One of Canada’s best-known non-fiction writers thinks Sir John A Macdonald is Canada’s greatest Canadian and does not hesitate to sing his praises. She was a passionate advocate for him in the recent CBC series “The Greatest Canadian.”
Charlotte Gray is an author, historian and public speaker.
Charlotte Gray, author of eight acclaimed books of literary non-fiction, thinks Macdonald deserves a “big bash” in 2015 when the bicentennial of his birth occurs because she is doubtful Confederation would have happened without him.
“If I could talk to him today, I would tell him that he and his pals at Charlottetown did an extraordinary job. Today’s multicultural Canada is totally unrecognizable from the oh-so-British Canada that he masterminded,” she says. “The 1864 constitutional framework which was ratified by a bored Westminster in 1867 has proved sufficiently sturdy, yet flexible enough to accommodate all the dramatic changes of the past 150 years.”
Gray thinks that Macdonald would be pleased that Canada still has a monarch and also delighted about Canada’s now-thriving wine industry.
“But he would be appalled at the low regard in which public servants, elected and (especially) unelected, are held,” she says. “He thought the best of people. I am sure he would be disappointed to see the mean-spiritedness with which politicians view bureaucrats, and by the way both groups are generally viewed by voters.”
Gray says she always has liked the fact that Macdonald liked women, “whether it was the publican in Kingston or the wives of his colleagues.”
“He was chivalrous, uxorious and fun,” she says. “No wonder women liked him.”
Gray hopes that people rally to celebrate Macdonald’s 200th birthday in January 2015.
“There should be commemorative postage stamps, a national day of celebration on Parliament Hill, balloons, fireworks and even a torch to be carried across the country like was done for the Olympics,” she says.
A theatrical gala in Toronto, patriation of the British North American Act from Westminster in England, special medals for school children who do related history projects, and a replay on CBC TV of the film about Macdonald’s alliance with George Brown are other suggestions Gray thinks would be appropriate to commemorate the bicentennial.
“As for me, I will celebrate with a glass of something manly and alcoholic and a silent prayer of thanks.” she says.
Gray appears regularly on radio and television as a political and cultural commentator and is former chair of the board of Canada’s National History Society, which publishes the magazine “Canada’s History.” Her most recent book is “Gold Diggers, Striking It Rich in the Klondike.”
Her book “The Massey Murder: A Maid, her Master and the Trial that Shocked a Nation”is to be published in fall of 2013.