Monday, July 05, 2004

CANADA DAY ROAD TRIP

I spent my Canada Day long weekend on a road trip of Eastern Ontario, the principal destination of which was Ottawa with a brief stop in Kingston. We drove from Newmarket to the capital along highway 7 to avoid the traffic of the 401. Driving up and down the 401, as I so often do, and living stretched out along the U.S border, as most of us do, its easy to forget how much of the country is out there. Driving on a two lane raod between Norwood, Madoc and Maberly one is reminded of how vast this country is and how beautiful this country is, both its land and its people.

I had never been in Ottawa for Canada Day; being there was awesome. We spent much of the day on Parliament Hill listening to the Prime Minister the Governor General and various excellent Canadian musical performers. I thought that the Prime Minister actaully spoke quite well, of course my opinion is deeply coloured by the atmosphere that affects a nationalist like me on Canada Day. As the PM spoke I couldn't help but think that he (or a member of his staff) had been reading Warren Kinsella's blog over the past week and decided to take the advice to describe Canada as a nation second to none. The Governor General, whom I adore, actually disappointed me somewhat with the delivery of her speech. She was hard to hear and everytime she looked down at her text her big hat covered her face. The text of her speech, however, reads quite well:

Listening to these new Canadians and watching how they embrace Canada is a reminder of the enormous benefits we get from our citizenship. While we often think we are a young country, we are one of the oldest democracies in the world, with a prosperity and freedom that we must not take for granted. Today is a good day to ask, "What does this country mean to me? What can I offer that no one else can?"

Twice in one day I got to stand up on Parliament Hill and sing the national anthem with about 45,000 other Canadians. I hadn't had on opportunity to do that since I was outside Notre-Dame basillica in Montreal for Trudeau's funeral and rarely have I felt so united with my fellow citizens.

In these post election days I'm reading a lot of bitter commentaries from Canadians of all political persuasions from all across the country. Conservative westerners lash out at the perceived ignorance of the liberal east and the latter reacts in kind. NDP supporters feel betrayed by turn-coat leftists while others hasten to point out that the separatists ran rampant in Quebec. Yet in the evening on July 1st George Elliot Clarke delivered a brilliant and rousing Canada Day poem to those assembled on the Hill. The entire poem was wonderful and I'm attempting to find the full text, but the line of Clarke's that should resonate across the land was, "the government of Canada is not Grit or Tory or Bloc or NDP; the Government of Canada is you and me." When Clarke concluded with that he got some of the loudest cheers of the day.

That line is as much a reminder to our politicians to work for the citizenry as it is for the citizenry to work together for the country. Cheers to a Parliament elected by us, to represent us. Cheers to Canada.

Posted by Matthew @ 11:11 AM