The toppled statue of John A. Macdonald in Montreal in August 2020 (Photo: Facebook).

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s cranky lecture about “cancel culture” yesterday notwithstanding, no one is proposing that John A. Macdonald’s name be erased from the pages of Canadian history or we cease to study his role as Canada’s first prime minister. 

On the contrary, if we truly want to progress as a country, we need to study prime minister Macdonald’s deeds more critically and with more rigour than in our past. 

Bring me the head of John A. Macdonald, says Alberta’s premier, and we’ll give it a happy home in Alberta (Photo: Facebook).

Obviously, our first prime minister’s place in the history books is assured, although that may not be much comfort to people like Mr. Kenney who would deify him. 

But if Macdonald’s place in history is safe, does that mean his government’s policy of using residential schools for Indigenous children as a network of vicious re-education camps ought to be glossed over, ignored, or tarted up with excuses as in the past? 

Obviously not, one would think. It seems Mr. Kenney may disagree, however. 

Does it mean Macdonald’s name belongs on a school, as Mr. Kenney appears to think, given his effort to use schools to cancel all Indigenous culture?

Also no. 

Or does this mean the premier proposes to create the Macdonald Ruins on Alberta’s Legislature grounds, populated by beheaded, toppled and defaced statues of Macdonald from other parts of Canada? 

From Mr. Kenney’s scolding tone as he answered a reporter’s questions during a news conference about COVID-19 vaccinations yesterday, you almost wonder what he will propose next? A reliquary in the Legislature Rotunda containing a piece of the late PM’s ossified liver? 

Macdonald as he appeared in life (Photo: Archives of Canada).

When Shannon Johnston of CTV Calgary asked the premier if he thought Macdonald’s name should be removed from a Calgary school, he launched crossly into a lengthy defence of Macdonald’s record. 

He cited Richard Gwyn’s claim that, without Macdonald, the country would not exist. With due respect to Mr. Gwyn, who died last year and who may have been a better journalist than he was a historian, this is nonsense. Canada was a strategic project of the Colonial Office in London, and had Macdonald not been available, someone else who fit the bill would have been found. 

Mr. Kenney quickly raised the spectre of “cancel culture” to characterize the understandable desire of many Canadians to remove Macdonald’s name from educational institutions in light of his appalling record in that field, and to remove statues that promote a misleading narrative of his achievements.

The premier soon moved on to doing his best to tarnish the reputations of long list of Canadian historical figures – flawed, as we all are – especially if they were Liberals or are admired by people with progressive beliefs. His targets yesterday: Tommy Douglas, the Famous Five, Wilfrid Laurier, William Lyon Mackenzie King, and, of course, Pierre Trudeau.

Premier Kenney at yesterday’s news conference (Photo: Screenshot of Alberta Government video).

“If we go full force into cancel culture, then we are cancelling most if not all of our history,” he huffed. 

“This is the problem with your line of questioning,” he lectured, donning a professorial mien. “If the new standard is to cancel any figure in our history associated with what we now rightly regard as historical injustices, then essentially that is the vast majority of our history!”

Indeed, only Stephen Harper was found suitable for praise in Mr. Kenney’s monologue, which rolled into his response to another reporter’s question about the United Conservative Party Government’s deeply flawed social studies curriculum. 

At one point, as Mr. Kenney’s jeremiad seemed to be winding down, Ms. Johnston asked: “So, would you still like to see a statue of John A. Macdonald at the Legislature?” This was, presumably, a reference to the premier’s offer last August to find a sweet Alberta home for the statue toppled in Montreal. 

This set him off again. “I really think it’s inappropriate to focus on one or two figures,” he complained. “If we want to get into a debate about cancelling Canadian history, we need to understand that it means all of our history.”

The late Richard Gwyn, author and journalist (Photo: Handout, originator not identified).

This too is obviously false, a straw man set up to attack anyone who criticizes symbolic celebration and justification of the wrongs of history. 

Cancel culture isn’t even a thing, for heaven’s sake!

