A petition spearheaded by Curtis Mullen to rename Calgary's Airport after Stephen J. Harper has run into serious headwinds. Allan Freeman writes:
At last count, 6,875 Canadians had signed Mullen’s petition — while more than 28,000 signed a rival petition calling the idea a “disgrace” and another 5,000 joined a petition calling for Calgary’s main landfill site to be named for the soon-to-be former prime minister. (Another 15,000 have signed a separate pro-Harper Airport petition sponsored by conservative commentator Ezra Levant.)
The petition has produced the kind of material that writers for late night television love:
At Harper International, departure and arrival times would be kept secret. No planes would ever take off because they would “be just not ready.” Planes landing there would only have right wings. You get the drift.
Other airports -- Montreal, Toronto -- have been named after prime ministers -- but only after they have shaken off this mortal coil. There's a reason. The case of Wheaton College, in Illinois, provides a cautionary tale:
Think of the leaders of Wheaton College, a small Christian college in Illinois whose motto is “For Christ and his Kingdom.” Its most famous graduate is Dennis Hastert, a onetime high school teacher and wrestling coach who rose from obscurity to become the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, one of the most powerful politicians in the land. Hastert was showered with honours by his alma mater, including the naming of the J. Dennis Hastert Center for Economics, Government and Public Policy.
Then, news emerged last spring that the long-retired Hastert had been charged with making illegal payments of millions of dollars to a former student to keep him quiet about allegations of sexual abuse that took place decades ago — and then lying about it. Faced with news of the sleazy affair, Wheaton College had no choice but to remove Hastert’s name from its Economics Center and issue a statement in which it said it would pray for Hastert, his family and “those who may have been harmed by any inappropriate behaviour.”
History needs time to put things and people in perspective. Perhaps Harper will have a school named after him. But, even then, history may catch up with him. Until recently, there was a public school in Belleville, Ontario named after MacKenzie Bowell -- who briefly succeeded John A. Macdonald as prime minister. But the school was closed because of low enrolment and sold into private hands.
Let history judge Mr. Harper before any public institutions are given his name.