I say accomplishments with a great deal of pride because thanks to the staff and volunteers at the Sir John A. Macdonald Bicentennial Commission, joined by generous donors and sponsors, Kingston is well on the way towards leading the nation as the Father of Confederation’s birthday is marked across Canada in 2015.
This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for this community and I am proud to report that Kingstonians are seizing it!
Distinguished Canadians such as Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, former prime ministers John Turner and Paul Martin, hockey broadcasting legend Don Cherry, local heroes like Lisa Ray, Julie Brown, Professor Emeritus John Meisel and Clyde Smith, Senator Linda Frum, Minister of Finance Jim Flaherty, astronaut Marc Garneau, broadcast journalists Steve Paikin, Kady O’Malley and Lloyd Robertson, former premier Bob Rae, and so many others have taken time from punishing schedules to lead our walks.
When combined with performances by the talented actors and musicians from Kingston’s SALON Theatre Productions – our commission’s governing body – these walks are simply magical. I am proud to report that we have combined history and theatre and brought 19th century Kingston history alive for visitors, local residents and students alike.
All of Kingston benefits from this national exposure and we are very proud of the positive role our Commission’s work plays in increasing Kingston’s profile.
And speaking of exposure for Kingston, our SALON Acting Company’s professional actors have been performing on VIA trains this year, taking Macdonald’s story to passengers from across Canada. If I told you feedback from on-train audiences has been positive, I’d be understating things. Our troupe has become ambassadors for Kingston, riding the rails that Sir John A. created.
Our play, Sir John, Eh? The Musical, has enlivened Canadian history studies for thousands of Canadian students. Teachers, principals and students tell us over and over again that our unique approach to Sir John A.’s story, one that combines history and art, is exactly what we need to see more of in our schools. In January 2014, I am pleased to report to Kingstonians that upwards of 3,000 local students will again be attending this play thanks to the hard-working leadership at the Limestone District School Board. Once again, the professional actors from the SALON Acting Company will take to the stage and bring the story of Macdonald of Kingston alive in the modern age.
Our Commission is also so very proud of our many activities that Kingstonians might not always see. For example we partnered with Queen’s University last January and co-hosted an impressive academic conference where leading scholars discussed and debated Macdonald and his approach to federalism.
If you visit our website, www.sirjohna2015.ca, you will discover the Macdonald Library. Thanks to Commission staff, working in partnership with the experts at Library and Archives Canada, thousands of primary documents chronicling the life and career of our nation’s first prime minister are accessible to students and researchers. While the Macdonald Library won’t gain the Commission many headlines, it will serve well into the future as a resource that will benefit our nation and those who wish to study its history.
And I’m far from done my report to Kingstonians. More than 9,000 people now receive our monthly newsletter. If you want to join this growing number, please visit www.sirjohna2015.ca and sign up. Through this on-line newsletter we share information with Canadians from all parts of the country about bicentennial planning. Our Commission also interviews prominent Canadians and shares their thoughts about the Macdonald bicentennial with readers.
Finally, our Commission has compiled a collection of Sir John A.’s significant speeches. To do this our professional researcher, Ryan Zade, combed past Hansards, 19th century newspapers and more to put this collection together. Only in Canada it seems would the public words of the founding prime minister not have previously been compiled in book form.
We hope to provide this speech collection, either in print form or online, to as many Canadian schools as possible. This collection will assist students and scholars studying Canada’s earliest days for decades to come. Right now it is being edited and footnoted by a noted academic, Dr. Sarah Gibson, that Whig-Standard readers know well from her many columns in Kingston’s daily paper.
Yes, the Sir John A. Macdonald Bicentennial Commission has been hard at work. But none of these accomplishments would have been possible without the constant support we receive from Kingston and area residents, Homestead Land Holdings, the Davies Foundation, Empire Life, to name only a few, and the City of Kingston, Tourism Kingston and Kingston Accommodation Partners. We also proudly salute the unsung heroes of the Kingston Historical Society for their constant and impressive service over the decades in commemorating Kingston’s greatest son. It was a very high honour for me to serve as the Kingston Historical Society’s speaker for their annual Sir John A. Macdonald memorial service on June 6, 2013.
As we begin preparations for Sir John A. Macdonald Day this coming January, we hope area residents will continue to join the Macdonald Bicentennial movement we are building with Kingston pride. All aboard!