Evidence of meeting #25 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 museums.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

11:05 a.m.


The Chair Rob Moore

Good morning, everybody. Welcome to the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage.

It's great to be back as we have concluded our recess and continue our work on Canada's 150th birthday. We're very pleased to have a number of witnesses with us. First, from the City of Ottawa, we have Mayor Jim Watson. Welcome, sir.

There are also Katherine Hobbs and Rainer Bloess, councillors with the City of Ottawa. Welcome to all of you.

As well we have Michele McKenzie, the president and CEO of the Canadian Tourism Commission; and Catherine Beauchamp, also of the Canadian Tourism Commission. Welcome to both of you.

Each group will have 10 minutes to present and then we'll move into our questions and answers. We'll be meeting until noon, when we'll switch over to our next panel.

With that, Mayor Watson, the floor is yours.

11:05 a.m.

Jim Watson Mayor, City of Ottawa

Great. Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Mr. Chair, members of the committee, thank you very much.

On behalf of the City of Ottawa, my council colleagues and Councillors Katherine Hobbs and Rainer Bloess, I want to thank you for the opportunity to appear before you this morning.

It's really a great pleasure to address you and provide you with the City of Ottawa's objectives for the celebration of the 150th anniversary of Canada's Confederation in 2017. The last time I appeared before a parliamentary committee was when I was president of the Canadian Tourism Commission and I'm now sitting beside my successor, Michele McKenzie. It's a great pleasure to be with her as well.

This promises to be an exciting and one of the most significant milestones in our country's history. My hope is that our nation's capital will be the epicentre for such an important and significant celebration, uniting Canadians from coast to coast to coast.

I remember, as I'm sure many of you do, watching with great excitement the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver and Whistler, and being amazed and moved by the incredible show of patriotism that Canadians displayed during those 17 days on the west coast. The entire downtown core was transformed into a sea of red and white, an incredible display of patriotism and pride in our nation.

Just as Vancouver owned the 2010 Olympics, and Quebec City owned the 400th anniversary of the founding of that city, and Toronto will own 2015 as the Pan Am Games are hosted that year in the greater Toronto area, we have but one nation's capital and I believe that Ottawa can and must own our nation's 150th birthday in 2017.

Jean Pigott, a former Conservative member of Parliament, beloved citizen of our community, and chair of the National Capital Commission, once said that “Ottawa should be considered every Canadian’s second home town”. It doesn't take away from the excitement of activities that will take place in your communities, but we like to think of our nation's capital, your nation's capital, as every Canadian's second home town.

But in order to accomplish this goal, a lot of hard work and cooperation between many stakeholders needs to take place. Although the 150th anniversary is a little more than five years away, it is crucial that we start planning for it now.

Five years, as we all know, will go by very quickly and I want you to know that the City of Ottawa is ready and very willing to play a significant role in the organization and execution of this important milestone. In fact, our planning is already under way.

In my state of the city address in January I asked two city councillors, Councillors Hobbs and Bloess, who are with me today, to co-chair a city task force on Canada's 150th anniversary. With them leading the charge, our goal is to make sure that Ottawa is ready to roll out the red carpet in 2017 and throughout the entire year leading up to and culminating in an incredible spectacle of celebration on July 1, 2017. That should be a year for all of us to remember, just as many of us—and I was only six at the time—remember the excitement of Expo 67 and Man and His World in Montreal.

Ottawa must aggressively go after national and international conferences, annual general meetings, sporting and cultural events, and conventions and trade shows.

The city took a significant step forward in attracting major events to the capital with the creation of a major events attraction office, in partnership with Ottawa Tourism.

The office is being tasked to attract and support large-scale cultural and sports events that have positive benefits to the economy. The formula is very simple: bid more, win more, host more. We've proven that Ottawa is a solid and capable host city.

Just this year, for instance, we hosted the 2012 National Hockey League All-Star Game and the 2012 Juno Awards, both of which were a tremendous success for the local economy, bringing accolades from across the industry for our successful organization and execution.

We're looking forward to hosting a number of other significant events this year, including the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, and the 2013 International Ice Hockey Federation Women's World Championship. We're also in the process of bidding, and we're on the short list, to host the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup of Soccer. And we hope to find the Junos back in the nation's capital for the sesquicentennial in 2017.

We are very fortunate in Ottawa to have the support of so many partners, whose assistance helps make these events so successful. I am pleased to report that a number of our city's partners are excited about taking part in the 2017 task force.

In collaboration with the Tourism Development Council, the following organizations will assist the city as it welcomes the country and the world in 2017: Ottawa Tourism; our beautiful new convention centre that was funded in part by the federal and provincial governments; the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce; the Ottawa Airport Authority that just won the “Best Airport in North America” designation; the Ottawa Senators; the Ottawa Festivals; and our city's economic development team. Several other groups are also going to be part of the task force, including Regroupement des gens d'affaires de la Capitale and the new CE Centre located out by the airport.

