“If we show ourselves unequal to the occasion, it may never return,” warned John A. Macdonald—then attorney general of the United Province of Canada, and not yet Sir—in 1865, promoting the uncertain notion of Confederation. “And we shall hereafter bitterly and unavailingly regret having failed to embrace the happy opportunity now offered of founding a great nation.”
Thankfully Canadians, at Macdonald’s urging and with good common sense, proved themselves equal to the occasion two years later. Our predecessors were bold enough to recognize and embrace the happy opportunity of 1867, and no bitter or unavailing regrets cloud the past 150 years. The tremendous result being that today we have fulfilled our destiny as a great nation. A very great nation.
This 2017 edition of Maclean’s annual “Year Ahead” issue is particularly portentous. As the sesquicentennial of Confederation, the coming year offers the opportunity to hold a mirror to the many momentous events in the life of our country. It is an occasion to celebrate who and what we are today. And a chance to look forward to imagine the country we’ve yet to become.
It has become commonplace lately for leaders of international organizations and global commentators to recognize Canada as a lonely beacon of the great Western liberal tradition. Against a backdrop of isolationism and populist discontent, Canada has kept alive the foundational beliefs crucial to the long postwar period of prosperity, as well as the triumph of democracy over communism at the end of the 20th century. We remain ardent supporters of free trade in an increasingly protectionist world. Our borders are open to peaceable immigrants as walls are built elsewhere. Our politics remain centrist and civil when the business of governing has become depressingly nasty and polarized in other countries. Neither are we burdened by crippling inequality or punishing poverty. Canada has much to offer to the rest of the world. And we have much to be thankful for ourselves.
It is therefore appropriate that Canadians will be celebrating their country’s 150th anniversary with great fanfare and effort. Beyond conventional festivities marking the occasion—the Canada Day party on Parliament Hill, free admission to Canada’s national parks, special editions of familiar sporting events and the construction of new public edifices—the truest spirit of the year will likely be found in the smaller and more unusual ways individuals and groups are planning to pay tribute to our country’s age: such things as a series of 150 murals gracing public walls in communities big and small, 150 pointe shoes making a cross-country trek courtesy of the National Ballet of Canada, a massive one-day, cross-country Canadian film festival (April 19) and a 1:95 scale digital version of Canada created by Minecraft engineers.
The coming year offers the opportunity to contemplate other, more sobering, national accomplishments as well. In 2017, for example, we will mark the 100th anniversary of Vimy Ridge and the 75th anniversary of the raid on Dieppe. One a great triumph; the other an unquestioned defeat. Both are remarkable displays of courage that played important roles elevating Canada’s stature on the world stage and carrying us to victory in two world wars. Likely to be overlooked but noteworthy all the same, 2017 also marks the 15th anniversary of the deployment of Canadian troops to Afghanistan, as well as our country’s first casualties in that country. Many times over Canada has been asked to pay its debt to freedom in blood; our soldiers have proven equal to every challenge.
Having accepted Macdonald’s prescient challenge of Confederation, over the past century and a half Canada has evolved and grown into the robust, diverse and much-envied country we are today. And for 111 of those 150 years, Maclean’s has borne witness to these important changes. Now we are making big changes of our own; embracing the electronic future of journalism in step with the evolution of the industry and the shifting demands of our readers.
Next year the weekly edition of Maclean’s will move to a digital-only format. It will be available every Friday via app or Texture subscription, providing all the timely news coverage, award-winning opinion writing and unparalleled photography and other visual content readers expect. The print version of the magazine will shift back to a monthly format, as has been the case at various times in our past. Alongside the Macleans.ca website, we will also be integrating the highly respected Canadian Business and MoneySense magazines into our newsroom—providing readers with politics, business and personal finance news and analysis in digital form that maintains the tradition of authority these mastheads command.
One hundred and fifty years ago, Confederation offered our country the prospect of dramatic and uncertain change. Today, because our ancestors embraced that opportunity, all Canadians can celebrate the great nation we’ve become—and look forward to the years ahead.