Oh, how easy it is to cast aside our history. Don’t get me wrong but Ottawa is a nice city. That is all that it is. It is just a nice city. It has interesting neighbourhoods, burgeoning suburbs and some bad architecture. It just fails to impress anybody as the capital of Canada.
Queen Victoria never saw Canada but picked Ottawa as the capital. She was told the city was defensible and was on the border of Ontario and Quebec. It was just an old logging centre on the Ottawa River. Today it is home to more than a million and a half Canadians who either ice skate on the Rideau Canal in winter or flee south to get warm.
It was ten years ago that the wife and I drove down to the other capital city, Washington. After many visits to Washington over the years, I wanted to take a tourist bus and see the monuments and the White House. We spent a week, did the tours and were suitably impressed. To see the impressive sights in Ottawa would take a part of an afternoon.
And yet, the other day, Susan Delacourt of the Toronto Star had the temerity to suggest that 24 Sussex, residence to Canada’s prime ministers and their families for the past 70 years, be torn down. It might be amusing to agree with the current prime minister’s mother that 24 Sussex is “the crown jewel of the federal penitentiary system.” There is no question that it lacks the panache of the White House.
But before the National Capital Commission tears it down, some thought must be given to its functionality. Is it just a residence or is it to be symbolic of this country? After all, is there anywhere in Canada with a serious sign that says: ‘Sir John A. Macdonald slept here’?
When are Canadians going to stop tearing things down and put up something for posterity?
And if we tell the national Capital Commission to build us something emblematic for the prime minister and family, will they can come up with something better than an igloo?
Copyright 2022 © Peter Lowry
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