Renovation forces Canada Day party off Parliament Hill this summer

OTTAWA — Canada’s biggest annual birthday bash is moving away from Parliament Hill.

The July 1 festivities that normally see thousands of people dressed in red, white and maple-leaf attire on the front lawn will be a casualty of construction this year.

Work to renovate the Centre Block building on Parliament Hill — the one with the Peace Tower — began a year ago and picked up steam this winter.

With so much of the front lawn now eaten up by the construction work, there is no room to set up the big main stage where Canadian musicians usually entertain the masses throughout the day.

Canadian Heritage spokeswoman Amelie Desmarais says the main stage will be set up in nearby Major’s Hill Park, which has a view of the Parliament Buildings from the East.

Desmarais says there will still be some activities on Parliament Hill but details about what that will look like aren’t coming until the spring.

“Public Services and Procurement Canada and Canadian Heritage are working together to ensure that Parliament Hill remains one of the iconic sites where visitors can come to celebrate Canada Day,” she said in a written statement.

The Centre Block renovations are part of a $4-billion update to most of the buildings on Parliament Hill and the surrounding precinct. They were initially forecast to take about 10 years but some estimates suggest it will be well past 2030 before the iconic building is ready to reopen.

Last summer, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told the crowd of more than 11,000 assembled for the noon-hour show, that “Canada Day on Parliament Hill is something of a tradition for many of us.”

But the event has been plagued by weather woes in recent years.

In 2017, when as many as half a million people were expected in Ottawa to mark the country’s 150th birthday, days of heavy rains diluted the event, as did the layers of heavy security established to try and keep everyone safe. Many people reported standing in security lines for hours trying to get onto Parliament Hill, only to be told the space had reached capacity.

A year later, it was a heat wave that scorched the fun, with only a few thousand revellers braving the hottest Canada Day on record for the afternoon attractions.

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