The announcement on Friday came as the city’s population officially crested the one-million mark, placing it up there with Toronto, Montreal and Calgary in, as Mayor Jim Watson said, “a different league of North American cities and gives us more recognition around the world.”
“We really are a microcosm of the whole country,” Watson added of the new slogan, without getting into some of the finer details such as oceans, the Great Lakes, wide-open prairies, the Rocky Mountains or arctic tundra, never mind an aquarium, planetarium, rapid transit, Gordon Lightfoot or an NBA championship.
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“We have a rural countryside, a vibrant suburban and downtown,” he continued. “We’ve got a very multicultural community, a bilingual city, so I think we really reflect what you see in a lot of other cities all in one city right here in our nation’s capital.”
An almost interminable video (four minutes 45 seconds, but you try watching the whole thing) by Ottawa Tourism and posted on the canadainonecity.ca website elaborates on the theme and identifies some of Ottawa’s most favourable characteristics: A caring community. Bilingual and slow-paced. We “welcome newcomers and visitors into that intangible experience — the joy of living.”
“Ottawa,” it adds, “is where you can connect with Canada’s soul.”
And, above all, we’re agreeable. According to the video, the city’s (trademarked) Place DNA shows us to be 50 per cent “Agreeable,” nearly 20 per cent “Extravert” (their spelling mistake, unless that’s a new term for, like, super-green), and the remaining 30 per cent split fairly evenly between “Conscientious,” “Open to experience” and “Neurotic.”
Our “story,” meanwhile, is defined, like an artist’s mellifluous vision statement in a Canada Council grant application, as “a cohesive articulation of the holistic experience that a destination provides through a person’s interaction with the place that clearly conveys the distinctiveness.”
Indeed. So it’s not just potholes, sinkholes and OC Transpo bus schedules seemingly drawn up in crayon and based on algorithms related to the universe’s vast vacuum of nothingness and the price of celery.
Public reaction to the slogan has been mixed, with the lion’s share of comments on various websites mocking or criticizing it. “Arrogant and ignorant,” one said, while another person noted that Ottawa could hardly boast the diversity of Vancouver or Calgary.
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“Congrats on the millionth person,” one Calgarian tweeted. “Calgary had that about a decade ago … the slogan is not appreciated, I disagree. Our LRT has been running for decades on 4 lines … how’s your’s doing?”
At least one person described it as “Brilliant!” while another remarked “THE CITY CAN DO BETTER THAN THIS. STOP BEING COMPLACENT.” Another, meanwhile, offered a compromise by merely shifting the words: “Ottawa — one city in Canada.”