Editorial: 'Look at Canada' a flawed argument in New Zealand flag debate


The prime minister's zeal for a new national flag is bordering on the fanatical, now gushing it is "gonna be worth billions" to New Zealand. 

While John Key was never going to roll over in the face of mounting opposition to the $26 million flag multi-referendum, his defiance is becoming more desperate. 

A flag that brings in billions of dollars sounds great, and if there is a business case to support his claim rather than just a throwaway line on a breakfast radio show, it may temper some of the criticism. 

But there isn't. It is Key employing car salesman-like showmanship to obscure the fact we are facing two expensive referendums that a majority of Kiwis have no appetite for.

Key is adamant the silver fern branding will do for New Zealand what a tick did for Nike sneakers or, his favourite example, what the maple leaf has done for Canada.

Yes, it's a striking motif, that looks good on ice hockey jerseys and bottles of maple syrup, but the "well, look at Canada" argument is a flawed one.

The red and white maple emblem was a vast improvement on the stuffy old Canadian Red Ensign, which featured the Union Jack and a coat of arms.

However, it had never been Canada's official flag and, crucially, people hated it.

A national poll in 1958 found 80 per cent of the people wanted a distinct Canadian flag, and 60 per cent of those wanted a maple leaf on it. 

Wouldn't our prime minister love to have that sort of public support in his corner? 

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Had Key the slightest inkling a new New Zealand flag/Silver fern design might garner a similar result, it would have likely been the first question of the first referendum, and not conspicuous in its absence. 

To those who argue it is not the right time for a flag change, Key has responded bullishly: "It'll never be the right time."

Well, 80 per cent support sounds like the right time to us - and New Zealand is still a long way from that. 

Key is quick to promote the fact his Government is giving the citizens the chance to be involved in the selection process, an opportunity the Canadian public were not afforded (though the maple leaf flag was chosen from public submissions). 

What he doesn't seem to accept though is the Canadian Government was in tune with what the public wanted, whereas Key's hasn't the slightest idea.

 - Stuff

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