The thing about anticipating a great event is that the event is always great in anticipation. It’s only when it becomes a real event that it risks being disappointing.
So bring on the 150th anniversary celebrations, Canada’s next big birthday, scheduled for 2017, unless government cutbacks cause it to be postponed. Already, the government is said to be putting out feelers to Canadians, asking them for ideas on how the event can be properly marked. According to reports, cross-country consultations are beginning this month.
The aim is to make the 150th as memorable as the 100th was. Those who were there remember it as a pretty good one, but it might be different this time. It’s pretty difficult to imagine this government or any future one laying out the kind of dough that was spent in 1967. Expo 67 was only the biggest of many large expenditures.
Don’t forget the hundreds of centennial projects that were built across the country. If not for the centennial there would be empty spaces where a lot of the arenas and concert halls are in Canadian cities.
Not to say that our present-day governments, at all levels, are stingy, but is there another word that describes them better? Furthermore, our taxpayers are far less adventurous in spirit than they were in 1967.
It’s with these facts in mind that we have to consider the contribution we will make to the cross-country consultations. In order to gain government acceptance, proposals to celebrate the 150th have to be, let’s say, modest in scale.
Better still, they have to include provisions for corporations to pay for them.
So where does that leave us, here in the capital? Under different circumstances we might think of the 150th as the perfect occasion for the unveiling of the long-discussed portrait gallery, which was once to be located on Wellington Street across from Parliament Hill. But we won’t get that now. Maybe, instead, a PowerPoint presentation somewhere sponsored by a bank.
There are some possibilities in the idea of re-enactment. This year there were re-enactments of key battles in the War of 1812. Maybe some of that could be done in 2017, re-enactments of key moments in the national capital’s history, with due consideration of budgetary realities.
Actors, as long as they are not paid too much, could portray Charlotte Whitton battling with city councillors, Thomas D’Arcy McGee breathing his last, Pierre Elliott Trudeau walking in the snow. Developers could take time off from their busy schedule putting up new condos to restage the destruction of LeBreton Flats. Staging the reconstruction of LeBreton Flats might not be possible at the moment.
Other tableaux might depict that moment, deep in the mists of history, when Ottawa had a winning football team; when people went to Hull for purposes other than putting loonies into slot machines; when Gerda Munsinger entertained gentlemen callers; when Rideau Street was Rideau Street; when Barrhaven was under cultivation.
Celebrations of this sort should also look forward. Peering into the future is always interesting. In 1967 it may have been imagined that the Ottawa of 2013 would have public transit flying through the air, hologram movies projected into the night sky and an enlightened government capable of anticipating the needs of the people. None of this has come true, but the exercise is still worth the effort.
So let’s think about Ottawa 2117 as presented this year at Expo 17. Public transit flying through air, except in a tunnel. Hologram movies available to elite cable subscribers. One more building on the LeBreton Flats. Still no portrait gallery, but they’re thinking of using the last building in the city that isn’t a condo.
In other 2117 developments, the 19-digit telephone number comes into effect, additional parking is on Mars and another bridge to the Quebec side is under active study.