Provinces and territories of Canada
2 min

The slow gutting of Ottawa

The Prime Minister was in Halifax today to re-dedicate the Pier 21 museum as the National Museum of Immigration. This makes the sixth national museum in the country, and now the second outside of Ottawa (the first will be the Human Rights Museum to be built in Winnipeg).

This is galling for a few reasons. One is that this the museum already existed, and this declaration that it is now a national museum smacks of throwing a sop to the East Coast in order to try and curry votes in a region where the Conservatives are hurting. That much is obvious. But what is the bigger – and more insidious – problem is that this is one more example of the hollowing out of Ottawa. We saw this with the aborted plans to tender out the planned National Portrait Gallery, which thankfully didn’t go ahead. A nation’s capital should be the repository of its national museums and cultural institutions. There should be a significance to a capital city beyond the site of the Parliament buildings – it should be a more significant place for the people of the country.

By coming in with their plans on further decentralising the country and removing power from Ottawa, the Conservatives are doing everything they can to make Ottawa a place of irrelevance. Giving more power to the provinces and essentially making federal jurisdiction one devoted solely to national defence and foreign affairs has long been part of their agenda, and this farming out of national institutions in the name of “fairness for the regions” is a symptom of that – even if most of us don’t see it.

We need to put a stop to this, and reaffirm that there is a place within the capital for these kinds of institutions. Further weakening our federation by further decentralisation is irresponsible, and I fear that we will eventually rue the day when we will end up ruing the day we were so careless about protecting our sense of national identity in this way.

Elsewhere, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty is in trouble with the pro-life crowd because he went a letter of congratulations to gay conservative strategist Jaime Watt when Watt won Egale Canada’s inaugural leadership award. The pro-lifers are apoplectic that Flaherty – who has described himself as “pro-life” in the past could also support the “homosexual agenda” and their activists. Obviously they don’t tend to agree with the sentiment that Flaherty expressed in his letter when he said that conservatives fundamentally believe in equality and fairness. Mind you, Flaherty was against same-sex marriage, so perhaps “equality” and “fairness” has a limited scope in his view as well.

The Conservatives are also (temporarily) dropping their xenophobic insistence that veiled women must show their faces before voting, even though such a pronouncement didn’t match what was in the laws, and didn’t make a whole lot of sense other than to rile up a bunch of the anti-immigration sentiment that was being whipped up in Quebec at the time. They say that they still believe that veiled voting is a bad thing, but they just realise that with all three opposition parties against it that it has no chance of passing. Go xenophobia!

Meanwhile, the Toronto Star finished off their “Sham-ocray” series with a look at how the Prime Minister has been adept at exploiting our ignorance of our own system of democracy. What was it we were saying about the youth not getting a proper political education the other day? Right – that would probably also help to ensure that future attempts to subvert democracy by exploiting ignorance don’t happen.