Gearing up for Sir John A. Macdonald’s bicentennial!

By Arthur Milnes

The 200th birthday of a nation’s founder comes along only once.
And since 2010, a group of hard-working volunteers and staff at the non-profit, non-partisan Sir John A. Macdonald Bicentennial Commission in Kingston,, have been preparing for the big year.
The commission’s signature activity – one that has received provincial and national honours and notice – are the Sir John A. Macdonald-themed theatrical walks. Professional actors from the SALON Acting Company bring characters like Sir John A., D’Arcy McGee, Lord Sydenham, Isabella Macdonald and others alive for visitors and locals alike.
The 60 minute walking tours wind their way through historic downtown Kingston. Sir John A.’s life and legacy is presented warts and all and the walks have earned headlines from coast-to-coast-to-coast in Canada. They have also been featured on CTV’s Canada AM, CBC Radio’s The House and on Global National.
Some of Canada’s leading citizens, including former Prime Ministers John Turner and Paul Martin, Senator Linda Frum, Minister of Finance Jim Flaherty, hockey legend Don Cherry, Macdonald biographer Richard Gwyn, famed broadcast journalists Lloyd Robertson and Steve Paikin, former Ontario Premier Bob Rae, Canada’s Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin and her colleague Mr. Justice Thomas Cromwell and numerous local Kingston heroes like Julie Brown, Lisa Ray and lawyer Clyde Smith, have even served as guest leaders. The commission will be continuing these famed walking tours in summer 2014.
On Sir John A. Macdonald Day 2014, all roads will again lead to Kingston. The commission is partnering with Queen’s University and a one-day academic conference, Sir John A. Macdonald Then and Now, will take place on January 11. The community’s annual noon-time birthday bash for Sir John A. will also take place that day, as will the annual birthday dinner hosted by the Kingston Historical Society. The City of Kingston, led by His Worship Mayor Mark Gerretsen, will be holding its first-ever Sir John A. Macdonald Day Levee at historic City Hall during the afternoon of January 11, 2014.
Visitors will also enjoy specials at Kingston restaurants such as Sir John’s Public House, the Iron Duke on Wellington and the Kingston Brewing Company, to name just a few.
Earlier in the week, more than 3,000 area students will be attending performances of SirJohn, Eh? The Roadshow at the public school in Kingston named in Sir John A.’s honour. This rock musical, performed by the professional actors and musicians from the SALON Acting Company, provides an educational and fun journey for young Canadians highlighting the life and times of Sir John A. Macdonald.
The Sir John A. Macdonald Bicentennial Commission will also be hosting town hall meetings in various communities in Canada during 2014. We are also busy preparing a collection of Macdonald’s greatest speeches for publication; assembling an impressive on-line Macdonald Library to benefit students and researchers; and, organizing and encouraging a variety of other events and activities locally and nationally.
The 200th birthday of Canada’s Father of Confederation will not come around again. We hope that Canadians will visit us in Kingston to join in the commemorations and celebrations or consider holding an event in your home community.

Happy (early) Sir John A. Macdonald Day!