OTTAWA - The future of Winterlude could rest in the hands of private
National Capital Commission CEO Marie Lemay said the annual
festival is not sustainable unless businesses begin to play a role.
The future of Winterlude should also include the entire City
of Ottawa, Lemay said during a speech to a sold-out crowd of business owners at
the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce Eggs N’ Icons breakfast lecture series at the
Sheraton Hotel on Friday, Nov. 12.
Businesses have approached the NCC about partnerships in the
past, Lemay said, but collaborating with them
was often not possible due to the NCC’s strict regulatory framework.
That will change next year, Lemay
said. Business partnerships won’t just be considered, they will be needed, she
told the crowd of approximately 200 people.
She said the “next level” of discussions will begin
following her announcement at the breakfast.
“We’re in the middle of continuing and making more changes,
and I think again, for this part of the changes, we will need the business
community to make it happen.”
Next year will be a test to see how the private sector can
fit into Winterlude, Lemay said. Each
strategic plan for Winterlude covers five years (the new plan covers 2011-15),
so transitioning to business partnerships would be rolled out over a couple of
years, she said.
“This time around, we learned some things that maybe we
“The bottom line is, the model that we have now is not
Winterlude isn’t sustainable financially, or environmentally
– climate change is taking a toll on the festival, and the NCC will be
hard-pressed to be able to guarantee winter weather sufficient to support
activities such as skating on the Rideau Canal for the duration of the festival
each year, Lemay said.
The NCC has been planning Winterlude for 32 years, developing
and producing all the events on its own. Lemay
said the commission needs to “rethink” how it does things to ensure the
festival can continue in the future.
“I don’t want to get used to the idea of doing things just
because this is the way we’ve been doing them,” she said. “Our whole
environment is changing; we have no choice.”
Part of that change will include inviting private companies
to stage events during the festival and use the NCC’s Winterlude marketing
material to make it part of the festival.
“It’s very evident that we can’t do it all,” Lemay said. “We have to share this brand.”
Shifting to that strategy would also encourage Winterlude
events to expand across the city, she said.
“It could be in every community. You should be in Ottawa and Gatineau
at that time and everywhere you go you should feel the Winterlude buzz; not
just on the weekends and not just downtown, but everywhere. The only way to do
that is to get everyone involved.”
Winterlude will take place from Feb. 4 to 21, 2011. Last
year, more than 600,000 attended the festival.
Another opportunity to expand programming is to make Canada Day
festivities into a three- or seven-day event, Lemay
The NCC is “just embarking” on a review of the plan for Canada’s capital, a process dubbed Horizon 2067,
“I think we’re going to be touching on another dimension of the capital,”
she said. “Not just the physical, but the vibrancy of the capital … and making
it a people place.”
The commission wants to engage all Canadians in that process, so it hired
a firm to develop an “engagement strategy” to tell people about the NCC and
encourage them to participate and visit the capital region.
The winning slogan? “Canada,
just like you.”
Lemay told the audience to
expect to see a lot of that campaign starting in January 2011.
She said the winning slogan captures an inspirational message Canadians
told the commission they weren’t seeing in the NCC right now.
Rejected slogans included “Where Canadian stories live” and “The capital
of being Canadian.”
That campaign will centre on four key reasons why people should care
about the National Capital Region and it’s planning, Lemay
said. All Canadians should feel that the capital region is their “second home,”
a place imbued with culture and heritage, a place that should be a window to
the character of the entire country, and a region that represents Canada
to the rest of the world.
It should commemorate our past and our future, Lemay
The Horizon 2067 review will include a high-level transportation
framework – something the capital plan never included before, she said.
The NCC is also looking at engaging all 13 municipalities that fall
within its territory, including Beckwith, Carleton Place and Mississippi Mills. In
the past, consultations have focused on the two main cities – Ottawa
and Gatineau, but there have already been three
meetings with all 13 municipalities, Lemay
If the plan was approved by the federal government, it would give the
plan more strength, Lemay said, and she asked
business owners in attendance to consider helping push that campaign.
Ottawa residents might also be
seeing a bike-sharing program as early as next year, a possibility that is
still under negotiation, she said.
Also coming up, Lemay said the NCC will
be planning to position the capital as the hub of festivities for the 150th
anniversary of confederation in 2017.
The NCC owns 10 per
cent of the land in the National Capital Region and is responsible for Gatineau Park,
urban parks, nine parkways, 200 kilometres of pathways and hundreds of
buildings, including 63 heritage buildings.