We're hopeful to partner with other organizations such as the National Capital Commission, and we've worked closely with them as well as Canadian Heritage. I had the opportunity to talk to Minister Moore about the 2017 events just a few weeks ago, as I did with the Prime Minister last month.

We're hoping to move forward with the goal of hosting the most extraordinary and memorable sesquicentennial celebrations. My vision is not just to limit the celebrations of the 150th anniversary to 2017, but also to have legacy projects that will have a lasting impact, projects that will serve as a national reminder to all Canadians about our heritage and contributions to the world. We believe Heritage Canada, the NCC, and the federal government have a crucial role to play in the creation of such legacy projects. No doubt many ideas will be presented by people from all walks of life.

In my remaining minutes, Mr. Chair, I want to highlight some of the suggestions that I've discussed with the Prime Minister and Minister Moore.

The old U.S. embassy located right across from Parliament Hill on Wellington Street can be and should be a showcase of Canadian innovations and achievements—in essence, our version of the Smithsonian in Washington. For example, after they've toured Parliament Hill I can see students and parents alike walk across the street to this beautiful building that would have our treasure chest of Canadian achievements and accomplishments: Céline Dion's first gold record, a replica of the Canadarm, Bryan Adams's first guitar, Sidney Crosby's stick from the gold-medal winning game in the Olympics, a Banting and Best chemistry set, Terry Fox's famous T-shirt, and Bombardier's first snowmobile. In essence, it would be Canada's chance to brag about some of the great Canadians and their formidable achievements.

I'd also propose converting Canada Day into Canada Week, a week-long celebration of Canadian talent, culminating on July 1 with the biggest and proudest party in the country. We spend close to 10 days putting up the infrastructure, the sound and staging for, one day. Let's celebrate that for all of Canada's regions. Take a page from the National Arts Centre, which has had a successful scene series, with the B.C. Scene, the Prairie Scene, the Northern Scene, the Quebec Scene, the Ontario Scene, and the Atlantic Scene, where groups and individual performers from all these regions have one day dedicated to their accomplishments leading up to July 1, 2017.

The City of Ottawa is very excited about the upcoming 150th anniversary celebrations, and we are committed to making this a most memorable moment in Canadian history.

We will need some support and direction on what the federal government's plans are for Canada's 150th. Our request to you, through this committee, which we thank for taking this on as an initiative, is that we need to get a clear direction on how the federal government plans to celebrate and what resources, if any, are going to be available.

In closing, I'd like to thank you, Mr. Chair. I know that your background and history in tourism is commendable. I'd also like to thank Mr. Brown, whom I've know for many years, who suggested that I come before this committee and talk about our excitement in celebrating Canada's sesquicentennial in 2017.

Merci beaucoup. Thank you.

11:10 a.m.


The Chair Rob Moore

Thank you, Mr. Mayor. We appreciate your testimony.

I do want to take the opportunity, committee, to welcome Matthew Dubé as a new permanent member of the committee.

Now we will move to the Canadian Tourism Commission and Michele McKenzie.

I understand, Michele, you have a video that you're going to play first. Are you going to cue that up?

11:10 a.m.

Michele McKenzie President and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Tourism Commission

No, I'll do that during the presentation.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

It's a pleasure to be with you here today, and also a treat to be sitting next to Jim, who, in addition to being mayor, is a great advocate of tourism in Canada.

For those of you not familiar with the Canadian Tourism Commission, we market Canada in international markets. We work with Canada's tourism industry to generate export revenue for the Canadian economy.

I believe, honourable members, that the CTC's proposed youth travel strategy has been shared with you in advance.

Canada's 150th birthday is a major milestone for our country and a unique opportunity to do something great. As Jim said, it's an opportunity to create something that will be a lifetime memory for people, like Expo 67, which people of our generation still speak about fondly.

We at the Canadian Tourism Commission have an idea for something that could make this celebration exciting, engaging, and memorable for young Canadians. Our vision is to inspire, through marketing and programs, a movement of youth travelling and exploring their country in 2017.

For the purposes of this proposal, we're targeting the age group of 16 to 29 years old. This generation is the future of Canada, and we as marketers know that it can be especially difficult to get them excited about an occasion like this. Members of Generation Y are independent; they can't be told to be excited about something. That groundswell really has to build from within. I know, as I have a few 20-somethings.