It is a quintessentially American rhetorical response to any criticism of the systemic racism that underpins the modern Republican electoral coalition, which exploits the enduring curse of the United States’ original sin, human slavery.

Obviously Canadian politicians of the right are not immune to this kind of rhetorical trickery. 

When a politician resorts to decrying cancel culture, it usually represents a defence of the continued glorification of past wrongs.

Albertans should decide for themselves what Mr. Kenney’s goal was yesterday. His lecture begins at 36:47 minutes into the YouTube video of the news conference. 

Join the Conversation


  1. I agree that Macdonald’s role in setting up residential schools shouldn’t be “glossed over, ignored, or tarted up with excuses”, as you aptly put it. However, you seem to want to commit the opposite error of glossing over Macdonald’s achievements, in this case by shrugging off his role in founding our country on the grounds that “Canada was a strategic project of the Colonial Office in London”. I don’t doubt that it was, but as an astute journalist you may have noticed that grand strategic projects by governments aren’t always successful, and that one important factor in their success is who is available to execute them. Macdonald surely deserves a lot of credit for making the strategic project called Confederation work as well as it did. Refusing to recognise that, and insisting that Macdonald should be remembered PRIMARILY as the principal architect of “a network of vicious re-education camps” rather than the principal architect of a nation, doesn’t fulfil the worthy goal of studying Macdonald “more critically and with more rigour than in our past” – it just involves turning him from a cartoon hero into a cartoon villain, which is no more intellectually honest than old-school hagiographies of the man.

    Statues of Macdonald certainly aren’t about “symbolic celebration and justification of the wrongs of history”. Rather, they’re about symbolic celebration of the things Macdonald got right, which doesn’t have to entail either justifying the things he got wrong or refusing to acknowledge them. When I look around the country that Macdonald did more than anyone else to cobble together, it seems to me that he DID get a lot right, surely enough to be worth recognising with a statue here and there.

    And hell, if there’s a piece of Macdonald’s ossified liver out there somewhere, maybe it should indeed go in the Rotunda. That liver, ’tis said, performed great feats in its day.

    1. Corwin: You raise some interesting points. Notwithstanding the fact grand, strategic projects of imperial governments now and then don’t work out, it’s rarely because of the poor quality of the actors chosen for significant colonial roles. Rather it’s because of the effective qualities of their opponents and the limitations of the strategic situation they face. In this situation, I think it is extremely unlikely a less effective leader than Macdonald would have made much difference. Or a more effective one, for that matter. Perhaps because I was once persuaded by enthusiastic hagiographers like Richard Gwyn, I suffer the bitterness of the disillusioned. But with the knowledge of what was done and said we all now have, I see the argument about his successes (again, I suspect, the result more of circumstance than personality) as akin to those who would say, “Well, sure, but Hitler got it right about the government’s role in the economy.” So he did, but the horror of his other acts overshadows all else. There should be, in my opinion, about as many statues celebrating Macdonald in Canada as they are statues honouring Hitler. And when it comes to “cancel culture” and the importance of history, I am sure Mr. Kenney would have no problem with the removel of those remaining statues honouring Stalin in other lands. DJC

      1. “Notwithstanding the fact grand, strategic projects of imperial governments now and then don’t work out, it’s rarely because of the poor quality of the actors chosen..” i must insert myself, for the sake of a story I refuse to tell. I will say it’s a story of love. I might be a product of that grey area , between.

    2. Jason Kenney – “If the new standard is to cancel any figure in our history associated with what we now rightly regard as historical injustices, then essentially that is the vast majority of our history!”

      Is it just me, or did he say the quiet part out loud?

