Watson: Turn one-off Ottawa 2017 events into recurring festivities

Next year’s 150th birthday celebrations will build a lasting legacy in the city and bring back visitors for years to come, Mayor Jim Watson says.

By Ryan Tumilty

In a year-end interview with Metro, Watson said he believes there will be something the city can build off of coming out of the Ottawa 2017 celebrations.

He said a moment like this in the country’s history should be marked.

“This has been a dream of mine for some time,” he said. “I remember going with my parents to Expo 67. I must have been five or six then. It was pretty exciting. The world came to Canada.”

Watson said the string of events are a mix of both one-off events and legacy events. He said even an event like Red Bull Crashed Ice doesn’t have to be something the city only does once.

“We have the option every three years to have it back. It’s going to attract probably 100,000 people,” he said.

The mayor said the city’s events in 2017, even when they are one-offs, are largely meant to attract people to Ottawa and make them want to come back.

“These things might be one-week events, but they add to our credibility and resume as a city that can really roll out the red carpet and host national and international events,” he said.

Watson added that the city would be hosting a record number of conventions this year and believed that would continue to fuel the city’s tourism business for some time to come.

“We see more and more business people who will come here for a convention and then come back with their family,” he said.

With the first events just around the corner Watson said he believes the city is ready and has found the right mix of events.

“We have been planning this for three years,” he said. “We’re going to put on a good show.”

Separately, Watson said extending the LRT system into Gatineau should be in the city’s long-term plans after the train reaches Kanata.  

The mayor said he is excited that the progress on the city’s LRT system will continue and expects there will be a commitment from the federal government for Phase 2 soon.

“It’s just a matter of time, crossing T’s and dotting I’s,” he said.

Watson said he’s glad that the environmental assessment for extending the train to Kanata, which he calls “Phase 3,” is in the city’s budget, but the city has to keep thinking decades out and next stop should be Gatineau.

“We don’t have the money for it and we haven’t even done an environmental assessment, but I think when you’re looking at transit, you have to be looking long term,” he said. “I see Phase 4 as going into Gatineau through the Prince of Wales Bridge connecting their Rapibus system to our train system.”

Watson said the two cities are so closely connected that ultimately a seamless transit connection has to happen.

“You look at the numbers and there are tens of thousands of people every day that cross the bridges.”

This article originally appeared in Metro News.