The old adage goes ‘a week is a long time in politics’, but a day? Given that we only have a day to be Prime Minister it’s safe to assume any legislative priorities would be better left to my esteemed NDP successor, who will have far more time to enact our social democratic priorities. This leaves executive spending decisions, personnel appointments, foreign policy commitments and … the declaration of national holidays.
Recent trends with respect to the demand for French-language education in English-Canada are encouraging, as more and more students are being enrolled in French immersion at an earlier age and Canadian parents are competing to get their children into French-language schools. However, Canada still has a long way to go to become a truly bilingual country, rather than a country that calls itself bilingual and is really a multi-lingual state with English as the “common tongue”, and French the majority language in only small pockets outside of Quebec and New Brunswick.
In consideration of this fact, in my day as PM, I would generate a long-term, French language education transfer payment from the federal government to the provinces to fund more French language education among English Canada students. I can’t imagine cries of “that’s not federal jurisdiction!” coming from Quebec for this kind of policy. In fact, it could become one of the most powerful tools in the national unity utility belt. In so doing, the federal government would be removing the threat of French-language erosion by making French language education more accessible and readily available. The demand is there on the part of Canadian parents. I can see this spending decision clear the hurdle in 24 hours with little worry.
If only we could abolish the Senate in 24 hours. I would do this without hesitation. However, that not being within the realm of possibility, I would do the next best thing. I would set up a Commission for National Appointments, whose mandate would be to make all federal appointments through a transparent, non-partisan (or multi-partisan) body and remove the centuries-old practice of making pork-barrel appointments. Judges, Parole Board appointees, Senators, Lieutenant Governors and even the office of the Governor General would all fall under the mandate of the commission. Canadians deserve transparency when it comes to how their tax dollars are spent, but also in how their public officials are chosen for office. It’s time to start making appointments on merit, not loyalty.
Canadian foreign policy has become one dimensional, with less and less nuance with every passing year. On my only day as Prime Minister, I would seek to restore Canada’s reputation abroad by championing an actionable issue of international concern, as Canada did in the 1990s when it led the way on banning the use of landmines. To this end, I would propose a ban on the import of goods from unsafe working conditions, such as garment factories where recent collapses have killed thousands. Consumers and the international community should demand better working standards, but it’s unlikely corporations will sacrifice their profit line to meet them without an international consensus. Workers in all countries deserve better and Canada can kick-start an international consensus on better working conditions.
Finally, new holidays are always popular and I would shamelessly promote the creation of another civic holiday, given that Canada is well behind the OECD average for total number of mandatory days off. I would propose a national competition for the creation of a new holiday, probably in June, as there are presently no national holidays in that month. Ideas for a holiday in June: National BBQ Day, National Beaver Day or, as I would argue, National Alexander Keith’s Day. Although, I’m sure Molson would take issue with that.