I would much rather have men ask why I have no statue than why I have one.

Marcus Porcius Cato, also known as Cato the Elder, Cato the Censor, Cato the Wise and Cato the Ancient has one. A statue that is.A statue that is well earned it appears. Here is a snippet found on Wikipedia:

Cato is famous not only as statesman or soldier, but also as author. He was a historian, the first Latin prose writer of any importance, and the first author of a history of Italy in Latin. Some have argued that if it were not for the impact of Cato’s writing, Latin might have been supplanted by Greek as the literary language of Rome.

Last Friday in Orilla CBC reports a bronze sculpture of Canadian icon Gordon Lightfoot was unveiled: http://www.cbc.ca/news/arts/gordon-lightfoot-sculpture-1.3285837

The always humble Lightfoot was on hand to say:

“When I found out they were working on it, I thought, ‘Why me? What have I done that is so great that I should deserve to have a statue”.

When the only one questioning if he is worthy of a statue, is the man himself the answer seems obvious.

Far less obvious is The Prime Minister Statue Project: A Canada 150 Sesquicentennial Initiative: https://www.facebook.com/statueproject

Back in 2013 the CBC covered the project which plans to erect statues of Canada’s prime ministers in a downtown Kitchener park: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/kitchener-waterloo/life-size-prime-minister-statues-proposed-for-kitchener-park-1.2442061

The article outlines budgeted costs of $2 Million (from pledges and corporate interest). The group behind it at that time was proposing the city of Kitchener to provide tax receipts as well as contribute $300,000 to provide the bases.

The plan calls for statues of all 22 of Canada’s prime ministers.

Yes, all of them, including:

  • Kim Campbell whose term of office was 132 days (June 25, 1993 – November 4, 1993)
  • Joe Clark who held the office for a paltry 273 days (June 4, 1979 – March 3, 1980)
  • John Turner who was in office for 79 days (June 30, 1984 – September 17, 1984)
  • Sir Charles Tupper whose stay was only 68 days (May 1, 1896 – July 8, 1896)

To give you some perspective the election campaign we just emerged from was longer than both Turner and Tupper’s time served in office.

The question here is what possible rationale is being advanced by the proponents for this project to support building statues of ineffectual seat-filler Prime Ministers?

“Our prime interest in it is the notion of leadership. When you put aside party lines, that as a country we’ve had very strong leadership but we’ve never really celebrated it.”

Never celebrated it?

WTF?

Yes, as a country we’ve had some very strong leadership, we’ve also had the complete absence of it, which the outcome of the most recent election is evidence to.

What is perplexing is that individuals that have held the office of PM with nothing to show for it are worth celebrating just for holding office.

This all or nothing approach dilutes down the entire notion of strong leaders so that they are indistinguishable from those who just showed up.

This Globe&Mail piece from back in July reported on the blisteringly negative response the city received when it solicited public input with nearly 80 percent of the more 2,400 respondents opposed the idea: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-debate/dont-turn-prime-ministers-into-comic-book-villains/article25653158/

One person is even quoted as addressing the deficit of leadership:

“It would be beyond embarrassing to have 22 additional statues of our former and current Prime Ministers – some of whom have been less than exemplary leaders.”

I don’t buy Shawn Taylor’s belief that the backlash has anything to do with historical self-loathing. If you move beyond Macdonald and into more recent times it doesn’t take much digging to see that Joe Clark is more of a fart than a figurehead of Canadian leadership.

Taylor concludes his piece by saying:

“Canada’s prime ministers weren’t perfect – who is? – but they are important markers of our country’s progress through the years. If you approve of Canada circa 2015, you ought to give our past leaders at least some of the credit for getting us here. A statue or two wouldn’t hurt either.”

Some of the credit, sure but there is a huge difference between “important markers” and “strong leaders”.

A statue or two is absolutely fine, not all 22.

Film director Claude Chabrol once said “You have to accept the fact that sometimes you are the pigeon, and sometimes you are the statue.”

Something the organizers of The Prime Minister Statue Project seem unwilling to accept.

In Canada circa 2015 attempts to immortalize leaders rarely ends in a bronze cast or the final chiseling of a block of stone.

Back in January the CBC ran a piece depicting a bronze statue of Sir John A Macdonald wearing an OHL Kitchener Rangers jersey is unpacked by volunteers: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/kitchener-waterloo/6-sir-john-a-macdonald-facts-to-mark-his-200th-birthday-1.2895312

In April members of the school community at Kitchener Waterloo Collegiate Institute adorned the school’s statue of William Lyon Mackenzie King with a hard hat and safety vest as seen in this edition of The Record: http://www.therecord.com/news-story/5559037-king-is-keeping-careful-watch-over-king-street-lrt-construction/

These are playful additions to 2 of Canada’s strong leaders. I can’t wait to see what is in store should statues be made of mediocre and almost invisible Prime Ministers, let alone ones that divided the country like the outgoing one.

A warehouse manager from Odessa, Ukraine sums it up best by saying: “Everything flows, everything changes, old figures give way to new ones, and so the world turns.”

He would know as an existing statue of Lenin that stood outside his factory was set to be demolished, but instead was repurposed by artist Alexander Milov: https://meduza.io/en/lion/2015/10/22/shedding-its-communist-past-odessa-converts-lenin-statue-into-a-monument-to-darth-vader

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