War of 1812 celebration found to be a waste of $30 million

Matthew Coutts
National Affairs Reporter
Daily Brew
The battle over who won the War of 1812 rages on

It appears the $30 million spend marking the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812 could have been better used on infrastructure, military jets, or just tossed off with the rest of the money used to advertise the government's Economic Action Plan.

Because it appears to have gone to waste, as far as Canadians are concerned.

As recently as this week the Government of Canada was commemorating the War of 1812. A Tuesday event with the Niagara Historical Society was the latest in a seemingly endless celebration of the “seminal event in the making of our great country.”

Those are their words, not mine.

Trumpets have blared for over a year now. Battles have been reenacted, commemorative coins have been minted. It’s been quite a to-do, and if someone wasn’t paying attention they would thing the entire nation had been swept up in a blur of bicentennial celebration.

[ Related: Survey: Canadians grow weary of ads for Economic Action Plan ]

The government spent as much as $30 million to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the war between the United States and our British overseers. And for that price they purchased an endless supply of ennui.

A Nanos Research poll found that interest in the War of 1812 was virtually nonexistent.

The Globe and Mail reports the poll found that Canadians did not feel the government should have spent money marking the War of 1812.

Only 28.6 per cent of those polled supported spending money on celebrating the War of 1812, and a similar number were left feeling any more patriotic.

The poll also found that tributes to the Queen's Diamond Jubilee and the 40th anniversary of the 1972 Canada-Russia Summit Series were considered poor uses of taxpayer money.

This poll does not really come as a surprise. Earlier this month, the Canadian Press reported that the government’s official War of 1812 website had been a bust, with the page alerting people that they were about to leave the site being the most-visited page, aside from the English and French welcome pages.

[ Related: Shame Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal turned out to be a farce ]

As with the Nanos poll, much of the interest in the detail-laden website appears to have come from Ontario. Which makes sense, considering the province sits at the heart of the former Upper Canada and most battles were found in the region.

“What does the War of 1812 have to do with British Columbia?” Nanos Research president Nik Nanos asked the Globe. “Not a lot.”

Interesting note from the Nanos Research poll: The milestone found most worthy of celebration was the anniversary of the Charter of Rights, which received 47.1 per cent support, followed by women's suffrage at 46.5 per cent.

The upcoming 200th anniversary of the birth of Sir John A. MacDonald, to be celebrated in 2015, received about as much support for commemoration as the War of 1812 received.

So before the government decides to allocate $30 million to mark that occasion, it should remember one this.

Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.