I want to thank the Economic Club of Canada for the invitation.


About two years ago, the City of Ottawa sought to get ahead of the curve in preparation for Canada’s 150th birthday.


As a first step, we assembled a 2017 Task Force…


…a group of Ottawa’s best business and community leaders, who would work together and develop a strategy for success.


I want to recognize the Task Force members – most of whom are with us today… for their dedication and commitment to our country.


  • Councillor Rainer Bloess, Co-Chair
  • Councillor Katherine Hobbs, Co-Chair
  • Noel Buckley, Ottawa Tourism
  • John Brooman, Ottawa Festivals
  • Dick Brown, Ottawa Gatineau Hotel Association
  • Cyril Leeder, Ottawa Senators
  • Jeff Hunt, Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group
  • Joanne Lefebvre, Regroupement des gens d’affaires de la Capitale nationale
  • Pat Kelly, Ottawa Convention Centre
  • Ian Faris, Ottawa Chamber of Commerce
  • Erin Kelly, Bulzi Media Canada
  • Kevin McCrann, EY Centre
  • Dave Donaldson, Algonquin College
  • Mark Laroche, Ottawa International Airport
  • Sean McKenny, Ottawa and District Labour Council
  • Guy Laflamme, Canadian Heritage
  • Delores MacAdam, City of Ottawa special events
  • Isabel Metcalfe, community member

You likely recognize most or all of the names of the people on our 2017 Task Force.


That’s because this task force is based on a best practice we’ve seen in other cities: appoint high-ranking officials… with deep roots in the community… to work together on a common goal.


It shows that we’re very serious about this.


Through our discussions, I have been very impressed with how quickly we have found natural synergies between industries and projects.


Today, I want to share what we’ve been working on.


And tell you how the City of Ottawa is positioning its people, its businesses and its communities… for success in 2017.


But let’s start with an important question first.


What does it mean to celebrate an anniversary such as this?


Sure, we celebrate Canada Day every year.


And Ottawa does it better than anywhere else in Canada.


But 150 is the kind of milestone that we haven’t really celebrated since Canada turned 100.


Back in 1967.


Canada’s Centennial year.


I want to take you back to 1967 for a moment.


I was six years old, growing up in Lachute, Quebec…


…and I watched on my parents’ television as the world gathered in Montreal as our country hosted Expo ’67.


The “Man and His World” exhibit showed that we were a country – and a planet – of big dreams for the future.


It celebrated our nature, our spirit, our environment, our accomplishments and our aspirations.


Of course, Ottawa had its share of excitement as the nation’s capital.


Sparks Street Pedestrian Mall opened that year, and the National Arts Centre began to take shape, perched on the side of the Rideau Canal.


The Centennial Flame became a fixture on Parliament Hill and Dominion Day was informally called “Canada Day” for the first time.


The first members of the Order of Canada were inducted that year, celebrating outstanding Canadians who exemplified the motto “they desire a better country.”


Canada’s Centennial was an opportunity to celebrate who we were and how far we’d come.


To paraphrase what journalist and historian Bruce Hutchison wrote in the Ottawa Journal in June 1967:


“No Nation Has Better Reason to Celebrate…


If Canada is to endure… it must recapture the unwritten spirit of 1867 as well as the written contract.


If the Centennial of 1967 fails to carry this simple message… it fails in everything.


It must remind us how much labour, risk, and intelligence have gone into the making of our nation, and prepare us for an equal or harder task ahead.”


Simply put, these milestones should pay tribute to the foundation set by the Fathers of Confederation, shaped by our grandparents and parents, and continued by our work today.


Because the country we share today has been strengthened by the bold decisions and hard work of Canadians who have come before us.


And that is absolutely worth celebrating.


One of my predecessors, Ottawa Mayor Don Reid, stated in his inaugural address in January 1967:


“We must do our part in encouraging every man, woman and child to participate in what is their birthday party in our proud nation.


I am sure the proudest place will be our own City of Ottawa”


THE proudest place.


It is my hope that we can step up and reignite that passion.


Together, we can make Ottawa the proudest place once again in 2017.


We have so much to celebrate as a country… in just 1,000 days time, from today.


