Laurier to permanently host statues of all 22 prime ministers
Sir John A. Macdonald has had a busy year.
Over the past few months, he’s celebrated his birthday at The Aud, spent a few weeks at the Waterloo high school bearing his name, and most recently greeted passersby on King Street in downtown Kitchener.
Not in person, of course. Canada’s first prime minister has been dead since 1891.
It’s a bronze statue of Macdonald, sculpted by Wilmot’s Ruth Abernethy, that has been making its way around the region.
Tuesday, the statue was unveiled at its newest temporary location – and an announcement was made about a more permanent home for him and his 21 colleagues.
“There’s no better place than a university … for all elements of our history to be examined, discussed and more deeply understood,” Wilfrid Laurier University president Max Blouw said at the quad on the school’s Waterloo campus.
Along with Abernethy and Dave Caputo – the CEO of tech firm Sandvine and one of the driving forces behind the statue project – Blouw announced that statues of all 22 Canadian prime ministers will be installed around the campus over the next couple years.
“It’ll be a point of reflection and discussion for our students, and it’ll bring community members into the university,” he said, noting that Laurier is the only school in Canada named after a former prime minister.
Laurier won’t be paying for the statues themselves – only for any necessary maintenance.
According to Caputo, similar bronze statues elsewhere are rarely vandalized. When they are, they’re easily cleaned with a power washer.
“The ongoing cost is really a non-issue,” he said.
More than $200,000 of an approximate $2 million cost has been raised from private investors thus far.
“Now that a location’s been selected … that will become significantly easier,” Caputo said.
Eventually, the statue of Macdonald will be moved to the western end of the campus, near Waterloo Park.
The school already has a statue of its namesake, but will add another – specifically of Sir Wilfrid Laurier as prime minister – at the corner of King Street and University Avenue.
“In other cases, we’ll place statues … in simple settings around the campus,” Blouw said.
For her part, Abernethy called Laurier “a perfect fit” as host of the statues.
“No matter where the collection goes from here, I’m thrilled that it’s here,” she said.
Initially, organizers had hoped to place the statues in Kitchener’s Victoria Park, but backed down on that idea after received negative public reception.
In addition to the statues themselves, Caputo says a curriculum will be developed to teach people looking at the statues about “the personal and professional lives, the achievements and the controversies of each of the prime ministers.”
Organizers hope the statues will all be in place by 2017 – the 150th anniversary of Confederation.