A Day That Changed Canada

Posted by Daniel on Nov 7, 2011

It is autumn book season and the new volumes are arriving like colourful leaves tumbling from the trees.

This morning's post brought a copy of a fetching new title from the folks at Canada's History magazine, 100 Days That Changed Canada (HarperCollins). A gaggle of the country's writers/historians -- I confess to being one of the geese -- have contributed brief essays on a particular event in Canadian history, illustrated with some lovely photographs.

My own contribution/day is September 3, 1962, when Prime Minister John Diefenbaker officially opened the Trans-Canada Highway at a ceremony in Rogers Pass. The celebration had a bit of the Keystone Kops about it. The band that was driving up from Calgary to play O Canada got lost. One speaker from Saskatchewan declared how pleased he was to be in Quebec (?). And just as Dief the Chief declared the road open, the sound system failed and no one heard him.

Meanwhile, BC premier W.A.C. Bennett failed to show up. As usual he had a feud on with the federal government and had no intention of dignifying the event with his presence. In fact he tried to steal Ottawa's thunder by staging his own "official" opening a month earlier, on July 30, when he snipped a ribbon down the road at Revelstoke. Ever since there has been confusion about when the Trans-Canada actually opened; during the production of this book, editors contacted me twice to suggest that perhaps I'd gotten the date wrong. But I think it is fair to say that September 3 is the right day.

Anyway, it is a handsome book and I'm pleased to be a part of it.