I'll take Cambridge over Oxford for books on WWI's origins



In a few days, we will mark 100 years since the first guns of August boomed beginning the First World War.

Why did it happen? Well, er, it’s complicated. Really, really complicated. So complicated that there have been, literally, thousands and thousands of books written about The Great War in several languages. And historians have argued amongst themselves – and often with the lay public — about its origins for, well, for 100 years. And they continue to find new things to argue about and talk about. Continue reading I'll take Cambridge over Oxford for books on WWI's origins

Why is history important to Harper?

Saint-Paul-de-l’Île-aux-Noix, Quebec – In September, 2012, Prime Minister Stephen Harper visited Fort Lennox, QC to announced that battle honours would be awarded to those regiments that served in the War of 1812. (PMO Handout Photo)

On Tuesday,the Canadian Journal of History published an essay by Yves Frenette, one of Canada’s top historians, which is sharply critical of the way the Harper government has “used” or, so far as the critics go, “abused” Canada’s history. Frenette’s essay is a good summing-up of the kind of critique which has been showing up over the last three or four years whenever academics gather at conferences, at their blogs, and in other fora.

Note to reader: Those links won’t click themselves. I encourage you to check them out.

As a political journalist (and history grad), I’m much more interested in why governments turn to history to help sustain their current political objectives. I wrote about this in a column destined for our papers on Wednesday and I wrote about this last month when Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird spoke about the history of Canada’s foreign policy. Mind you, I’m limited to just 625 words for each of these columns so I can’t get into some of the same great detail that Paul Wells touches on his book  The Longer I’m Prime Minister … that helps answer this question about why the Harper gang is interested in Canadian history: Continue reading Why is history important to Harper?

Harper's History key to a Conservative Century

Harper War of 1812
Prime Minister Stephen Harper visits Fort Lennox in Saint-Paul-de-l’Île-aux-Noix, Que. on Friday Sept. 14, 2012. Harper visited the site to commemorate Canadian victories in the War of 1812. (Maxime Deland/QMI Agency)

Both his fans and his critics agree on one thing about Stephen Harper. He wants to transform the country, so Canadians will come to see his Conservatives and not the Liberals as the natural governing party.

By the election of 2015, he will have done much in that regard.

But to make that work endure, the Conservatives need history on their side. They need a narrative of Canada in which Conservative Party values are integral to the story. Voters who buy this history will then turn to Conservative leaders as the default choice in this century the way Canadians turned to Liberal leaders by default in the last century.

I’m not the first to advance this thesis. Plenty have done something similar over the last few years, particularly when the Harper Conservatives allocated millions to mark the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812. But this week, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird gave a speech about John Diefenbaker’s foreign policy and that speech, more than anything I’ve heard yet from a Conservative politician, neatly articulated the Conservative vision of how Canada’s history ought to be read or interpreted. Continue reading Harper's History key to a Conservative Century

Who should be Canada's national librarian? A librarian or an economist?

Library and Archives Canada

The country’s librarians and archivists never had a good feeling from the start about Daniel Caron, the economist appointed in 2009 by Heritage Minister James Moore to be Canada’s Librarian and Archivist of Canada, partly because, they felt, his professional training and pedigree was as an economist. (He did a postgraduate degree in economics at Laval and then a doctorate in “applied human sciences” at the Université de Montréal.) Caron, in 2009, was also taking over what was described as a newly “unified” institution. Rather than have separate two separate positions — a national Librarian and a Chief Archivist — both jobs were going to “unified” in one office and Caron was picked to make it a success.

Continue reading Who should be Canada's national librarian? A librarian or an economist?

In hot water for big spending ways, Canada's top librarian quits

Hot off the presses ..

Not only did the French- and English-speaking Caron bill taxpayers more than $4,000 in 2011-12 so he could take one-on-one Spanish lessons, he signed a $10,000 contract last year for another year’s worth of lessons though a spokesman said no charges were ever actually incurred on that second contract.

Still, Caron appeared to enjoy the taxpayer-funded perks of the job.

Caron enjoyed dining, for example, at the swanky Rideau Club in downtown Ottawa, billing taxpayers more than $2,100 for his 31 visits to the members-only club over the last two years. And if he wasn’t eating at the Rideau Club, taxpayers still paid: He expensed more than $8,700 for 35 business lunches elsewhere over the last two years.

Researchers with the opposition NDP calculated that Caron’s total bill to taxpayers for his travel and hospitality was more than $87,000 last year alone, including six trips to Europe so he could meet with international archivists. By comparison, his boss, the heritage minister, spent about only half that – $47,755 – on travel and hospitality.

via Sun News : In hot water for big spending ways, Canada’s top librarian quits.

The opposition NDP is on to this:

Coast Guard gets first of its 'Hero' Class vessels, CCGS Private Robertson V.C.

CCGS Private Robertson V.C.

The federal government today put a brand new Coast Guard vesssel, the CCGS Private Robertson V.C. (handout pic above) into service in Sarnia, today.

From the press release announcing her service: Continue reading Coast Guard gets first of its 'Hero' Class vessels, CCGS Private Robertson V.C.

The War Museum's latest: The tank that launched Canada's Armoured Corps

Before restoration: Canadian War Museum's M1917 tank
BEFORE: This First World War M1917 tank was doing duty as a logging tractor near Bracebridge, ON before the Canadian War Museum acquired it in 1997.

The Canadian War Museum today unveiled the latest edition to its excellent LeBreton Gallery, the garage-like space in the building’s southeast corner that houses a very cool collection of military vehicles, artillery and one large jet plane. The latest edition is a restored M1917 Six-Ton Tank, one of only two such machines thought to exist in Canada from the 950 manufactured by the Americans at the end of the First World War. The tanks came off the line in the United States too late, though, to see any action in Europe. Nonetheless, this tank played a key role in the developed of Canada’s armoured capabilities in the Second World War: Continue reading The War Museum's latest: The tank that launched Canada's Armoured Corps