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Evidence of meeting #10 for Canadian Heritage in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was centennial.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Peter Aykroyd  Professional Engineer, As an Individual
Peter MacLeod  Principal, MASS LBP
Colin Jackson  Chair, imagiNation 150 (Calgary)

9:40 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Aykroyd, that's what you alluded to as one big project that was fully funded by the federal government?

9:40 a.m.

Professional Engineer, As an Individual

9:40 a.m.

Principal, MASS LBP

Peter MacLeod

I would suggest that just doing an inventory of every centennial and memorial project in this country would be a very good place to start, because how many kids go to a centennial school or play hockey in a centennial rink or memorial arena or kick around a ball in a centennial park? Part of the infrastructure question about 2017 is just taking stock of the previous legacies, thinking about whether they can be rehabilitated or improved, and then thinking about the sort of infrastructure that's appropriate to 21st century Canada as well. Having the frank conversation about where we are is important.

Part of the reason that build-out happened is because the Royal Bank of Canada issued a newsletter in 1958 that pointed to the centennial as an opportunity to deal with—and I love this phrase—“the cultural deficits in this country”. They said we needed housing to replace slums and places for the performance of the arts and the elevation of our society. It was very strong language, where they challenged government to embark on this program. RBC's gift to the country was something you'll find in the library here, called A Conspectus of Canada: Centennial Year 1967. What do bankers do well? They count things. So they counted everything in the country, from the number of boxcars we had on the rails to the number of kids we had in schools.

The decisions that were made around centennial were evidence-based in that way. It was based on understanding where we were as a country, and responding to those needs.

9:45 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Can I have one final comment?

9:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Rob Moore

Well, you're at eight and a half minutes, so—

9:45 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

“What are you planning for Centennial?” That's a fantastic thing to do. That was a great idea.

9:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Rob Moore

Thank you for that little extra comment, Mr. Simms.

Mr. Armstrong.

9:45 a.m.

Conservative

Scott Armstrong Conservative Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, NS

I feel bad for Mr. Simms, because I think we could have these witnesses for two or three days on this committee.

First of all, I want to thank you all for being here. We're still at the beginning of the study, and I think we have some themes starting to emerge, but I think there's so much to learn. Every time we have a new witness come in, we go down a different path, a different avenue. It's been very productive so far.

One of the things I think we need to have is a recommendation coming out of this committee.

Mr. Aykroyd, you could probably comment on this. I think it's so valuable to have a resource like you here, who actually was a part of the planning. I think it would be very important for us to make sure that as we go through this process, we actually have a process so that we can have some plans and some records when we plan the 2067 200th anniversary of Canada. I find this very valuable.

So I think as we go forward we actually should have that as a component of our plan for this sesquicentennial. But we should also have a plan for the next one, because I think this is a very valuable thing.

Mr. Aykroyd, I really appreciate your being here because it's providing us with a very valuable resource. One of the things you put in your book is what I call a 10-point plan. You call it “The Anniversary Axiomatique”. I think it gives us a good guideline about a place to start when we plan because it provides what was best of the centennial, in my opinion, from reading through it. I'm going to talk about two of those points, and I'm going to get you to comment, if you could.

On the first one, you say “...accentuate unifying elements: symbols, songs and all things that are held in common, that have [a] bonding potential” for the country. So far in our study we have witnessed people talking about the passport. Several witnesses mentioned this passport that people were given. We've also talked a bit about the song, the Bobby Gimby song, and now what we've had brought to us today by Mr. MacLeod is the actual symbol and the logo of the centennial.

How important do you think these unifying symbols are? And do you think that's a good place for us to start as far as the public relations campaign goes, to build up energy towards the sesquicentennial?

9:45 a.m.

Professional Engineer, As an Individual

Peter Aykroyd

I have a chapter in there on symbols and how the centennial symbol was chosen, and the centennial song, “Ca-na-da, we love thee”. That's a kind of an anthem, which is still viable and still owned by the Government of Canada. I believe the patent on it has not expired.

It's extremely important to have symbols that people can focus on and that just by their definition join us all together--extremely important, very, very valuable. We had to have a symbol for the centennial, of course. It was my responsibility to get that symbol. That forms a very lively chapter in the book, on how that happened, because Canada was going to show the flag to the world, and it didn't have a flag. Here we were, trying to get a centennial symbol through the executive ranks of Parliament and our federal decision-making centre, and at the same time the flag debate was on. You remember Mr. Diefenbaker held the debate up for the whole summer because he was wedded to the old symbol. My answer is, it's almost clear, on the face of it, that symbols are extraordinarily important, and it's a very, very good place to start to bind people together.

