I liked Sheila Copps in an Elizabethian Weir kind of way. The kind where you disagree with them on most ideas and policies but like them as persons and as political figures. Some people are just likeable – both Copps and Weir were scrappy too – maybe that’s another reason I liked them in their public roles. Liz Weir would stand up in the Leg and thunder at Frank McKenna – it was fun.
Anyway I was thinking about Sheila yesterday after reading another diatribe in a western Canadian paper about the lazy and unmotivated Atlantic Canadians and how Albertan money is a crutch holding us back from our true potential.
When VIA Rail ran into some financial trouble a few years ago, the federal government was going to bail them out and Sheila proposed that instead of a bailout, we give all Canadians a return ticket on VIA Rail as long as they promise to visit a part of Canada they had never been to before. Do you remember this?
She was, of course, laughed at and dismissed but I liked the idea.
I have been grappling with the issues of national identity and patriotism for some time and I still haven’t resolved anything in my mind but I do think that being part of a country means something – and maybe having a basic understanding of that country is a starting point. There are millions of new immigrants to Canada that have never been to Atlantic Canada – and wouldn’t be able to name a single city here.
I don’t know if you can force feed culture or national identity or patriotism. I tend to think those things sort of bubble up over time. But I do think that we should at least make some limited attempts to understand our country and its regions.
I think Sheila was on to something.