This will be our moment to recognize all that Canada has accomplished.


This is all while other countries are struggling with decades-old debates that we have long since left behind.


The freedom to speak…


The freedom to vote…


The freedom to love.


Canada stands as an example to the world of what humanity is capable of when we think the best of one another.


When a country doesn’t talk about “us and them” – but it talks about “we”.


Whether you’re born here, or you move here…


You will have more than just a faint hope to succeed.


You will have a seat at the table…


And you will have a community around you…


To cheer you on and lift you up…


To give you the best possible shot at reaching your full potential.


That’s Canada.


THAT is what we’re celebrating in 2017.


But let me be clear… celebrations like our Sesquicentennial bring more benefits than just parades, fireworks and goosebumps.


It is a once-in-a-generation economic opportunity for businesses and communities.


Simply put, these celebrations can bring in tens of thousands of new visitors and hundreds of millions of dollars.


A most recent example, Quebec City’s 400th anniversary in 2008, generated over $400 million in local economic spin-offs.


That would be the equivalent of having not one, but two, NHL hockey teams for a year.


It’s important to recognize that milestones such as these can be leveraged to generate significant local economic benefits.


But which city and its economy will benefit the most from 2017?


Well… that’s up for us to decide.


I argue that Ottawa is ideally positioned to host these celebrations.


Even if we weren’t the capital city, Ottawa would still have a lot going for it.


We host about 100 festivals annually, attracting more and more spectators every year.


Whether it’s music, culture, or food…. there’s something to do every weekend in Ottawa.


Ottawa City Council is trying to do what we can to build on this, by opening up City Hall as a people place.


Last year, we doubled the number of events at our City Hall.


Across the city, we have existing and new hotels… meeting facilities… the Canadian Tire Centre, the EY Centre, the Ottawa Convention Centre… and this summer, a revitalized Lansdowne Park.


We’ve received international recognition as a world-class host.


That’s because we’re a dynamic G8 capital city… and we’re on the rise.


Ottawa consistently ranks among the top in the world for sustainability, tolerance and quality of life.


Last month, the annual Mercer Institute survey ranked Ottawa 14th globally, and 2nd in North America, for quality of life.


2nd in North America… because of our outstanding economic and social record.


The only reason why we came in 2nd?


Here’s some news for you:


It turns out that… Ottawa is colder than Vancouver.


…You know what? I wouldn’t give up our winters for the top spot… not in a heartbeat.


Okay… well… maybe this past winter… but not a normal Ottawa winter.


Ottawa represents the very best of what Canada has to offer.


And it’s not just geography…


It is our outstanding residents, businesses and quality of life that make the difference.


And that’s what we can showcase in 2017.


We will showcase Jean Pigott’s vision of Ottawa as every Canadian’s second home town.


So… this is the opportunity we have in front of us.


Let’s talk about how we’re going to seize it.


After reviewing best practices, the 2017 Task Force established four pillars to guide our work for the coming three years.


  1. Marketing
  2. Events
  3. Engagement
  4. Legacy


I want to speak about each of them.


And while I review them, I hope you will think about where you or your organization might fit in.


Because that’s what I’m hoping you take away from my talk today.


The City of Ottawa, as a municipal government, can’t do this alone.


To be successful, we need to have a broad, community-based effort.


We will require your help… your expertise… and yes, your money… to help put Ottawa on the map.



First… marketing.


Our Task Force set out with a very clear goal in mind.


We needed to rally our community around a symbol, a brand, that would identify the national capital as the place to be in 2017.


Beginning about two years ago, we engaged with local groups, federal partners as well as the City of Gatineau, and worked together… quickly and carefully… to come up with a brand.


The final design can be summed up in three words:






It’s collaborative… because its colours were taken from the logos of all of our partners.


It’s iconic… because it’s a re-imagining of 1967 centennial logo that many of us remember.


And it’s Canadian… because it has 13 triangles… representing the provinces and territories that make up our great country.


So… where do we start?


Well, we start at home.


And we start with you.


Our brand is already front-and-centre at City Hall, the Ottawa Airport, and hotel and event venues across the city.


