The National Dream


The title of the 1970 bestseller by popular historian Pierre Berton (and subsequent CBC miniseries), recounting John A. Macdonald’s epic 1871-1885 drive to build the Canadian Pacific Railway, linking the new province of British Columbia to the rest of Canada.

The National Dream is the original sweeping, nation-building and nation-binding vision in Canada’s political narrative. It is a clarion call that has often been echoed by successive generations. Though, given the innate – and successful – incrementalism and accomodationism of Canada’s political culture, succeeding efforts at nation-changing grands projets have seldom caught on.

Nonetheless, the National Dream is often cited by those advocating major initiatives in Canada. Brian Mulroney drew parallels to the National Dream in his championing of the Free Trade Agreement. Most recently, British Columbia premier Gordon Campbell evoked the National Dream in his campaign to make Canada a leading Pacific gateway.

Like many Canadian political achievements of quasi-mythical status, the National Dream is more universally-embraced and sentimentalized in hindsight.

Image: The driving of the ‘Last Spike’ of the CPR in the interior of BC, 1885 (Wikimedia Commons)


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