Politics

Tories promising free admission to Canada's national museums

The Conservatives are promising to give Canadians free admission to the country's national museums if they form government this election.

Scheer says he'd also list the gravesites of former PMs and GGs as national historic sites

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer meets people as he main streets during a campaign stop in Newcastle, Ont., on Saturday, October 5, 2019. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

The Conservatives are promising to give Canadians free admission to the country's national museums if they form government this election.

Inspired by the free Smithsonian museums in Washington, D.C., Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said Canadians and visitors should be able to visit Canada's museums at no cost every day.

"These incredible institutions belong to all Canadians," he said this morning from the Ottawa Marriott Hotel.

"The very act of walking into a museum is a reminder that before us came generations of Canadians who shaped this land into what it is today."

There are nine national museums in Canada, seven of them located in the capital region. They include:

  • National Gallery of Canada (Ottawa)
  • Canadian Museum of History (Gatineau, Que.)
  • Canadian War Museum (Ottawa)
  • Canadian Museum of Nature (Ottawa)
  • Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 (Halifax, N.S.)
  • Canadian Museum for Human Rights (Winnipeg, Man.)
  • Canada Science and Technology Museum (Ottawa)
  • Canada Aviation and Space Museum (Ottawa)
  • Canada Agriculture Museum (Ottawa)

The Parliamentary Budget Officer says eliminating these facilities' admission fees would cost about $20 million in 2020-2021 and rise to $22 million a decade from now.

Scheer also is promising to designate the RCMP Heritage Centre in Regina, which celebrates the history of the national police force, as a national museum and offer free admission.

Saskatchewan MP and Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale already has promised to upgrade the heritage centre to a national museum.

A Conservative government also would designate the gravesites of former prime ministers and Governors General as national historic sites, said Scheer.

"Because I believe Canada's history should always be celebrated. Is it perfect? Of course not. But we must never allow political correctness to erase what made us who we are," he said.

"We should celebrate the giants of our history, like Macdonald, Mackenzie-King and Laurier."

Learning from past mistakes

Scheer said the nation's museums and memorial installations help Canadians examine their country's past, acknowledge and learn from its mistakes and celebrate its achievements.

"If we look back on our history and our leaders and see only the blemishes, we miss out on a beautiful story of a country that has progressed into one of the safest, freest and most prosperous in the world," he said.

Over the last few years, statues and other memorials dedicated to controversial figures from Canadian history have been subjected to greater scrutiny — and even removal — due to greater awareness of the roles they played in causing harm to First Nations, Metis and Inuit.

Two years ago, the Liberal government led by Justin Trudeau renamed Langevin Block, a building that sits across from Parliament Hill, out of respect for Indigenous Peoples. Hector-Louis Langevin was a father of Confederation and an architect of the residential school system.

The building is now called the Office of the Prime Minister and the Privy Council.

Reconciliation gestures

In January 2018, the City of Halifax took down a statue of Edward Cornwallis, who founded the city in 1749. The removal was considered an act of reconciliation acknowledging the proclamation Cornwallis made offering a bounty to anyone who killed a Mi'kmaq person.

Also in 2018, a statue of Macdonald was removed from the steps in front of Victoria City Hall as a reconciliation gesture over Macdonald's part in creating and defending the residential school system in Canada.

Monuments and memorials to Confederate heroes also have been removed in the United States, partly driven by the belief that they glorify white supremacy.

The Liberals are offering a $200 "culture pass" to every child turning 12 to cover the cost of theatres, museums, art galleries and other cultural venues.

With files from The Canadian Press

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