9:50 a.m.

Conservative

Scott Armstrong Conservative Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, NS

On the second point I want to accentuate, and they're all excellent things we should consider, you say we have to make sure that we make this fun, “but also allow for [both] dignity and emotion: it is healthy to release the spirit through noise, through laughter, through tears and through awe.” That's the last point you make. I think it brings some clarity to the direction you would like to see us push towards as we do our planning.

I'm a former elementary school principal. Any time you really want to push something through with children, you have to make it fun, you have to make it engaging.

Now, did you put every activity you were doing as a central committee through a lens: is this going to be fun, is this going to be engaging? Was that something you used when you were evaluating your plans?

9:50 a.m.

Professional Engineer, As an Individual

Peter Aykroyd

It was not. “The Anniversary Axiomatique”, which were my 10 precepts for a successful centennial or a successful anniversary, was done after the fact, by analyzing the programs that we had finished, by taking what were the elements of those programs and then saying, “Well, wait a minute, what did that mean?” Out of those dropped those 10 precepts, but they came out after the fact, not before.

9:50 a.m.

Conservative

Scott Armstrong Conservative Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, NS

I'm not going to go through all of them because there are time constraints, but I believe from reading through it that if you developed an instrument we could use to evaluate activities we choose to do and try to perpetuate, and if we used an instrument to evaluate those to see whether they met some of the criteria—because those are criteria from successful events that we did last time—in running them through that lens we would probably have a pretty good tool to evaluate.

That may be a legacy that your book provides us. I want to thank you for that. I think I'm going to push that forward as a recommendation.

9:50 a.m.

Professional Engineer, As an Individual

Peter Aykroyd

Thank you. I think it will live on. It's good.

9:50 a.m.

Conservative

Scott Armstrong Conservative Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, NS

Mr. MacLeod, you said something that has inspired me, and I think it is something else we should talk about: you believe that the sesquicentennial should be an exercise in public imagination. It goes back to what Mr. Jackson said about top down and bottom up.

I agree with you that we have to have the ability to provide Canadians the opportunity to imagine what the sesquicentennial means to them and be able to develop their own events and their own infrastructure in their local communities, and we need to be able to provide the resources necessary from a federal level so that they can express this imagination.

Do you have any suggestions, so that we don't make it top down, as to how we can provide the resources and the supports necessary without being too controlling of what happens on the ground?

9:50 a.m.

Principal, MASS LBP

Peter MacLeod

You have some immediate assets at hand. The first is the work I've already mentioned by David MacKenzie, with P.E.I. 2014. That's a great opportunity, and I know there is the possibility of federal government commitment to and participation in that exercise.

What I have tried to say today is that I believe the federal government's role is really about convening, ultimately, and providing some of the connective tissue through the symbols and other iconography.

Get started by looking to those groups that can convene Canadians today. Work with P.E.I. 2014. Work with the YMCAs of Canada. They had an enormous role in the staging and planning of the centennial, with 52 associations clear across this country. Look to one of the important legacies of Canada 125 ,and that's the Trans Canada Trail, which they would very much like to complete and finish connecting in time for 2017. They've had the idea that we need a Trans Canada Trail party to get Canadians out and hiking on that day.

I think if you even just brainstorm among yourselves, you'll quickly be able to spot local civic associations, many of which have provincial and national connections, that could work with you to stage that conversation today. You don't need to reinvent the wheel. Work with our national broadcaster as well. I think it has an important role to play here.

9:55 a.m.

Conservative

Scott Armstrong Conservative Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, NS

I have one more question, but I'm really low on time, so I'm going to make it a quick one.

It's in relation to what Mr. Simms was saying. We have many municipalities and smaller communities in the rural parts of this country that will have difficulty, if a program is one-third, one-third, one-third funded, coming up with their third. The province and the federal government can allocate large budgets to this project; they can meet their two-thirds.

My suggestion would be to have some sort of base line that all municipalities get and on top of it a top-up of local investment in which they can engage with one-third. I really think that if this is going to be an event that is promoted across the country, we have to provide every community, every group across the country, with the ability to do something.

So I suggest, Scott, base line funding for everyone so that they could do something; then if they have more resources available they could engage in a program divided into thirds. That might be an answer. What are your feelings on that?

