The top pick out of eight Canadians on a short list to appear on the next $5 bill is Marathon of Hope icon Terry Fox, according to a survey released on Wednesday.
When asked by the Angus Reid Institute which nominee they would most like to see on the banknote in place of Sir Wilfrid Laurier, 57 per cent of respondents chose the young runner from Port Coquitlam, B.C., whose cross-country run to raise money for cancer research took place four decades ago.
The Bank of Canada in February called for public input on selecting an “iconic Canadian” to appear on the next $5 bill, which the central bank says should begin circulating “in a few years.”
Fox, who had his right leg amputated above the knee in 1977 after it was found to have a malignant tumour, went on to launch his fundraising run in St. John’s on April 12, 1980. He had to abandon the run nearly five months later when the cancer spread to his lungs. He died of cancer the next year at age 22.
Angus Reid says it found Fox to be the top choice in every region of the country, but he was by no means a unanimous choice.
Highly decorated Indigenous soldier Binaaswi (Francis Pegahmagabow) was the choice for 21 per cent of respondents and was preferred by one-quarter of residents who took part in the survey in Saskatchewan, Ontario and Atlantic Canada.
Isapo-Muxika, or Chief Crowfoot, who was an integral part of Treaty 7 negotiations in Alberta in the late 1800s, was chosen by 19 per cent of respondents, followed by Robertine Barry, known by her literary pseudonym Françoise, at 16 per cent. Barry was a French-Canadian journalist and advocate for many social justice causes, notably women’s equality in society.
Angus Reid found that 34 per cent of respondents who live in Quebec supported Barry as the top choice while 27 per cent of young women surveyed across the country also supported the author, who was a founding member of the Canadian Women’s Press Club.
Angus Reid conducted the online survey survey Nov. 12-16 among a representative randomized sample of 1,578 Canadian adults. The margin of error is plus or minus 2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
Terry Fox a household name
It’s not all that surprising that Fox came out on top, due to name recognition and the annual Marathon of Hope runs held across Canada, which have made him a “household name in his own right,” said Shachi Kurl, president of the Angus Reid Institute.
Asking Canadians about all those who made the short list is also a “remarkable opportunity” to learn about the achievements of the other candidates, Kurl said.
Nearly two-thirds, or 65 per cent of those surveyed, said they were open to the idea of seeing someone new on their blue, polymer bills.
However, Angus Reid found varying percentages with that question, depending on the respondents’ political affiliation.
Those who voted for the Conservative Party of Canada in the last federal election were more likely to oppose a redesign than support it — with 57 per cent in that group in favour and 43 per cent opposed — while change for the banknote was supported by 76 per cent of Liberal voters and 81 per cent of NDP voters.
Past Conservative voters were fondest of Terry Fox, with 74 per cent preferring to see him on the $5 bill. This represents a 17-point rise above the overall average. Liberal preferences mirror the overall picture while past NDP voters are much more likely than others to feel Inuk artist Pitseolak Ashoona would be an ideal choice.
An image of Laurier, Canada’s seventh prime minister, has been on the $5 banknote for almost 50 years, first appearing in 1972. The latest version was released in November 2013.
The central bank said an independent advisory council made up of eminent people from academia, the cultural sector and civil society came up with a short list of eight candidates out of a list of more than 600 earlier this month.
Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland will announce the new face of the $5 bill early next year.