Last year, Ottawa was the place to be to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Confederation.
This year, Ottawa was the place to avoid for yet another Canada Day.
I’m not surprised.
Canadians are generally good-natured, but no one forgot that in 2017, the hyped-up birthday bash turned into “an absolute fiasco” and a “disastrous event.” Visitors and locals are still venting about the long and disorganized security lines that ruined the festivities on Parliament Hill—Canada 150 sucked.
This year, the priority wasn’t the traditional Canada Day party but the long weekend. In Canada, when July 1 falls on a Sunday (i.e. not a regular working day for most employees), the Holidays Act states that Canada Day is bumped to Monday, July 2. Long weekends are precious in a country where companies often only provide two or three weeks of paid time off.
The workweek wrapped up early. Thursday was the last day of school and the evening was apparently dedicated to hunting and gathering, aka filling supermarket carts with basic supplies like hot dog buns, sausages, flavoured chips—a Canadian addiction—and drinks. On Friday morning, canoes and bikes were strapped to the roofs of SUVs and by noon, anyone with a cottage, a RV, a boat or an easy getaway option was gone.
I touched base with my clients and received an out-of-office reply or assurance that there would be no last-minute assignment, so I took the day off as well and walked to downtown Ottawa—for once, I had time on my hands, even the gym was closed. There were a few tourists around but Ottawa was quieter than usual—and it’s already pretty damn quiet for a national capital.
On Friday night, supermarket shelves were empty and the few customers still shopping were buying coolers and ice cream bars to sell on Canada Day.
I had low expectations for this Canada Day but I was happy with the traditional Parliament Hill show, live music, sponsored goodies and a fun atmosphere.
Well, it didn’t quite go like that.
What went wrong?
The weather, of course.
— CTV Ottawa (@ctvottawa) July 1, 2018
We braved the heat (I love it!) but many people just stayed indoors and the city was empty.
I mean, truly empty.
Wellington and Rideau and Sparks Street were deserted. There were no activities on Major’s Hill Park, just a bunch of pricey food trucks and a few picnic tables because apparently, nothing says “I love Canada” better than sharing poutine and beaver tails. There were no lineups to get onto Parliament Hill but there were no reasons to go either. Besides, after consultation with “control crowd experts,” this year there was just one main entrance at Wellington and Kent streets, which is a very long detour.
For me, Canada Day is best celebrated in the streets with other Canadians and visitors from all over the world. This year, I couldn’t even find a good spot for street photography because I couldn’t find… people. I ended up with fewer than 15 pictures, mostly shots of Mark and I Feng took.
We stayed for a couple of hours and went home.
Tighter security killed the fun on Parliament Hill. Too many rules, some of them absurd—what’s with all the “no busking” signs?—killed the party.