Tuesday, October 28, 2008

 

CONDEMNED TO REPEATING PAST MISTAKES

I read this week that since he was first elected in January 2006, more than $30-million has been spent to protect the Prime Minister. I do not begrudge the expenditure nor the need to provide adequate security for the country's leaders.

I don't envy Mr. Harper. He occupies a position which even in a docile country such as ours requires that he, his associates, his family and other government representatives be protected from whatever "loony" elements of society seek to harm them. It saddens me.

Surely, in the face of the economic crunch which is just around the corner, various government departments and agencies will soon be mandated to trim budgets and expenditures. The Prime Minister's safety and security, particularly through these difficult times, is an essential which will not, should not, be compromised.

In fact, it is the temptation to cut other programs which worries me. In another "post" at another time several months back I cited an example of a cemetery employee in Kingston using his own money to replace (from a Canadian Tire Store) the flag on the grave site of our first Prime Minister, Sir John A. MacDonald. The final resting places of most of the country's past leaders being in such a state of disrepair to be, as I invoked at the time, an embarrassment of "monumental" proportions. Despite the severe economic times everywhere, this is surely not a situation which would be tolerated south of our border. It seems to me that in the United States, sites of monumental and historic importance would never be neglected. Mount Rushmore, the Alamo, Gettysburg, the Washington D.C. memorials to past Presidents...even a planned library for the outgoing President, George W. Bush.

In this country, it just seems to get worse. Canada has 925 national historic sites described by Parks Canada as "places of profound importance..." Parks Canada and other Federal Agencies manage 236 of the sites. They include the Parliament Buildings, the Fortress Louisbourg, the Rideau Canal (a World Heritage site), and many historic Battlegrounds. Several, including the Prime Ministerial grave sites, are deteriorating and in urgent need of protective work.

A recent survey of the 689 sites not managed by the Federal Government found about 70% of those in just fair or worse, in poor condition. A federal program that used to help pay for conservation and presentation projects is so hard-up for cash that it has been able to fund just "one" project since 2000. Of the sites surveyed, 276 said they will face budget shortfalls over the next 3 to 5 years.

Parks Canada is the world's oldest parks service. It started in 1885 when the Federal Government of the time passed a law to protect the Banff hot springs in Alberta, now a part of the Banff National Park.

According to a recent story from the Canadian Press, beginning next spring, a new advertising campaign..."will tout Parks Canada as the premiere presenter of Canada's preserved natural and historic treasures." At this juncture, just about anything will help. Even in the face of the country's economic reality, some may hopefully still have the foresight not to gut our history. People that do are generally condemned to repeat it.

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