But you will begin to see this logo even more in the coming months.


You’ll see it on ice rinks


You’ll see it on city vehicles.


You’ll see it in storefront windows.


It is my hope, in the long-term, you may even see the Ottawa 2017 logo at more events than you see me at!


…just maybe!


We will start by generating awareness at home, and then broaden our reach to Canada and the world.


Ottawa Tourism and the Ottawa Convention Centre are already spreading the word to the international community about this milestone year.


We will continue to work closely with our partners to build awareness of this brand as we make our case that Ottawa is the place to be in 2017.


But this isn’t a quiet, small project of one individual or organization.


It’s a city-wide challenge… that needs a city-wide effort.


I will use the example of Quebec City’s 400th anniversary once again.


Their brand was everywhere – from every dépanneur to every discotheque.


I ask for your help to add the Ottawa 2017 brand to your public face… your storefront or office.


Be an ambassador for our city.


Let’s show that we’re united in this common effort.



Second… events.


Events are a big part of our hospitality and tourism industry.


While they’ve always been significant… if you look closely… you’ll notice something new is happening.


Ottawa has recently been promoted to an entirely new league of event hosting.


The events we have hosted and will host soon are much more prestigious… much more important… than anything else in the last 50 years.


Outstanding facilities like the Ottawa Convention Centre and the EY Centre are helping us make that case.


Ottawa is quickly developing a reputation as a world-class event host.


Because, looking ahead to 2017, we know that you can’t build this kind of momentum overnight.


The City of Ottawa has been ready to take on this challenge for quite some time.


In the 2012 Budget, we created a major events office called Events Ottawa, in partnership with Ottawa Tourism.


With this investment, we dedicated a staff person and other City resources to bidding on and attracting events.


In the 2014 Budget, we increased our financial commitment to this bid office to $900,000.


And you’ve likely heard me say it many times.


Our strategy is simple: bid more, win more, host more.


And that strategy is already paying off.


Our success in attracting these major sporting events won a national award last year.


These events do wonders for a City’s reputation.


When the NHL All Star Game came to Ottawa, our city was profiled to millions of viewers around the world.


The same was true for last year’s Women’s World Hockey Championships – which was just named the Canadian Sport Tourism Alliance’s International Event of the Year.


When we hosted the Canadian Figure Skating Championships this past January, the entire country watched and cheered as our Olympic athletes were selected right here in Ottawa.


Keep in mind that we’ve also attracted major non-sporting events as well.


Let’s not forget that while a major conference may not attract significant media exposure, it does attract a significant number of participants – often in the thousands.


We know those can be particularly good for our restaurant and hotel industries, as these tourists come with meetings to book and per diems to spend.


I have great confidence… that between today and the end of 2017, our possible and confirmed events have the potential to generate hundreds of millions for our local economy.


But what is even more priceless is what it will do to strengthen our reputation both as an event host and a place to do business.


This includes events like next year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup at TD Place next summer, and the federal and provincial gatherings of municipal leaders in 2017.


In total, we project that events like these will attract thousands of tourists in addition to what we typically see in an average year.


Again, these thousands of tourists will mean tens of millions of dollars for our local economy.


And I’m talking right now about just our confirmed events.


We have lots of strong prospects in the pipeline as well.


Allow me for a moment to speak about possible events that we haven’t yet confirmed… but would be possible with a strong, united effort.


Picture a possible event calendar for 2017…


We could start the year with a major New Year’s Eve party downtown on Sparks Street or on the Hill, complete with fireworks and entertainment from Canadian artists.


And we don’t leave this to one group to coordinate all on its own – we work together to throw a huge celebration.


The next month, we have Winterlude on both sides of the river, working with Canadian Heritage to leverage the new Lansdowne Park to make it even bigger than ever before.


In April: we hope that the Juno Awards would come back to the Canadian Tire Centre.


Maybe that week we can have free public concerts throughout the city to celebrate our most treasured Canadian talent.


Hopefully artists like Alanis Morrisette and Bryan Adams – two recipients of Ottawa’s Key to the City – will come back home.


In May – we gather to celebrate Ottawa’s official flower – the tulip – and our country’s special relationship with the Netherlands.