9:55 a.m.

Principal, MASS LBP

Peter MacLeod

I don't have a technical view on the financing of 2017, but I would suggest that it's no surprise that government already has a very big footprint in this country. One of the very simple things the federal government did was to insist that the centennial logo be printed on every cheque that was sent to Canadians in the year before; thus in 1966 and 1967, every veteran's cheque, every benefit the government sent out had that little logo on it.

Conduct a kind of search across government about all those contact points with Canadians and use them as channels to communicate this opportunity. Every time you step across a sidewalk that has one of those Centennial symbols stamped into it, it should be a reminder to each of you to speed up, because we're getting there quickly.

9:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Rob Moore

Thank you, Mr. Armstrong.

Now we're moving into five-minute rounds, in which you have five minutes for the question and the answer.

We'll move to you, Mr. Nantel, first.

November 3rd, 2011 / 9:55 a.m.

NDP

Pierre Nantel NDP Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Thank you.

First, I really appreciate your presence here, Mr. Aykroyd. Honestly, it's a big privilege for us.

Obviously 1967 came during a very rich, candid, and optimistic era. The last 45 years have brought many changes concerning national unity tensions and the economy also, which is not as clear as it was.

If you were to be reassigned today for our 150th, how would you adapt to these changes?

9:55 a.m.

Professional Engineer, As an Individual

Peter Aykroyd

I didn't understand the question.

9:55 a.m.

NDP

Pierre Nantel NDP Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

If you wanted to be reassigned for the 150th anniversary, would you make any changes in your approach, considering the changes Canada has been through in the last 45 years.

9:55 a.m.

Professional Engineer, As an Individual

Peter Aykroyd

Absolutely. It would be essential to do that. It would be prudent for any planner to make an assessment of that and come right up to date with their database and their opinions about trends, absolutely. Some of the work that is going to come out of your committee will reflect that for sure.

I'd like to say something that I have to mention, and that is what we call the private sector. Where was the private sector in the centennial? Nowhere. And the big corporations of Canada? Nowhere.

The only corporation that stepped up to the bat was the Royal Bank. They donated $50,000 every year to some worthy cause upon application, and it was considered a centennial gift. Nobody else did that, not one.

One has to pause and wonder why the ethos and personality of the corporations of Canada made them so reluctant to take part. One of the answers was that they went to Expo, because Expo had some place for them and had a structure for them, so that the rest of the celebrations across the country in which all Canadians were participating were neglected.

It's something to think about. What part will the private sector play in the upcoming anniversary?

9:55 a.m.

NDP

Pierre Nantel NDP Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Thank you, Mr. Aykroyd.

My other question is for Mr. MacLeod. In March 2010 you met with many people to bring in ideas for the next celebration. Were there any themes that popped out overwhelmingly? Let's say we're talking about the....

I'm going to speak in French.

Let's consider the example of health insurance, which has considerably changed matters in Canada. Has this theme come out? Have other themes come out? I essentially heard you talk about the success of 1967. What ideas have you received for the future?

10 a.m.

Principal, MASS LBP

Peter MacLeod

Thank you for the question.

The report we published from the conference identified seven or eight principles that the conference thought should inform the design of 2017.

The first is the idea that diversity is Canada's pride; that it's part of our character and it's our strength, and 2017 should reflect that; that it is big ideas that ultimately contribute to a lasting legacy; that it should be an occasion to rekindle the sense of public imagination; then the idea, which I mentioned, that demography is destiny.

One point that was discussed at length at the conference is that the novelty in 1967 of becoming a multicultural country, bringing in more immigrants per capita than any other country in the world, a legacy that has continued, is no longer the whole story. We're also a country of emigrants; that is, in fact 8% of our population lives abroad, and that is a higher percentage than for any other country in the G-8. It's not just about Canadians of convenience. It's about young people pursuing education, about travel opportunities, about business people around the world.

So how, In 2017, do we make it a global celebration? How do we activate our embassies and our consulates to participate in this? The conference talked about ours being a better, fairer society, and said that ultimately the sesquicentennial needs to be shared by all.

10 a.m.

NDP

Pierre Nantel NDP Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

My last question is to Mr. Jackson.

I liked a lot your idea of Canadians giving each other gifts. To me this is a nexus. We're talking about ways of doing the celebration and how it worked well in the 100th, thanks to Mr. Aykroyd's efforts and team. But tell me more about your concept of gifts.