We think a youth travel movement could be just the thing to do that. More than just a night of parades, concerts, and fireworks, this would be celebrating with a whole journey. Many young Canadians are proud of their country, but they haven't really experienced much more than the town they grew up in or the place they went to school. Their travel aspirations don't include Canada. They think of exotic international destinations. This would give them a broader understanding of our country: French and English Canada; east/west, central, and north.

Inspiring a whole movement of young Canadians travelling across their own country, can you imagine what a powerful experience that would be? It would really amplify their sense of Canadian identity and sense of belonging.

I know with my three children having been in the school systems in Halifax, Ottawa, and Vancouver, all of their school trips were outside of our country. They visited the U.S. capital city but not Canada's capital city, all of them as students in public school systems in Canada.

We think the benefit of this initiative for the tourism sector will be real economic stimulus. Young travellers are actually very high-spending. They tend to travel for longer, so they spend more. They travel in the off-season. They go off the beaten path. They enjoy small local businesses.

I'd like to offer the committee members a concrete example of how such campaigns can contribute to the Canadian economy while lifting Canadian pride. The last time the CTC had special funding for a domestic campaign was under the economic action plan in 2009 and 2010. Normally our work focuses on drawing international travellers to our country in order to increase export revenues. But with this special one-time funding, we mobilized a travel marketing campaign here in Canada. It was called “Locals Know”, and it was incredibly successful,.

I'd like to show you a little bit of what that was about.

[Video Presentation]

That video showed you the year-one results.

By the end of the second year, the results for “Locals Know” in full were that nearly one in 10 Canadians who saw the campaign booked a trip, for a total of 4.5 million more trips in Canada and $1.2 billion in revenue. This activity supported over 10,000 industry jobs. This is why we see such a great potential for a new focus on the youth market in 2017.

We've done a whole suite of research—focus groups, surveys, and interviews with industry players—which shows that we have the right foundation for this new proposal before you. Young people are proud to be Canadian, and while only 10% were aware of the 150th anniversary, they believed it merited a big celebration when told about it.

In terms of travel, an incredible 91% of them said that they were interested or very interested in seeing more of Canada soon. Now, we all know that interest isn't currently translating into trips at home, as many are drawn away to exotic destinations in Europe, Thailand, Australia, etc. And we know from our research that a lot of this is because Canada is seen as expensive. It's also not seen as being exciting enough. In part, this is because many young Canadians are pretty unaware of what there is to do here. In our focus groups, we asked them where they'd most like to visit in Canada. They came up with Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal. Pushed a bit, they said Whistler and Banff. Beyond that, they really couldn't think of what else there was to do. That's pretty shocking.

Our proposal for government's consideration would be a program in four parts.

First is branding. The CTC could build a youthful, enticing identity for Canadian travel. Second is blitz and buzz. We'd get the message out through a media blitz coast to coast to coast, and cultivate social media buzz—that groundswell we talked about. Third is experience, giving them a reason for their travel in 2017, the most obvious one being to join the mass of others and not be left out. There's so much space here for partners to come in with things like 2017 youth events or promoting voluntourism opportunities, or a challenge like travelling a certain distance on the Trans Canada Trail.

The last part would be deals. We'd work with industry partners to come up with major time-limited deals they couldn't turn down. There's such huge partnership potential with something like this, for example, with airlines, travel companies, the provinces and territories, festivals, lifestyle brands such as Red Bull and MTV. This is how an initial Government of Canada investment could be leveraged into a much larger program for a big impact.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today.

11:20 a.m.


The Chair Rob Moore

Thank you, Ms. McKenzie, and thank you to our panel.

Now we'll move to our questions and answers.

First up is Mr. Brown.

11:20 a.m.


Gord Brown Leeds—Grenville, ON

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Welcome to Mayor Watson and to your councillors, and thanks again for coming.

We commenced this study back in the fall. Mayor Watson, you and I had a discussion about this a while ago, so I think it's great that you're being very proactive on this. Some of us, including you and me, remember vaguely the centennial of 1967, and it was great to see the city taking a proactive role in this.

We all know that the City of Ottawa has a lot of great events, such as the Tulip Festival, the Jazz Festival, the summer Bluesfest, the wine and food show, and many other events. Some of the recent ones you talked about, Mayor Watson, were the Junos and the NHL All-Star Game, of course.

So we know about the positive events that are happening already. Maybe you can talk a little about whether you can see our taking advantage of the existing events and rebranding them for Canada 150 in 2017. Maybe there are advantages or disadvantages to that and maybe you could tell us a little about them.

11:25 a.m.

Mayor, City of Ottawa

Jim Watson

That's actually a timely point, Mr. Brown, because just last week we launched the festival season. We actually have more festivals in Ottawa per capita than any other community in Canada. There are over 65 not-for-profit festivals that take place throughout the year.