In July, we can turn Canada Day into Canada Week…


Not just one day of celebrations, but an entire week of concerts and performances to celebrate every region and culture that make up our great country.


After that, hopefully we host the Canadian Athletics Championships or another large multi-sport event to welcome Canada’s best summer athletes.


In November: maybe we can host the 105th Grey Cup game.


We can bring in extra seating to Lansdowne Park to expand its capacity to 40,000.


As the Ottawa REDBLACKS will be in their fourth season in the CFL, maybe we might even be able to cheer them on as they win the cup!


And finally, in December:


Maybe the Ottawa Senators could host an NHL Outdoor Classic at Lansdowne Park… taking on the Montreal Canadiens.


It would be a perfect way to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the first NHL game between those two teams, and to close off Canada’s 150th year.


Now THAT would be a year to remember.


And one of the most profitable ever for our local economy.


But keep in mind that new events are just one piece of the strategy.


Of course, we need not start from scratch for something we already do very, very well.


In 2017, we can also build on our already world-class events and festival industry.


And we really are world-class.


Our festival and annual event industries already generate hundreds of millions for our local economy every year.


We’re blessed with outstanding community organizers and passionate volunteers who consistently organize amazing events on an annual basis.


And in 2017, the already impressive schedule of planned events will continue in the nation’s capital.


But we want to see what we can do to “supersize” and “Canadianize” them to attract more tourists and more dollars.


What if Bluesfest and the Jazz Festival added an extra day each to celebrate our most treasured Canadian artists?


Or Ottawa Race Weekend – already the largest marathon in Canada – develops a route or a theme that commemorates the Canadian identity in a special way.


When you think about it – there are lots of ways to make 2017 very special.


I am very confident that we’re on the right track to realize this vision.


Working with our colleagues at Ottawa Tourism, as well as the great community leaders on our 2017 Task Force, I want to set a common goal for the number of visitors we will attract that year.


A 2017 tourism target.


The average number of visitors over the last three years is about 6.25 million visitors.


But for 2017… we want to reach even higher.


Our 2017 tourism target will be eight million visitors.


This will be about 20% more than what Ottawa’s tourism industry sees in an average year.


We will showcase our beautiful city to even more people that year… while at the same time bolstering our local economy.


But remember, that you can play a key role in this.


You need to play a key role in this.


Maybe you’re a member of a national professional association such as ones for engineers, accountants or lawyers… or you’re the Ottawa office of a larger national or international organization.


Make 2017 the year that you host the big annual conference or gathering.


If you need Ottawa Tourism or any member of our Task Force, me included, to support you in putting a bid together, you can count on us.


My commitment to you…if you have a solid business case… we’ll go to bat for you.


Or maybe… for example… you’re already in the business of supporting large events like the ones I’ve mentioned.


Whether through naming rights, advertising or in-kind donations, maybe 2017 is the year to dig a little deeper.


In a budgeting sense, 2017 won’t be your average year.


It’s my sincere hope that it will be extraordinary.


It will be your chance to reach a larger, more diverse audience and… of course… to be part of an important 2017 legacy.



Third… engagement.


I often say that the best ideas aren’t always found at City Hall.


The 2017 Task Force is in line with this thinking.


But so has been reaching out to the broader community.


Through launching our website Ottawa2017.ca last year, we’ve received lots of suggestions and ideas of how we can make the most of 2017.


We’re going to continue our efforts this year by hosting a 2017 Ideas Town Hall at City Hall in June.


We want to engage with festival organizers, community groups and residents about what their ideas are for Canada’s big year.


We will also launch an online component called “150 Reasons to Visit Ottawa”.


No one knows Ottawa better than our residents.


We want to generate 150 reasons why a tourist would want to visit Ottawa in 2017.


Maybe it’s to skate on the Canal or a visit to the Diefenbunker.


Or visiting Watson’s Mill or the sugar shack in Vanier.


Or taking in special performances at the National Arts Centre or the Great Canadian Theatre Company, with a new Canadian work commissioned.


Or discover Ottawa’s thriving culinary scene, with restaurants offering special pan-Canadian, locally grown and raised menus.


