To me, the proposed installation of 22 statues of Canadian prime ministers in Kitchener’s Victoria Park is part of the creeping Americanization of Canada of which George Grant warned us in his 1965 book Lament for a Nation. Grant felt there was an emerging Americanization of Canadians and Canadian culture. As Grant said, “Canada was once a nation with meaning and purpose.”
In the Westminster parliamentary system, our prime ministers are not equivalent to U.S. presidents. A prime minister is not our chief administrative officer, head of state, or commander-in-chief. The Canadian prime minister is just that: the first minister of the crown, first among equals. He is not elected directly, except as an MP by his own constituents, and he is responsible to the House of Commons, the same as all other ministers of the Crown.
Canadians already behave as if we have a presidential system, and government MPs have come to behave as though they are employees of the prime minister, who signs their nomination papers. The media reinforces this perception, as does the party whip. Michael Chong’s Reform Act, introduced in the House of Commons in December 2013, is Canada’s best hope at pushing back creeping presidentialism.
The statues proposal is an Americanization. In Canada, Parliament is supreme and the government and prime minister are responsible to it. The statues proposal is unintentional contempt of Parliament. Canadians should be resisting this Americanization and the concentration of power in the Prime Minister’s Office. This concentration of power in the PMO is at present the greatest threat to Canadian democracy.
We celebrate our history by respecting our traditions, which includes respecting Parliament. The achievements of our great prime ministers were actually the achievements of all their ministers and the parliament to which they were responsible. This is the history lesson that we should be teaching.