Nations communities have no clean drinking water, while their families are dealing with tragically high suicide rates, while indigenous leadership's views on oil pipelines are ignored, we cannot say we are truly transforming this relationship.

As a nation we need to transform our relationship with oil and fossil fuels — and this must include support for provinces such as Alberta, which carried Canada for many years when oil prices were high. How about an Amazing Race-style reality show where competitors are focused on sustainability and green initiatives as they race across Canada?

Then there is the 1%. We need to transform how we share prosperity. Surely in a nation as rich as Canada, we can organize affordable daycare, we can support medicare, the Canada Pension Plan and more so that Canadians can access employment, housing and appropriate healthcare when it's needed.

Yes, 2017 marks an important milestone in Canada's history. But perhaps instead of it just being a big party the leaders of this great country can work together to give this anniversary real meaning by tackling issues that matter to Canadians.

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