The 2014 return of the Canadian Heritage Minutes – those brief interludes from the 1990s when TV viewers got a glimpse of the nation's past by way of costumed actors in dramatic skits – will put a spotlight on Sir John A. Macdonald just in time for the founding prime minister’s 199th birthday on Jan. 11.
The mini-film about Macdonald will be followed by another Heritage Minute on the first minister of militia and defence and father of Confederation, Sir George-Etienne Cartier. Both Heritage Minutes will be released on Saturday by Historica Canada, a charitable organization dedicated to Canadian history and citizenship.
The clip above depicts Macdonald, Cartier and George Brown aboard a ship in 1864 Quebec City, and makes coy mention of Macdonald's widely known propensity to drink.
The goal is to pique people's interest, said Anthony Wilson-Smith.
The president of Historica Canada said it was the "frightening" results of a poll conducted a couple of years ago that prompted the organization to commission the clip. He said pollsters found 42 per cent of Canadians could not name the nation's founding prime minister.
With that apparent lack of knowledge, Wilson-Smith said Historica Canada couldn't focus on his early life or later accomplishments, but one thing for which he is known.
"We chose the creation of Canada and went from there," he told Rosemary Barton on CBC News Network's Power & Politics.
Heritage Minutes were first produced in 1991, with the original films featuring Laura Secord running through a forest, John McCrae writing in Flanders Fields, and other depictions of historical persons and events. They have since become part of Canadian culture, having been spoofed by shows such as This Hour Has 22 Minutes and The Rick Mercer Report.
They stopped being produced mid-decade and only returned in 2012 to commemorate the bicentennial of the War of 1812.
A year ago, the Department of Canadian Heritage announced support for Historica Canada to produce the two new Minutes on Macdonald and Cartier. It was promised as part of a $360,000 pledge to the organization. The funding comes from the Celebration and Commemoration Program, which gives grants to initiatives of national significance relating to Canada's history.