We want to start to generate ideas and pride leading up to 2017, and this will be a way to do that.



Fourth… legacy projects.


As I mentioned earlier, Canada’s 100th birthday in 1967 was also marked by many Centennial infrastructure projects such as new recreation centres, arenas and other community facilities.


This time will be a bit different.


Fifty years later, now that our cities are much more established, there’s simply too much already built that we need to take care of.


Many of those, almost ironically, are Centennial projects that 50 years later are starting to show their age.


From a municipal perspective, we will of course look at what we can do to make modest investments in projects to mark 2017.


But even if a project did not begin as a Sesquicentennial legacy project, it doesn’t mean it cannot be leveraged to make a statement.


After all, there are several local projects that are already on the books that would fit in well with the spirit of Canada’s 150th.


These projects are already planned or underway to be ready around 2017.


On the occasion of the 150th anniversary of Confederation, I believe four projects in particular will clearly demonstrate the kind of country we want to be in the next 150 years.


The first project is the Confederation Line LRT.


With the support of our federal and provincial partners, this city-transforming project is now under construction.


It’s very exciting… a 13 kilometre line, from Tunney’s Pasture in the west to Blair Road in the east.


You know, light rail transit in the nation’s capital is something that many people thought would never happen.


But today, the downtown tunnel is approaching the 20% completion mark.


And the project remains on time and on budget


We have special agreements with the private-sector consortium building the system, relating to Canada’s 150th birthday.


On July 1, 2017, residents and tourists will be able to tour the downtown stations.


There will also be short test runs of the line between some stations so you can get a feel for the system.


It will be a great way to showcase this investment ahead of full service in 2018.


The second project is the Ottawa River Action Plan.


This year, the City of Ottawa will continue to make its case to the provincial and federal governments to fund the final phase of the Ottawa River Action Plan.


This project would finally stop raw sewage from flowing into the Ottawa River.


It is troubling, in the 21st century, that we still have overflows going into a treasured waterway… flowing right behind the House of Commons nonetheless.


So far, we’ve reduced pollution by 80%.


But we need federal and provincial funds to finish the job.


If we can secure these funds swiftly, we can get the majority of the downtown work done by 2017.


A clean Ottawa River would be a major Sesquicentennial achievement, and a priceless gift for future generations.


The third project is the revitalized Arts Court on Daly Avenue.


This past November, City Council unanimously approved a plan for a revitalized Arts Court and expanded Ottawa Art Gallery on Nicholas Street.


It will be a world-class facility that nurtures artistic talent, tells our stories, and inspires the world.


It will be a way for our artists to show just what that they’re capable of.


How fitting… that with the new Arts Court, we will be able to showcase much more of our Group of Seven collection to Ottawa, the country and the world.


For this beautiful new building, we will break ground within the next eight months and have it open in time for the 2017 celebrations.


The fourth project, of particular interest to the business community, is our future Innovation Centre at Bayview Yards.


Think of it as Ottawa’s version of Kitchener’s Communitech or Toronto’s MaRS Discovery District.


It will be a place for entrepreneurs to come together, build, innovate and succeed.


I could not think of a more perfect location for this new facility – where the Confederation Line and O-Train intersect.


Eventually, almost all of our major post-secondary institutions would be connected to this facility by our rail system.


The Confederation Line, the Ottawa River Action Plan, Arts Court and the Innovation Centre.


These four legacy projects represent the Canada we dream of in the next 150 years.


Canada will be connected… symbolized by the Confederation Line.


Canada will be sustainable… symbolized by the Ottawa River Action Plan.


Canada will be creative… symbolized by Arts Court.


And Canada will be innovative… symbolized by the Bayview Innovation Centre.


These will be part of Ottawa’s 2017 legacy.


Because a milestone such as this really is about leaving a legacy for the next generation.


And at the same time, positioning our city so it makes the most of Canada’s big moment.


If you take anything from my speech today, it’s this.


Don’t let the next 1,000 days go by without doing something to take part.


Get engaged…


Be proud of our community…


And remember that we are every Canadian’s second home town…


Let’s not miss our moment.