Opinion: Let’s stop putting politicians on cash

The new $10 bill, unveiled on International Women’s Day this week, is awesome, for so many reasons. Its vertical design is an interesting novelty, for one. The Canadian Museum for Human Rights looks great on the back.

And then there’s the face on the front, Viola Desmond, looking dynamite. Her story is a barrier-breaking portrait of resolve in the face of injustice: challenging segregation by refusing to leave the whites-only section of a movie theatre, and suffering arrest and persecution because of it. She paid a price and helped change Canadian society by doing so, and now we get to thank her for it every time we pay a price – far too late, of course.

Add to that a series of other far-too-late welcome firsts her bill represents: she’s a woman who isn’t the monarch, she’s black, a civil-rights activist. For these reasons and others, the new 10-spot is good news.

But there’s another reason to celebrate, and to hope she’s a symbol of things to come. She’s not a politician.

For as long as this country has been minting money, we’ve been putting two kinds of people on the currency: monarchs and prime ministers. It gets to be like sitting through the same Grade 9 history lecture every time you open your wallet to pay for a coffee.

There’s so much more to Canadian culture and society than just politicians. We have artists, writers, scientists, musicians, business people, activists, athletes. People who have shaped Canadian culture. These are the people I’d recognize with memorial portraits via the thing we use to indicate value in our society: cash money.

In Canada, we have written all kinds of bureaucratic rules governing entertainment content to foster a national culture and shelf-crushing volumes of hand-wringing prose pondering the elusive Canadian identity. Why not recognize and celebrate those who have shaped Canadian culture – given us an idea of ourselves – by putting their faces on the bills we handle every day?

So, for example, I’d love to see Mordecai Richler on the $5, Austin Clarke on the quarter, Alice Munro on the nickel. Maestro Fresh Wes, who rapped about getting “bills of brown for my sound,” seems a natural for the $100 bill. Putting Terry Fox on the loonie is a gimme.

Dime-bag king of comedy Tommy Chong, meanwhile, may be a candidate for the 10-cent piece. What about for the toonie? I like the idea of Buffy Sainte-Marie.

The list of worthwhile candidates is long – so long. Would you prefer to be reminded of Marie-Philip Poulin’s multiple golden goals every time you spend $20? Or of Scott Moir and Tessa Virtue’s multiple gold medals?

How about Oscar Peterson for the $50? And Mary Pickford, star of the silver screen, seems natural for a silver dollar.

You run out of currency long before you run out of worthy candidates. John Candy, Scott Thompson, Gord Downie, Neil Young? Kim Catrall, Pamela Anderson, Trish Stratus?

Everyone who ever studied in a Canadian school will already wonder where Frederick Banting is, or Tom Longboat, or Roberta Bondar. Surely there’s a place on a coin somewhere for Alex Trebek, or k.d. lang, or the Littlest Hobo.

Luckily, the government mints new coins every year, and redesigns banknotes every decade or so. There are opportunities to switch it up, and to have new valuable bits of history we’d actually be interested in reliving and learning pass through our hands.

Politicians have had had their time in the bank vault. There’s so much else worth celebrating and recognizing. For a change. And on the change.

Edward Keenan is a syndicated columnist.

Just Posted

Is the fate of Red Deer’s Parsons House solely in the hands of the province?

Demolition of old police station next door to begin this fall

Fundraiser to help keep kids warm in Blackfalds

Community Warmth Fall Fundraiser

Piper Creek Foundation gets a new name

Red Deer subsidized housing program for seniors

Reveen returns to Red Deer

Presented by Friends of Red Deer Regional Hospital

2019 Winter Games will transform Red Deer: Olympic organizer

Team leader behind 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics provides inspirational pep talk

WATCH: Red Deer students take part in annual run

Dawe/St. Pat’s Run reaches 40th anniversary

Smile Cookie fundraiser campaign for Reading College kicks off

Fundraising campaign runs Sept. 12-18 for program that helps children improve their reading

‘Nightmare that won’t end’: Storm evacuees can’t return yet

WILMINGTON, N.C. — Hundreds of people waited in long lines for water… Continue reading

New bridge collapses into river in rural Saskatchewan hours after opening

HYAS, Sask. — A rural politician in eastern Saskatchewan says he’s at… Continue reading

Halifax researchers tag great white shark in Atlantic Canada for first time

HALIFAX — For the first time in Atlantic Canadian waters, scientists have… Continue reading

Liberal riding association president blindsided by MP’s defection

OTTAWA — The president of an Ontario Liberal riding association says he… Continue reading

Pope gives bishops more decision-making options

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis decreed on Tuesday that ordinary Catholics should… Continue reading

Hurricane rating system fails to account for deadly rain

TRENTON, N.C. — When meteorologists downgraded Hurricane Florence from a powerful Category… Continue reading

Glad company: Trailer for Disney’s ‘Mary Poppins Returns’

LOS ANGELES — A beloved nanny is preparing to take to the… Continue reading

Most Read