Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Culture: Closed for Canada Day?

Patriotic colors dominated this scene from the Canada Day fireworks display at Civic Centre in Mississauga, Ontario on 1-July-2009

TORONTO, ONTARIO - As much of the media would have it, Canada's largest city did not celebrate Canada's birthday. Because of the city worker's strike, most city events including those on Canada Day have been canceled. To the rest of the country, this was further evidence that Toronto doesn't care about anything outside of the 416 area code.

Yet, that's not what I saw in the behavior of Toronto residents on this Canada Day. The city-sponsored events, most notably the fireworks displays over Ashbridge's Bay and Mel Lastman Square in North York may not have been taking place, but there are multiple layers of government in this country and provincial, federal, and private events went on. The provincial capital at Queen's Park hosted its normal suite of day-long events. The federally-administered Downsview Park went about its entertainment including a fireworks display. The privately-sponsored Festival of Fire at Ontario Place went on with its fireworks display, and the Toronto Blue Jays held some Canada Day-related events at their game, including after-game fireworks. All of these events were well-attended by Torontonians and tourists alike.

Admittedly, though, I chose to venture outside Toronto for my Canada Day fireworks fix. Having seen the Downsview Park display last year and with two other dates to see the Festival of Fire, I decided this was a good year to venture to neighbouring Mississauga--the sixth largest city in Canada that nobody outside of Ontario seems to have heard of. The inducement of free rides on Mississauga Transit--normally expensive at $3 a ride--was another reason to give it a try.

The diversity of faces at the Civic Square was a nice reflection of Mississauga itself--all the races of the world mixing freely--quite similar in fact to what I've observed in the past on Canada Day at Downsview Park in Toronto. The fireworks themselves are set off on top of City Hall, not unlike the North York display. The emcee for the day, made it clear on a regular basis that we were in Mississauga, and that the city was prouder of Canada than its larger neighbour.

The 25-minute display itself was worth seeing; my only real complaint was that Mississauga Transit did not run any extra buses over its normal holiday schedule out of Square One after the display--I guess it's free for a reason.

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