A friend from Calgary emailed me on a Friday afternoon. “Callers on a talk-radio show are complaining about you. Not Nova Scotia, not Halifax. You, personally. ‘Smart-ass Easterner.’ ‘Another know-it-all from Handout Land.’ What have you gotten into?”
It started with an editorial from the Calgary Herald, wading into the debate about building the eight-storey Mother Canada statue at Green Cove, in Cape Breton Highlands National Park. The statue is intended to be a war memorial, so the Calgary Herald’s editors were all for the plan.
“We don’t see a problem with federal money being injected into the project,” they wrote. “After all, this is about the soldiers who fought for our country… To quibble over a memorial for people who unhesitatingly gave their lives for this country is petty and mean-spirited and dishonours their memories.”
I’ve been Tweeting objections to this scheme for months. (Summary: Canada already has 6,000+ war memorials, it’s wildly out of scale for its setting, it has no historic connection to Green Cove, it’s an inappropriate development for a National Park, the scheme’s backers said it wouldn’t cost the public any money but have already gotten $100,000 in public money and want $25 million more.)
The Calgary Herald’s childishly binary position, that you either love this statue or you’re dishonouring the troops, worked my last nerve. So I fired off a few Tweets to the effect that if they liked Mother Canada so much, they should build it in Banff. Frustration vented, I moved on to other things. Then a reporter from CBC called, interviewing me for a tongue-partially-in-cheek web story on the build-it-in-Banff idea.
The CBC story went live and for a few glorious hours, Twitter seemed to explode. People Tweeted photoshopped pictures of new homes for Mother Canada (the Oil Sands, Lake Louise and 24 Sussex Drive being my favourites). Lots of people messaged me to express their agreement.
A couple people messaged to express a lot of rage. A handful of Albertans somehow reached the conclusion I was disparaging their province, and wrote to encourage me to come discover “the real Alberta” (while also threatening me with a dire result if I ever “dare to come West”).
Twitter has a short attention span and after a couple days, it all petered out. A few diehard Mother Canada opponents still Tweet to me on the subject, but that’s it. I still think the Mother Canada statue is a terrible idea, but can a blizzard of Twitter mockery foil an eight-storey statue? Did anything change?
At press time, organizers were still insisting that Mother Canada would proceed. Parks Canada put out a vague press release saying no public funds would be used for a project it has already helped fund. My gut feeling is the project will peter out. It’s just too absurd, too jingoistic. We’ll find out soon how many Canadians really share that view. I’ve become convinced there are a lot.
The Editor’s Message in the July/August issue of Halifax Magazine contained fact-checking errors in describing Outsider Insight and its history. The arts organization that Gavin Quinn first worked with was the Veith Street Gallery Studio Association, which rents space in Veith House. Justina Dollard, the Association’s executive director, was a co-founder of Outsider Insight. The new Insight Gallery on Ochterloney Street in Dartmouth is a partnership between Outsider Insight and the Veith Street Gallery Studio Association. You can see the corrected Editor’s Message here. Halifax Magazine regrets the errors.