Canada 2017

How well do these Canadian 'bests' hold up in 2017?

Over the years, CBC has been seeking out Canada's "bests". As we enter the sesquicentennial, are we still in love with these past favourites?

From Tommy Douglas to Niagara Falls — are we still in love with past favourites?

Tommy Douglas, known as "The Father of Medicare," was voted "The Greatest Canadian" in 2004. Pictured here in Ottawa, October 1983. (Canadian Press)

The human desire to be the best will never fade — we're a competitive species! — and Canadians are no exception.

Canada's Smartest Person is currently redefining "smart," Canada Reads manages to turn book clubs into battlegrounds and this year we're launching a new culinary web series called, quite bluntly, We Are The Best

A look to the CBC archives reveals that we've been striving to find and celebrate the best of this country for the last couple of decades. In the year of Canada's 150th anniversary, we're wondering: how well do these highlights from the past hold up?

Check out these greats — and let us know in the comments what changes you'd make!

The Greatest Canadian (2004) 

In 2004, Peter Mansbridge hosted The Greatest Canadian, a hotly contested show in which ten Canadian celebrities championed their picks for a great, nay the greatest, Canadians. The winner? Tommy Douglas, who implemented Canada's first pre-paid, publicly administered health care system in 1962 Saskatchewan.

Tommy Douglas chosen as the Greatest Canadian in 2004

18 years ago
Duration 2:18
Canada's choice for the greatest Canadian is revealed in a live TV broadcast at the end of a CBC competition. Aired Nov. 29, 2004 on The National.

Many would agree that the "father of medicare" is a deserving Greatest Canadian winner, but if we held the same contest today, would he still claim the title?

It's hard to imagine the short list of 2004 getting proposed today — not that any of the nominees are less great 12 years later, but there wasn't a single woman in the running in the top ten, and, save for David Suzuki, the all-male list was all-white as well.

Any potential list of greatest Canadians would likely have to stand up to the "because it's 2015" test. 

A true Canadian is one who can make love in a canoe without tipping.- Pierre Berton

50 Tracks: The Canadian Version (2005)

Also in 2004, 50 Tracks hit CBC Radio One in search of the best pop songs from around the world. A year later, 50 Tracks: The Canadian Version dialled in on Canada's essential pop songs. Over the course of ten weeks, panelists pitched and pleaded the case for their pop picks, the final list being determined by public vote.

In 2014, CBC Music made room for even more great tunes with The 100 Best Canadian Songs Ever. Wavin' Flag joined the ranks with Four Strong Winds, and Rockin' in the Free World got to keep rockin', now alongside 1234.

Picking musical favourites is a hot topic, and with great new music being released all the time, we do our best around here to keep up. Just last year, CBC Music posed the 25 best Canadian songwriters everEVER. Agree? Disagree?

The Greatest Canadian Invention (2007)

With the greatest people and songs already determined, Margaret Atwood, Buck 65, Chris Hadfield and 17 others went to bat for The Greatest Canadian Invention in 2007.

Insulin took home the title, but it's hard to play favourites between the Ski-doo, the Wonderbra, the pacemaker and poutine.

Have we invented anything more impressive since? Punting Banting? Besting Best? 

(And for more great inventions, see our recent list of 150 facts about Canada.)

Remembering Dr. Charles Best

45 years ago
Duration 7:54
The life of Dr. Charles Best is celebrated by scientists and diabetics around the world.

The Seven Wonders of Canada (2007) 

In the same year as the greatest invention debate, The Seven Wonders of Canada sought to identify Canada's answers to the Pyramids of Giza or the Great Barrier Reef. As you can see, public opinion didn't quite line up with the judges' decisions.

    Public vote vs Judges' decision: Seven Wonders of Canada
Public voteJudges' decision
Bay of FundyThe Canoe
Nahanni National ParkPrairie Skies
Northern LightsOld Quebec City
Sleeping GiantPier 21, Halifax
Niagara FallsNiagara Falls
The RockiesThe Rockies

Our landscapes, landmarks and monuments haven't changed much in the last nine years, and we'd wager our love and appreciation for the canoe hasn't either. 

(Pierre Burton once said, "A true Canadian is one who can make love in a canoe without tipping.")

But are you over Niagara Falls? Sleepy at the thought of the Sleeping Giant? Should SGang Gwaay join the list and give Pier 21 the bump?

We wonder. Let us know in the comments which "bests" stand the test of time, and which new picks are due for a moment in the spotlight.

The canoe: A true 'Wonder'

16 years ago
Duration 4:09
The canoe is a candidate for CBC's "Seven Wonders of Canada" competition in 2007.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?