March 30, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 94  

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Local MP fights for new holiday

By Sarah Prickett
Gazette Staff

Not sure you can survive another gruelling winter without a long weekend? You may not have to.

Pat O’Brien, Liberal member of Parliament for London-Fanshawe, presented the “holiday bill” last Wednesday, proposing a new national holiday in the winter months. “The longest stretch Canadians go without a holiday is between January 1st and Easter — that’s about 14 to 15 weeks, depending on the year,” he said. “It’s in the worst time for Canadians, the worst part of the winter.”

“It’s easy enough to say we want another holiday, but the truth is you have to close businesses [and] pay people overtime,” said Ian Westerberg, media relations officer at the department of Canadian Heritage. “Adding a holiday costs the national economy somewhere between $2 and $3-billion dollars. Economic impact would be the biggest stumbling block.” He also noted that the holiday would have to be approved by the provinces and territories.

“[It would be] a much-deserved break to recharge our batteries and help us get through the winter,” O’Brien said. After speaking with various organizations, O’Brien said he came up with two main options: Flag Day on Feb. 15 or St. Patrick’s Day on Mar. 17.

O’Brien said there has been considerable support for his idea among Canadians. Last spring, the Guinness Party of Canada presented him with a petition containing thousands of signatures pushing for St. Patrick’s Day as a statutory holiday.

“St. Patrick’s Day is a day when everyone is Irish — it’s an international day,” said Marcella Smyth, second secretary at the Irish Embassy in Ottawa. “It generally coincides with Lent, so it’s a wonderful excuse to break fast.”

O’Brien also cited an online poll by The Globe and Mail which asked for the two possibilities that Canadians would prefer as a national holiday. Of the 26,000 who responded, 57 per cent voted for Flag Day and 22 per cent for St. Patrick’s Day, while only 20 per cent said a new holiday was unnecessary.

“Why do we need a Flag Day as a holiday?” asked Dave Vu, a fourth-year political science student. “What is Flag Day anyway?”
“I think Flag Day would be cool because not many people know what it is — it would raise awareness, like a mini-Canada Day,” said Rémi Tremblay, a second-year French student, who also suggested a “fuck everything day,” because it would not really matter what the holiday celebrates. “Every long weekend turns into a party.”



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