    3. Corwin – How would you feel if you were, as an example living a simpler life somewhere in what we now call Canada, and the Russians because they have military superiority would come in call you a barbarian took you and all the children in your group to be brainwashed, raped on demand of the new owners, forced your parents and family into a reserve and created a new country called the Soviet?
      Yes I know you will respond – well that is the law of the conquerors and conquered and that might be true in your history but not for those that signed treaties that meant nothing but a passport to take away what was not theirs.
      History and facts are not as simple as accepting John Macdonald as a good or a bad person. I do not believe in cancel history but as a Canadian I also do not think it is necessary to name schools and libraries and whatever else with the names of those that for some of us built criminal systems and expect people to be happy with that. No one is perfect but we do not need to celebrate these people as if somehow they were. Like David mentioned in the article John Macdonald will always be in Canadian history as the first prime minister but we do need to eliminate and murder those that provided the real Canada where we all live now and were the first inhabitants of these marvelous country.

    4. Mixed legacies of national founders are not unique to Canada. George Washington, to cite one nearby example, was a slave-owner, as was Thomas Jefferson, one of the most revered thinkers in American “democracy”. And yet, Washington has both a capital city & a state named after him, along with many, many streets & avenues & schools & universities & other public buildings & institutions across the Benighted States. Jefferson doesn’t have his name on a state, but otherwise ditto. Both of them are also on American currency: Washington on the $1 bill, & Jefferson on the rarely-used — but still valid — $2 bill.

      So, statues & monuments? I think some can stay, but with explanatory plaques to fill out their legacies, both good & bad; others should come down or get moved. But building, street & other names that “honour” such malign figures should really be taken off.

  2. Last thing I want to watch is a lecture from His Holy Pudginess. Were any APTN reporters allowed in to ask questions?

    In looking at the 144 entry list in Wikipedia for Indian Residential Schools, it’s interesting to note the first one was opened in 1828, 40 years before confederation, and one as late as 1950. I’d have to say that Liberals and Tories, no-one else, are fully responsible for setting these schools up. Or shall we say, old and big money supporting both parties made ’em do it. Lots of British financial outposts in Montreal in those earlier days, wanting to ensure their dividend returns were up to par – No trouble from the natives, please, subdue them. Can it have been any other way at core? So icily inhumane? Getting a loud drunk boorish Scottish Tory to be PM was just the job on so many fronts for them on the return of investment front. Dispassionate immoral people with the full support of London.

    Realizing that, only then do we then get into the reprehensible way some churches ran these schools. The over-discipline, the constant instilling of fear of doing anything wrong or physical punishment would ensue — monsters, perverted monsters a lot of the “teachers” were as well. Management disregarded Indian Agent criticisms at the harshness at the NS Shubenacadie IRS facility and trolled for “customers”. More heads, more federal subsidy. One principal knocked out a 15 y.o. kid in public, just a lovely man. Nice Wilipedia webpage, easy to Google. They’ve been out with the ground-penetrating radar since the weekend, nothing so far. Only IRS east of Quebec, btw.

    jason kenney. Pfft. An apologist is just like a climate change denier – both ignore reality.

  3. Could it be that Jason Kenney sees his own fate among the ghostly army of headless Victorian Tory prime ministers and, I don’t know, toppled confederate war generals who stood behind him yesterday in the rocket’s red glare of his consistently low polling numbers? This is a cry for help.

  4. The premier of Alberta, if he can be even called that, is so out of touch with reality, and has a hard time facing the facts. When he is cornered, and he can’t get out, he utters absolute mumbo jumbo. It’s also sad when there are people who downplay the residential school issue in Canada, and make all kinds of weak excuses, and deflect on what has happened.

  5. As Kenney blustered on (and on) yesterday he confirmed himself publicly as an obnoxious fool, steeped in veiled bigotry. There is no amount of polishing his words, by issues managers or others, that can change his gross egotistical display.

    Kenney needs to quit and “take a pill””.

  6. Interesting that you mentioned ‘Mr. Kenney’s scolding tone…’ – does he ever speak without the scolding? Does he ever talk to Albertans other than with his paternalistic condescending way as if we are sinners that have to be guided to his evangelical good way of looking at Christian pure life? I would like to see it.

    1. It should be remembered that Kenney came to Catholicism at the tender age of thirteen. No doubt, becoming a hormonally-jacked adolescent put so much fear in his heart, he decided he needed the reinforcement of the Vatican, the Holy See, and all the saints to preserve his eternally virginal being.

