Winterlude needs businesses’ help to survive
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Nov 18, 2010  |  Vote 0    0

Winterlude needs businesses’ help to survive

Ottawa East News

OTTAWA - The future of Winterlude could rest in the hands of private businesses.

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 weren’t expecting.

“The bottom line is, the model that we have now is not sustainable.”

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 suggested.

Horizon 2067

The NCC is “just embarking” on a review of the plan for Canada’s capital, a process dubbed Horizon 2067, Lemay said.

“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 said.

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 said.

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, the Greenbelt, urban parks, nine parkways, 200 kilometres of pathways and hundreds of buildings, including 63 heritage buildings.

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