How should Canadians celebrate the 200th birthday of their first prime minister?
“Go out into the middle of any outdoor hockey rink on January 11, 2015 and drink a glass of brandy, John A’s favourite libation. If the ice looks thin, go anyway.”
So says Michael Adams, the co-founder of Environics Research Group, one of Canada’s leading public opinion and market research companies.
He thinks Canadians don’t always beat the drum loudly for our political leaders, so different from the way the Americans celebrate presidents such as Washington and Lincoln who which have national holidays in their honour.
Adams, the author of the Donner Prize winning bestseller Fire and Ice: The United States, Canada and the Myth of Converging Values, says this stems from the differing ways citizens of each country view their leaders.
Could this attitude be changed? Adams says not.
“The tall poppy syndrome is a socio-cultural characteristic in our collective DNA. Instead of focusing on our leaders’ occasional acts of courage, wisdom, and even heroism, we dwell on their all too human foibles. Cut them down to size. Make sure they don’t put on airs as my Bruce County grandmother used to say.”
If Adams could talk to Macdonald today, he would have lots to tell him.
“Catholic Quebec is now one of the least religious places on the planet, although Jesus suffers on the cross above the National Assembly witnessing the sinning below. We allow people of the same sex to marry each other, although we still allow those of the opposite sex to tie the knot if they so wish,” he says. “The mayor of Calgary is a Muslim. He enjoys approval ratings in the eighty percents and any other city in the country, given the chance, would probably steal him. The list of things that we take for granted from the role of the state and the taxes people pay for services they find essential to the abolition of the death penalty would astonish a 19th-century politician.”
Adams says the most significant change in Canadian society since Sir John A.’s time is how women have become equal to men in most milieus and in some ways outperform them.
“For instance, women are surpassing men in schools and universities. We have had three female Governors-General, six of our thirteen premiers are women and so is our Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada. For the time being, men remain the more numerous sex in corporate boardrooms and in the NHL.”
(Macdonald was the first national leader to propose the vote for women. Early in 1885, while proposing enabling legislation, Canada’s first prime minister argued that this country “should have the honour of first placing woman in the position that she is certain, after centuries of oppression, to obtain.” That meant “completely establishing her equality as a human being and as a member of society with man.”)
If Canada’s political leaders could take any lessons from Macdonald’s experience uniting the country, Adams says they need to “be prepared to fudge [their] principles.”
“Canada has proven Zeno’s paradox of the dichotomy: politically you never get from A to B, only half way, ad infinitum. The Canadian crosses the road to get to the middle,” he says.
Co-founded in 1970 by Michael Adams, Environics Research Group has built a reputation for insight, accuracy and integrity over four decades. From a start-up focused on public affairs polling, Environics has grown to become a leading public opinion and market research firm employing experts in a range of practice areas, from pharmaceuticals and financial services to human resources and consumer marketing