A penchant for the past

Conservative party embraces patriotism


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OTTAWA -- The public's knowledge of the War of 1812 might be a bit sketchy, but Canadians might not easily forget who's banging the drum for the bicentennial.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 13/10/2011 (4253 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

OTTAWA — The public’s knowledge of the War of 1812 might be a bit sketchy, but Canadians might not easily forget who’s banging the drum for the bicentennial.

Parliamentary secretary Pierre Poilievre was marched in to a news conference Wednesday at the Canadian War Museum by a piper and percussionist in period costume. He was just one of seven Conservative ministers and MPs who fanned out across the country to re-announce what the heritage minister had already done with much fanfare at southern Ontario’s Fort George a day earlier.

The attention and resources devoted to the conflict’s bicentennial — at least $28 million in spending according to the last budget — is part of a particular brand of Canadian nationalism that political observers say Prime Minister Stephen Harper has embraced and tried to sell during his time in power.

Postmedia Postmedia News GEOFF ROBINS / Postmedia News archives A line of British soldiers fires on the Americans during a War of 1812 re-enactment that was held at Fanshawe Pioneer Village in London, Ont., Oct. 1.

Tom Flanagan, who served as Harper’s chief of staff until 2004, said the patriotic themes pressed by the prime minister diverge from those favoured by the Liberals — multiculturalism, bilingualism and peacekeeping, for example.

“I remember him saying years ago that the Conservative party in any country ought to be the party of patriotism, that the Liberals in Canada had appropriated that role and that the Conservatives had to win it back,” said Flanagan, a professor at the University of Calgary.

“But the Canadian version of patriotism, in distinction to the Liberals, emphasizes our British heritage. All sorts of things, both great and small, fit into the strategy.”

The military, the monarchy, the North, Canadian history and sports are some of the touchstones that come up repeatedly in the Conservative government’s policy decisions, addresses, Speeches from the Throne and photo opportunities.

“In 2011, Canada marked some important milestones — our combat mission in Afghanistan came to an end, Parks Canada… celebrated 100 years and their royal highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge made their very first visit to Canada,” Poilievre said.

“Next year will mark the 200th anniversary of the Selkirk settlement, the 60th anniversary of her Majesty’s ascension to the throne and the 100th anniversary of the Grey Cup. In the next few years leading up to the 150th anniversary of Confederation in 2017 we will celebrate many other significant anniversaries, events that define our country’s great history and who we are as Canadians.”

The Conservative government has also made direct policy changes to reflect their vision of what’s worth celebrating and highlighting as part of the Canadian identity.

— The Canadian Press

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