Addicted to novelty since 2001

The Greatest Canadian Premiers Tonight

As I mentioned way back in March, the CBC is emulating the BBC and running a Greatest Canadian show. Tonight is the premier episode, in which they count down from the top 50 Canadians to the top ten. Then, as in the BBC show, there will ten hour-long documentaries, each hosted by a celebrity advocate.

At the end of each documentary or the end of the series, the Canadian public will vote, Canadian Idol style, to choose the winner. Among the celebrity advocates are Rex Murphy, Paul Gross and Mary Walsh, so it ought to be entertaining and informative viewing.

Back in March I speculated as to who might be on the top-ten list. I’m amending it now–here’s my guess. This doesn’t necessarily reflect my personal preferences, just my figuring of likeliest choices):

  1. Pierre Elliot Trudeau
  2. Sir John A. MacDonald
  3. Wayne Gretzky
  4. Terry Fox
  5. Glenn Gould
  6. Margaret Atwood
  7. Maurice Richard
  8. Timothy Findlay
  9. David Suzuki
  10. Celine Dion (sorry, but she might make it)

If that were the list, I’d definitely pull for Terry Fox.

UPDATE: I caught most of the show. It was kind of hokey (and was all that Canadian pop music necessary?), but it appealed to the patriot in me. As I was watching the top 50 (I don’t see that list anywhere on the site at the moment), I was increasingly worried that the CBC had let the public chose the top ten. That was a risky move, and they might have been better served by a panel of experts or something.

Ultimately, though, they did a good job. I’d only object to two: Don Cherry, for obvious reasons, and Alexander Graham Bell, because it feels like cheating. Here are the top ten (links go to details on the CBC site):

I got half of them right (I think Richard was about #13 and Dion was #23 or so). As for the celebrity advocates, Paul Gross seems to be the most promising. He’s a decent actor and writer–and that seems to have made him a decent orator, too. I look forward to his show on Lester B. Pearson, about whom I know shamefully little.

8 Responses to “The Greatest Canadian Premiers Tonight”

  1. jo

    I’m a sucker for the CBC (my little bit of jingoism) and I’ve been looking forward to the result of their “Greatest Canadian” survey. I was really ticked when I found out there were presenting it in this format. I thought the whole point of the survey *was* to vote for and choose the greatest canadian, this turn of events is, in my mind, pandering to american format of reality show. Perhaps that’s the essence of being Canadian?

    BTW, I didn’t vote in the survey, it was just too daunting a task to choose one person. You’ve achieved a nice balance in your list.

  2. filmgoerjuan

    I saw the ads for this and was so thoroughly disgusted at the concept and the horriblenessicity — yes, they were so bad that I created a new word to describe them — of the ads that not only did I not vote, but I will not watch them.

    If I had my way, the people in the ads who were advocating “Shania Twain” or “Neil Young” would have been rounded up and shot. I know it’s just commercials and that they were supposed to be whimsical, but COME ON! SHANIA FREAKING TWAIN?!?!?!?!

    No matter who comes out on top, the list smacks of a TV Guide “Best of” poll. Ugh.

    [I should point out that I think Darren’s list is slightly off in a couple regards. I think Robertson Davies is more likely to make the list than Timothy Findley (although Atwood’s almost definitely on there). And I think Gretzky will be the only hockey player.

    Arrrrgggghhhhh….I got suckered in to speculating about this stupid, stupid popularity contest! Damn you television — I never loved you!]

  3. Andrea

    I think the CBC mentioned Shania Twain in the ads, so that people would get riled up and vote for someone they really thought deserved it.

    People I expect in the top 10:

    1. Terry Fox
    2. David Suzuki
    3. Wayne Gretzky
    4. Pierre Elliot Trudeau
    5. Marshall McLuhan
    6. Lucy Maud Montgomery
    7. Paul Henderson
    8. Gordon Lightfoot
    9. Sir John A. MacDonald
    10. Nellie McClung

    I wouldn’t normally expect people to pick Nellie McClung, but it’s Women’s History Month and the 75th anniversary of the Persons Case. I suspect some lobby groups might have launched a campaign to vote for McClung.

    My list is based on what I expect Canadians would pick — it’s not necessarily made up of people I would choose.

  4. Richard

    Just find it interesting that there is a double entendre in the title of this post: “Greatest Canadian Premiers”. 4 of the top 10 were premiers, that is, first ministers of their governments: Tommy Douglas, premier of Saskatchewan (they couldn’t get Kiefer Sutherland to do at least a voice-over for Douglas’ show?), Sir John A Macdonald, Lester B. Pearson, and and Pierre Trudeau were all prime ministers. I like Pearson the best, and though Trudeau is probably more popular, he wouldn’t be PM if it weren’t for Pearson.

    Also, looks like your prediction was 50% correct of who would be in the top 10: your numbers 5, 6, 7, 8 and 10 weren’t there.

  5. Richard

    Responding to your update, I wrote a paper on Pearson for college, comparing his foreign policy to Diefenbaker’s and I’ll have to dig it out and read it before the Pearson special comes on. That’s probably why I like him over the other 3 PM’s, just because he’s underappreciated, even still.

  6. Mimi

    What I find most intriguing about the list is that there are no women. Surely there is at least one deserving female Canadian that could top Don Cherry’s accomplishments.

  7. Andrea

    Mimi,
    Women have had fewer public opportunities to be “great”. Women weren’t considered persons until 1927, and they had limited career opportunities. During WWII, opportunities increased, but 1950s propaganda forced women back into the home. Being queen of the quilting bee, top card in the bridge club, president of the PTA, or the best meatloaf cook in town were qualities generally only applauded within the “private sphere”. When women did have achievements, they were often downplayed or met with scorn. It was really the 70s or 80s before women could more generally move into positions of public power. So, with most of Canada’s past female greats working within the approved literary field, the shocking feminism sphere, and under-appreciated humanitarian realm, most Canadians have little knowledge of “great” women. And more modern women have had only a limited time in the spotlight. That’s my guess at why most of the women who made it into the top 50 were pop stars. (Aided, no doubt, by voting campaigns held by their labels.)

  8. Bill Stilwell

    So, in the top 100, we have such greats as Bryan Adams, Avril Lavigne and Pamela Anderson, but no Leonard Cohen or Robertson Davies. And Don Cherry in the top 10 is just sad. Paying attention to this for even a few minutes was probably a mistake on my part.

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