I didn’t vote for anyone at all in the Greatest Canadian contest.Despite the endless e-mail entreaties and the online discussion groupexhortations I’ve been pummelled with for the last six weeks bywell-intentioned fellow lefties to vote early and vote often for TommyDouglas, I didn’t vote, not even once. At five votes per week, pertelephone number (work and home), plus one vote per week from each of mythirteen (or so) e-mail addresses, I guess that means I wasted 138votes.
It’s nothing personal. I think Tommy was a pretty neat guy. The fatherof medicare, NDP legend, progressive…lots to recommend him. Some ofthe others on the list are laughable. But honestly, have those of youwho have been feverishly punching the buttons on your telephones for thelast six weeks considered just how absurd this whole contest is?
I won’t go on about how there were practically no women on the list, andnone in the top ten. It’s been done to death. I can accept the factthat this is purely “viewers’ choice,” and that most of the people whomade nominations think that women haven’t contributed anythingworthwhile enough to make the list. I can accept that Don Cherry madethe top ten — he’s a popular guy, and people across Canada wait for hisweekly tirade on Hockey Night In Canada with bated breath. He’s as muchof a Canadian institution as Stompin’ Tom and Sir John A.
What I can’t accept is the whole premise of this contest to begin with.Everyone contributes to the fabric of our society in different ways.How can we possibly compare Margaret Atwood‘s contribution to Canadawith Rosemary Brown‘s? On what scale can both Shania Twain and Nellie McClung be measured in order to decide which person has contributedmore? All four of these people have contributed through their own medium:literature, politics, music and feminist activism. It isimpossible to compare them in order to declare a winner, and ridiculousto try.
I understand why fellow progressives want Tommy to win. I think for alot of people this contest is a referendum on Canadian values. If Tommywins, that means that his values will be considered “more Canadian” thanthose of Brian Mulroney or Don Cherry. But participating in thiscontest lends it legitimacy, and I don’t think that trying to pick asingle Canadian as “the greatest” is legitimate, no matter who getspicked, for whatever reason.
Contributing to Canadian society isn’t only about becoming a big name inpolitics, or writing books that make the high school reading lists, orhaving Canadian pre-teens hang your glamour shots on their walls. Andeven if I believed that being famous equals being a great Canadian(which I don’t), I think that contributing something great to Canadiansociety can be done in so many different ways that in order to declarewinners, even from just the famous Canadians, you’d have to allow for athousands-way tie.
I can’t choose between David Suzuki, Lucy Maud Montgomery and TommyDouglas. They have all contributed equally great things to our societyin their respective fields. So I won’t even try.