      I cannot say if Kenney is one of these Catholics who express their devotion via self-flagellation and other means of suffering, but I have no doubt he maybe of that mindset. During his brief tenure at the University of San Francisco, Kenney and a group of devoted Catholic he-men sought to force the closing of women’s health services at the student union’s medical clinic. I mean, what if those uppity women get it in their crazy heads that family-planning information is a good idea, though it’s a violation of the Holy Father (JP2) edict regarding what women should be doing with their lady-parts. The brew-haha that ensued should give people a good insight into what Kenney thinks of those people with them ovaries, as well as others he doesn’t like. Yeah, he’s a real weirdo.

  7. Premier Crying & Screaming Midget’s response to the horrific events and the legacy of Canada’s genocidal residential schools program was so tone-deaf, it could have been called brain-dead.

    I never understood why there is such an importance attached to the icon-fetish of honouring people with a statue, as though the statue is supposed to be some immortal and untouchable manifestation of the jerk it’s supposed to represent. I swear this level of childishness ranks right up there with all those bizarre claims about holy relics. The readership will be right to assume that I see nothing of importance in a mocked-up burial shroud for Jee-bus, nor some claims about the mysterious healing powers attributed to the dismembered fingers and pickled hearts of saints. I’ve live with Catholics and their weird hucksterism for too long to care anymore. And in that regard, please, consider me the most intolerant human alive.

    Indeed, the day that the statue of John A. MacDonald was toppled, and his head shot up in the air and bounced twice when it hit the ground, was the best and funniest moment in Canadian history. The fetishism of honouring the often drunk and easily depressed migrant from Scotland as some kind of Father of Confederation just reeks of American-style jingoism. Hell, even the residents of MacDonald’s hometown in Scotland have no idea who he is or why he even matters — obviously, they are far more intelligent than your average Canadian, so I’ll leave it at that. I did enjoy Kenney’s fawning and faux-scholarly defence of unpopular historical figures, because he bothered to quote from one of Richard Gwyn’s idiotic tomes dedicated to famous Canadians. Gwyn also wrote a somewhat fawning tribute to P.E. Trudeau (The Northern Magus) but I have a suspicion Kenney will not be quoting from that tome anytime soon.

    I did find it interesting that Kenney cautioned that even P.E.T. could be “erased” from history, over I presume the NEP. Kenney really doesn’t care what his base thinks anymore, since he’s ready to clear out like he’s running from a crime scene.

  8. Cancel culture? Ask Jason Kenney and Stephen Harper.

    Name: Amy Goodman
    Nationality: American
    Occupation: Journalist for “Democracy Now”
    Reason for Entry: Speaking engagements in Vancouver and Victoria.
    Decision by PM Harper (CBSA): “You can enter Canada but leave the country within 48 hours.
    Name: George Galloway
    Nationality: British
    Occupation: MP
    Reason for Entry: Speaking tour on Middle East issues.
    Decision by Immigration Minister Jason Kenney: “Sorry, you’re a national security risk.”
    Name: Ann Coulter
    Nationality: American
    Occupation: Professional Rabble-rouser
    Reason for Entry: Spreading hate.
    PM Harper (CBSA): “Right this way.”
    Name: Dick Cheney
    Nationality: American
    Occupation: Former VP and torture enabler
    Reason for Entry: Book signing and self-justification.
    PM Harper (CBSA): “You’re among friends.”

    “How George Galloway was barred from Canada in less than 2 hours”
    “It took less than two hours for Canadian Border Services Agency officials to declare controversial British MP George Galloway inadmissible to Canada. There was little doubt that’s what Immigration Minister Jason Kenney wanted.”

