Peterborough city council rejects staff recommendation to cancel this year’s Canada Day parade

Declining number of floats led staff to recommend parade budget be used to host alternative events to celebrate Canada Day

A crowd along George Street in downtown Peterborough during the 2023 Canada Day parade. (Photo: City of Peterborough / Facebook)
A crowd along George Street in downtown Peterborough during the 2023 Canada Day parade. (Photo: City of Peterborough / Facebook)

Peterborough city council has unanimously rejected a recommendation from staff that the Canada Day parade be cancelled in 2024.

At council’s general committee meeting on Monday night (April 22), councillor Matt Crowley put forward a motion that the report be received for information only and proposed an amendment that the Canada Day parade continue this year, and that staff report back to council with information about the success of this year’s parade so council can make a decision about continuing the parade in 2025.

In the report, staff had recommended the annual Canada Day parade be cancelled in 2024 due to the declining number of floats and the $20,000 budgeted for the parade instead be devoted to alternative celebratory events in Del Crary Park.

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According to the report, the number of Canada Day parade float entries has declined since the pandemic. In 2019, there were 56 float entries, although only 16 participated due to heat and humidity. The parade was cancelled in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic and, when it resumed in 2022, saw only 21 float entries that year and only 25 in 2023. As a result of the fewer number of floats, the parade lasted around 16 minutes in 2022 and 20 minutes in 2023.

Councillor Crowley said the city should give the parade another year before making a decision, pointing out the potential impact of the pandemic of participation.

“I know that it’s a very quick parade at the moment because we have had a lack of submissions, but I think that — if moving forward — if it is a very well-attended event, it’s something that the community wants, and the community communicated to us that they really want it, and I think that if the community wants to participate and bring out floats this year and really make it a great celebration, I think that it would be beneficial to all of us to continue on and keep the parade going every year.”

A bike decorating contest is one feature of Peterborough's annual Canada Day parade. (Photo: City of Peterborough / Facebook)
A bike decorating contest is one feature of Peterborough’s annual Canada Day parade. (Photo: City of Peterborough / Facebook)

Councillor Don Vassiliadis asked city staff whether the parade’s budget has always been $20,000 and city staff responded that the budget has been around that amount for the past five years.

Vassiliadis suggested that staff reach out to service clubs like Kinsmen or Rotary to see if they could support events like the parade, but staff said service clubs may not be able to take on events like this, pointing out they had already stepped away from organizing the Victoria Day fireworks display.

Mayor Jeff Leal said he heard from residents while he was at the farmers’ market that they were against the idea of cancelling the parade.

“Nine of out 10 people who spoke to me want the Canada Day parade,” the mayor said. “They see it as an iconic event here in the City of Peterborough, and I just want to lend my support to councillor Crowley.”

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Councillor Joy Lachica read some comments sent to council in support of the parade, and added that the parade was especially significant for new Canadians.

“This clearly sounds like it’s something that’s still very important to our community, so I’m going to support the amendment,” she added.

While councillor Gary Baldwin defended the staff report to broaden the activities available on Canada Day beyond the parade, he said he supported Crowley’s motion to continue the parade.

He asked community services commissioner Sheldon Laidman if the cost of liability insurance was a factor in declining participation in the parade. Laidman said it was not a major factor as the city’s insurance covers the event, adding that the major cost for the parade is for policing.

Councillor Alex Bierk supported Crowley’s motion and expressed concern about city staff’s lack of consultation with the broader community and the fact that, as co-chair of the community services portfolio, he was unaware of the city staff recommendation to cancel the parade before receiving the report — a concern shared by councillor Keith Riel in his comments.

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While supporting continuing the Canada Day parade, councillor Lesley Parnell also supported city staff’s recommendation to expand Canada Day events beyond the parade, pointing out that the New Canadians Centre is no longer hosting its Multicultural Canada Day Festival in Del Crary Park (an event which was not funded by the city) and that the city’s $20,000 budget is insufficient to host both the parade and other events.

“If you want a parade and you want the events in the park, we’re gonna have increase that budget, because we just cannot afford to do both,” Parnell said.

Parnell also suggested New Canadians Centre could resume their Multicultural Canada Day Festival at Millennium Park instead of Del Crary Park to avoid conflicts with Peterborough Musicfest.

Parnell noted that lots of people want to watch the Canada Day parade, but the issue is the lack of participants in the parade itself.

“Please sign up, if you want to make it a success and you want it back again (in 2025),” she said, addressing the general public. “We need more participants in the parade.”

As for fireworks over Little Lake on Canada Day, a second staff report presented to general committee recommended the fireworks platform in Little Lake be decommissioned and disposed of, with fireworks displays launched from the T wharf and other approved sites instead. Councillors voted to approve the recommendation, without discussion, among other consent items.

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Other items endorsed by general committee at Monday night’s meeting included:

  • Changing the zoning for 1113 Clonsilla Ave. to allow the property to be used for a four-storey stacked townhouse with 28 units.
  • Changing the zoning for 1509, 1529 and 1533 Sherbrooke St. to allow part of the properties to be used for a three-storey, 93-unit residential apartment building.
  • Supporting councillor Kevin Duguay to seek election to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities Board of Directors as a representative of the City of Peterborough, with up to $4,000 coming from the Mayor’s Office budget to support the activity.
  • Amending the contract for consulting services for the Peterborough Organics Facility to increase the value to $1,667,812 plus tax from $1,238,460 plus tax to reflect changes required in the planning and regulatory approvals, design changes for value engineering, extended construction, and commissioning contract administration.
  • Designating 140 King Street, known as the J.J. Turner Building, under the Ontario Heritage Act as being a property of cultural heritage value or interest to the City of Peterborough.
  • That staff report back to council in 2024 on the need for an all-way stop or traffic signal at Bensfort Road and Otonabee Drive.

Items endorsed by general committee will be considered by city council for final approval at its regular meeting next Monday (April 29).