How do you make unwanted monuments disappear?
The defeat of Stephen Harper's government clearly compromised two of the Conservatives' controversial pet projects – the giant Mother Canada statue destined for a rocky headland in Cape Breton Highlands National Park and the sprawling Memorial to the Victims of Communism that was to be imposed on a prime site near Parliament Hill.
The Liberals could have rejected both projects outright, distancing themselves from the blatant monumentality of the previous regime. Instead they have been strangely tentative in their deliberations, as if these were two well-loved memorials that had compelling reasons for disfiguring the national landscape.
In the case of the Ottawa project, Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly is dragging out a consultation process before risking a decision. Since there is little support in Ottawa itself for a privately conceived, ideologically driven project that usurped property intended for a new Federal Court building, this seems like undue caution. It's time to hand the project back to its originators, so they can attempt to drum up private support and try to acquire a suitably out-of-the-way site appropriate to a divisive memorial with a heavy-handed political message.
As for the fate of the Mother Canada monstrosity, the Liberals have chosen to continue with an assessment of the project initiated by their predecessors. Opponents have rightly pointed out the limitations of this environmental review, the narrowness of previous public consultations and the Harperites' interference with Parks Canada's mandate to preserve the ecological integrity of the Cape Breton beauty spot against just such intrusive exploitation.
Of course, a willingness to consult stakeholders and wait out the existing studies arguably makes political sense. No one will be able to accuse the Liberals of mean-spirited partisanship when the projects are finally scaled down, defunded, moved to a less noticeable location or simply cancelled.
But there's no need for this kind of conflict-averse timidity when it comes to deciding the future of Mother Canada. Quite apart from the fact that the Stalinesque statue of an oddly draped woman extending her hands toward the Atlantic emptiness is the textbook case of an aesthetic don't, there is no justification for sticking this misbegotten mother in a national park. The quickest decision is also the wisest one in this case – dump it.