    1. Yes that is what they call freedom of Speech – you are right – what cancel culture?
      Jason Kenney is a pretentious clown that thinks he is somehow guided by divine intervention. I think he has gone KooKoo a long time ago and we now somehow have to put up with this crap

  9. Perhaps Mr.Kenney was hoping that the practice of erecting statues of illustrious leaders would continue, so that one day, when an appropriate length of time has passed, sufficient to forget his transgressions, there might be a statue for the glorification of Jason Kenney. Perhaps he could be joined by another statue whose real-life inspiration was also largely reviled by the time Canadians sent him packing. Perhaps he might even collect old relics from European buildings to display. Wait, hasn’t that bit been done before?At the core of it, Mr. Kenney is the one who wants to cancel history, because what is history if we pick and choose the things that we remember, and sweep the things that are not pleasant under the carpet? Shouldn’t carpets be brought out to air from time to time? If we look at Mr. Kenney’s straw men and women, did any of them set out policies for genocide on behalf of a foreign colonial empire from the highest office in the land, and then appoint agents to carry it out? How many of the straw folks were responsible for mass deaths of children in schools?In summary, narcissists want us to forget. If we do not forget, how can the narcissist play the role of victim? When we remember the real victims, and demand truth and reconciliation,been see humans as ordinary people, some with major flaws. Narcissists can only flaunt their superiority if we allow them to. Knowledge is power, and narcissists want all the power. This time the jig is up. We mourn the children. We will not forget.

  10. Richard Gwyn: “One of the great glories of Canada was the way we settled the West without any violence.”
    CBC Radio “The Sunday Edition”: John A. Macdonald, 2008

    CBC intro: “He was often drunk, sometimes depressed and always devious, but he was Canada’s first and greatest prime minister and the man who made us what we are. Sir John A. Macdonald was born 193 years ago this Friday in Edinburgh and luckily for us, emigrated to Kingston, Ontario. A natural politician to his finger-tips, he somehow managed to forge a nation out of a series of scrawny, backward outposts, too far from the mother country and too close to the United States. He was also delightfully, impossibly human. To help us celebrate Sir John A’s birthday this morning is journalist/historian Richard Gwyn, his latest biographer.
    Michael Enright in conversation with veteran Canadian Journalist, Richard Gwyn about his new book, John A.: The Man Who Made Us. The Life and Times of John A. MacDonald: Volume 1, 1815-1867. Published by Random House. The first of a two-volume biography of Canada’s first Prime Minister has been critically well received and may be seen as evidence against the argument that Canadian History is by definition, boring.”

    Michael Enright of CBC Radio read my letter on air:!AizwXhpjG6ivmk_EiMEDK3VfQuCl?e=wuPVbg
    [Omitted sections are bracketed.]

    Hats off to John A. MacDonald for making Hockey Night in Canada possible, and to Richard Gwyn for penning his biography.
    However, I question his assertion that Canada was settled without the violence that marked the settlement of the American West.
    In Canada, the land was taken away from the First Nations, and they were herded on to reserves. The Beothuk people in Newfoundland became officially extinct as a separate ethnic group in 1829. Did they manage that on their own, or did they have help?
    The Europeans plied natives with liquor. Thousands were wiped out by the introduction of disease. I don’t know if the stories about the distribution of blankets infested with smallpox are true, but if so that would constitute an early instance of germ warfare. The buffalo upon which natives depended was destroyed.
    In this century, groups of Inuit suffered forced relocation in the high north. Native cultures suffered when children were forced to attend residential schools. Families were split up. Many of their languages are dead or dying. Children were taken from unwed mothers.
    Today, many natives still live in Third World conditions, facing Third World futures. Many of their communities are in decay, with generations lost to addiction. Natives are overrepresented in Canada’s prisons and foster homes. The majority live in poverty, many on the streets. Suicide and infectious disease rates are far higher than average. Even today, many are without access to clean drinking water. [In Fort Chipewyan, downstream of the Alberta tar sands, the people are dying from industrial cancers.]
    No violence? It’s true, we didn’t use yellow stars, concentration camps, howitzers, or aircraft carriers. We didn’t need to.
    [Had these events taken place in Sudan or Turkey, we might call it genocide. But not in the land of the true north, strong, and free. History is written by the victors, and to that extent we are free to delude ourselves. History is the stories we tell about ourselves. We spin our stories to suit us. Spin triumphs when it becomes fact.
    It is the journalist’s duty to ask the tough questions, to unearth inconvenient truths, and to challenge reigning dogmas. Michael missed his chance.]

