Canada kicks off 150th birthday year


OTTAWA – A Canada Day tradition was repurposed Saturday night to herald the start of Canada’s 150th year.

A massive fireworks display over Parliament Hill — usually reserved for July 1 — took place Saturday evening to mark the beginning of 2017 and a year-long birthday bash across the country. A kaleidoscope of colours cascaded behind the Parliament Buildings under a dark, overcast sky. Hours later a second, even more spectacular display of pyrotechnics, was staged at midnight to ring in the new year.

Revellers took in the festivities under snowy skies. Gov. Gen David Johnston, wearing a parka and toque, was on hand to help kick off a year of Canada 150 events and joined Heritage Minister Melanie Joly in relighting the centennial flame. Candles were distributed to onlookers.

A stage with a giant red and white “Canada 150” banner dominated Parliament Hill. Young people were on hand to carry flags of the provinces and territories. And the huge crowd of spectators was kept entertained by Canadian artists that included Radio Radio, Brett Kissel and Carly Rae Jepsen.

Heritage Department spokesperson Katherine Cyr had said the celebration in the capital was set to cost about $2.5 million.

New Year’s Eve events with a 150th birthday flavour were held in 19 cities across the country, including St. John’s, N.L., which was the first to hit the midnight milestone.

Joly is in charge of more than $210 million being set aside for 150th anniversary projects and events planned for 2017.

More than three dozen national programs have received federal funding, ranging from history exhibits to a dance day being put on by Canada’s national ballet school.

A red leather couch is set to travel the country, beginning with a tour of the North in March and a journey from Newfoundland to B.C. in June and July, after organizers received $155,000 in federal dollars.

Ela Kinowska, the manager of the tour, said it will involve compiling stories shared on the piece of furniture from Canadians about what the country means to them.

“It is a very expensive operation to be in every province so what we get for that is the unifying factor,” she said. “It is a nation-building sofa.”

The federal government has also established a national infrastructure program to support renovation, expansion and improvement in community and cultural infrastructure.

The initial $150-million program was created by the previous Conservative government, which was accused of doling out much of the money to ridings represented by Conservative MPs ahead of the 2015 election.

The current Liberal government has added a further $150 million for more projects.