I'm not sure if Councillors Hobbs and Bloess are attending, but tonight the lineup of the Bluesfest is being launched, now one of the largest music festivals in Canada.

We've met with a number of festival groups. We have the president of Ottawa Festivals on our task force. We very much see our building on the success of those festivals, and perhaps through summary branding or some add-on programming to those festivals, making them particularly special during the sesquicentennial celebration in 2017. They already have a very strong following, and we think we can almost piggyback on some of their successes to reach even more people to perhaps convince residents and visitors to stay an extra day or couple of days before or after the festival.

Tourism in our local community is the third-largest employer. My time at the CTC taught me that every single member of Parliament has a vibrant tourism industry in his or her own community. It's important to job creation. You all have unique characteristics and so on. But we have only one national capital, and we think there's an opportunity for us to work in collaboration with the federal government, with the private sector, as well as with the not-for-profit sector, particularly in culture, arts, and tourism, to ensure that we can capture some of the success that Quebec City had with their 400th anniversary.

I recall that when I was a provincial cabinet minister, virtually every federal-provincial-territorial ministers' meeting took place in Quebec City. It was the place to go because it was branded by the Government of Quebec, the City of Quebec, and the federal government as the destination of choice in that particular year, similar to the success of Vancouver with the 2010 Olympics. So we see the festivals as an ideal opportunity to help act as a magnet to bring people in.

Obviously, when they come here, some of the highlights of their visit would be Parliament Hill. We'd like to give them that added opportunity of a “Canada House” concept across the street from Parliament Hill, the beautiful museums, the art gallery, the National Arts Centre, and so on as a complete package.

11:25 a.m.


Gord Brown Leeds—Grenville, ON

One of the reasons for the big success of the 1967 centennial celebrations was that there was this centennial brand. Do you think having a “Canada 150” brand would be a positive thing that we could tie all those things into?

11:25 a.m.

Mayor, City of Ottawa

Jim Watson

I think it would be.

It's similar to what your government is doing with the War of 1812 and the bicentennial celebration. I just received a letter today, for instance, from the Prime Minister, and on his letterhead it has the War of 1812 logo and the website, driving people to that website. That's going to help the tourism industry certainly along the St. Lawrence and those areas that had a direct impact as a result of the War of 1812.

We think there's an opportunity for every community to celebrate the 150th. There's not going to be a Man and His World or an Expo 67 on the scale it was back in 1967, but we think there's an opportunity for every community. We're obviously here promoting Ottawa as the nation's capital for an opportunity for more residents and more visitors to come and visit their nation's capital. It's almost a pilgrimage in the United States where families and schools want to visit Washington, D.C. We need to provide incentives to the school system, the public school system, that this should be a destination of choice for young people as well.

I'll just leave you with one story. I remember that Jean Pigott—I'm a big fan of Jean's—told a story once of a young woman from the Northwest Territories, I believe, who came to Ottawa. She had never been south of 60. When she saw the Peace Tower, she put her hand on the Peace Tower and said, “I now feel the soul of Canada”. It was a very touching moment that Jean used to share with people.

We'd like to capture that moment for as many Canadians and foreign visitors as possible.

11:30 a.m.


Gord Brown Leeds—Grenville, ON

Thanks, Mayor Watson.

I appreciate your bringing up the War of 1812. I never miss an opportunity to talk about the fact that the first skirmish in that war happened in my hometown of Gananoque.

11:30 a.m.

A voice

Did we win?

11:30 a.m.


Oh, oh!

11:30 a.m.


Gord Brown Leeds—Grenville, ON

It was a tough battle.

I have a few minutes left, so I'd like to move on to you, Michele, to talk a little bit about your “Your Canada” youth initiative for 2017. We all know, from your numbers and from what I've read, that the U.S. and Australia are the big beneficiaries of youth travel. We know that the U.S. is close, so that's fairly easy, but Australia is a long way.

What is Australia doing that's drawing young people to Australia? Maybe there are some lessons here that we could learn.

Perhaps you could tell us a little bit about those possibilities.

11:30 a.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Tourism Commission

Michele McKenzie

Thank you.

Yes, we looked a lot at what Australia is doing. In fact Australia and New Zealand have been very aggressive in going after the youth market and have put together campaigns specifically for that purpose. We think that's the kind of example they set.

Not only do we want to be encouraging youth travel within Canada, but of course we'd like to attract international youth to travel to Canada in 2017 and beyond. Whether they're coming to study, to backpack, or for working holidays, we have a big opportunity in that.

Australia is very aggressive in this market, and there are good lessons to learn there.

11:30 a.m.


The Chair Rob Moore

That's it for you, Mr. Brown? Okay. Thank you.

Next up is Mr. Cash.