    1. Macdonald may have made the nation, but nations are made up of people. People decide what the nation becomes. We can stay firmly rooted in the past, or we can acknowledge our mistakes, make retribution and move forward on a different path into the future. In this case, the nation has shown openness to admitting horrific transgressions of the past, to taking steps to right the wrongs and begin the path of healing. This is a process that will take time. The people, including one western premier and his followers, do not agree. Is this because one outspoken western premier and his followers see an opportunity to exploit the nation’s present weakness and use it to divide the nation? This is a time of danger. We need to be aware of false prophets, those who would destroy and rip asunder what they claim to defend. An election will take place in 2023. That is all.

  11. Kenney seemed to be in a bit of a surly mood here, even by his standards. I suppose not too long ago, he would have welcomed the distraction of talking about putting up unwanted statues from elsewhere on the legislature grounds, but this has now moved past that. It is now clear to almost everyone what a failure the residential school system was.

    I suspect Kenney had a very long list of things he did not to talk about here if not on paper, at least in his mind. I can’t imagine he wanted a question about the recent poll indicating half of Albertans now want him to resign either, so perhaps going on about history in a strange diatribe, was the safest ground he could find.

    However, it is unfortunate that Kenney has tried to make this another battle front in the culture wars. It could actually be something he could handle well politically, if he took a less pugilistic and rigid stance. After all, residential schools were certainly not his fault and the current controversy is about what happened in another province. All he needed to do was say how terrible it was, express regret and say he would help the survivors. He might also want to look at that curriculum thing his government recently did and make some appropriate revisions related to history and residential schools, but perhaps that is not something he would like to say too publicly.

    Yes, at this point part of the debate is about school names and statues, the symbolic, as we process what we have learned. However, I do hope as a result of this we can also deal with more substantive issues. For instance, the Federal government has talked a lot about safe drinking water in indigenous communities and needs to act further on that. Another obvious thing, would be to also work on improving the educational system in those communities, which really is still substandard. We can’t undo what has been done, but we can learn from it and try to repair some of the damage.

    Canada does not idolize its historical leaders as much as many countries and being a democratic country, at least we have some room to reflect on, discuss and make changes in response to past mistakes. There are other countries elsewhere in the world where minority religious and ethnic people are being put in internment camps right now. Perhaps those countries should pay attention to the debate we are having and learn from it. History sometimes has a way of not staying buried and while those with power can seemingly act with impunity today, things can unexpectedly change and it will not reflect well on them.

  12. I don’t know why anyone in Alberta or Canada would be surprised that Kenney is on the wrong side of residential school holocaust.

    Given that Bumbles has another 2 years left, I fully expect to hear him defend the Spanish/Catholic Inquisition.

  13. Thumbing through today’s edition of the (much smaller and thinner) Edmonton Journal, I happened upon a brand-new column by David Staples. Since Staples has blocked me on Twitter, I am unable to challenge him directly, so this blog will have to suffice.

    Anyway, Staples declared that the pandemic is over (again) Alberta is on the verge of even more greatness, will tower over all others, the rift in the UCP has been sealed, and it’s time for all MLAs to work together and promote a better Alberta.

    After I picked myself off the floor, after falling on my arse with laughter, I wondered if Staples really is bucking for a gig at the War Room?

  14. I remember a Canada! According to my mother’s recollections, we used to not only offer solace and reprieve, but also welcome. Why is it so hard for us to admit? Sure we’ve got our baggage. Why can’t we build be a bigger train? The most important critique? Who are “we”? A small taste for those thirsty for company at the only one in town!

  15. It’s new day. Jason Kenney’s view of history:

    “It can’t be a curriculum denuded of any reference to any particular events and people,” he said. “It ceases to be history if it is that.”

    And yet he wants to denude all reference to particular events and people involving Sir John A. MacDonald, events that harmed people long after his passing.

    Quoting Jason Kenney, ” It ceases to be history” if we do that.

  16. I would argue cancel culture is alive and well in Alberta, ask anyone who openly supports the Alberta NDP about their experiences. The irony, lost on Kenney, is that his curriculum attempts accomplish what the residential schools tried to accomplish.
    The horrific discovery in Kamloops hits Kenney twice, his open worship of the crown and his loyalty to the Catholic church. Both of which are on the wrong side of history here and have never been fully held accountable. Perhaps his own internal struggle does not allow him to face this fact.

  17. I know. There is a fortune to be made if anger could be monetized! Let’s mine the anger and.. monetize? What is that? When do we feel it like sunlight on brown grass begging for water. When the the rain comes? Here’s one for the summer soldiers!

  18. I’m losing count: how many times has the K-Boy resorted to mystical invocations of Trumpublican America? Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer is a retard, Covid protocols are worse than the disease, the economy will open up come hell or high fever—and now “cancel culture.”

    If Kenney erected a Macdonald Ruins, I’d go. I’d be fascinating: headless, armless statues of vandalized Conservative prime ministers arrayed like antiquities. Oh, look! There’s Sir John A. De Milo.

    But is this fair? Well, at least the body parts aren’t real. Macdonald managed to avoid being drawn and quartered, his various sections dispersed to be displayed in the far-flung corners of the Dominion like the ancient Anglo-Saxon used to do to the vanquished pretender and martyred missionary. But perhaps some hepatomantic divination would auger well in understanding what, if any, contribution the celebrated Sawbuck Drunk might have made to the confederation of the colonies and charters of British North America. After all, Sir John A’s liver could easily accommodate a reliquarian map of the nation’s progress, charting the essential acquiescence of the original three colonies to unite as four provinces, into a new nation, and then the critical inducement of British Columbia thousands of miles away to join too—almost at full scale. To paraphrase Stompin Tom Connors, “Big Joe Mufferaw”—who paddled up the Ottawa River “in just one day…swam two ways to catch a cross-eyed bass,” and when he threw it down and said, “ ‘I cant eat that,’ he covered it over with Mount St Pat’ [or Sir John’s liver, whichever was bigger].”

    As we aver the fascinating meridians and astrological symbols of the great man’s Haruspex, we might agree with Mr Gwynn that nobody but Macdonald could have ingested the requisite amount of courage-in-a-bottle—better known as audacity—to coordinate the rampant corruptions needed to bribe the American-miner majority in the last, shrinking bit of British American Pacific Coast to confederate with distant, four year-old Canada instead of the proximate, powerful, nearly century-old United States. Perhaps nobody could tolerate the amount of alcoholic fortification Sir John A administered to wheel and deal, on the reel, permission to deploy troops through the very country he confederated Canada to defend British tradition against, to jerk around both Sitting Bull’s Sioux refugees AND the US Cavalry seeking revenge for the massacre of General Custer’s ill-led detachment at the Little Bighorn, to sow promises across the Prairies to some Metis but not others, to Aboriginal nomadic nations, to draw and redraw homelands that shrank into tiny Indian Reserves or evaporated altogether and, perhaps most heinous of all, to leave First Nations to the rough injustices of the bribe-saturated speculators and bigoted Remittence Men of the new province west of the Rocky Mountains. Maybe nobody else had Sir Johnny’s guts—whiskey-rotted as they were— to affect so much corruption and then entrench it at the expense of his own tottering reputation. He even sacrificed his office when finally busted for insider stuff that’d make a hardened sausage maker faint.

    Or maybe he simply sacrificed his sanity. And if he saw his bronzed severed head—like many a besieged premier does in the wee witching hours of cold and lonely nights—he’d probably be the first to whisper, ‘yes, of course…’ pay the hack driver for the delivery and quietly close the door, as he did in real history—the one certain besieged premiers would like to cancel.

    This summer, make sure to visit the Macdonald Ruins in Edmonton. Admission: ten bucks.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.