Tombstones of Waste

Canada and the World Pavilion

Build It and Maybe They Will Come

"Operation of this facility is not central to the corporation's mandate."

Yet another make-work project for the bureaucrats at the NCC, the Canada and the World Pavilion was first mooted in the late 90's; the Citizen first reported on the Pavilion in March 1999. As usual, they had to obtain the information via an Access to Information request. According to NCC documents, the Pavilion exhibits were to stress "Canadian accomplishments on the world scene, the capital's international role, Canada and major world issues." The initially budgeted cost for the pavilion was $2.2 million. Located beside the Rideau Falls on Sussex, construction began in June of 2000 and the facility opened in May 2001, costing a mere $6 million+. It closed four short years later in the fall of 2005.

Canada and the World promises to be a star attraction on the international sector [where's that then? - ed.] of Confederation Boulevard. The new pavilion is being designed as a forum where visitors can see and appreciate the global achievements of Canadians in diplomacy, peacekeeping, aid, science, technology, art and sport.

Bumph from the 1999-2000 NCC Annual Report

Canada and the World Pavilion in better days

Canada and the World Pavilion in happier days; photo by CRC

The NCC never was able to explain exactly why they built the thing. Then-Chairman Beaudry's insightful contribution was that the pavilion would fill a gap in tourists' experience of Ottawa. Not according to the Museum of Civilisation, which complained that the Pavilion was simply drawing much needed funds away from their own underfunded programs. But, no matter. It was, we were assured, a triumph, and central to the NCC's core activities.

Operated on a budget of $500,000 a year, the Pavilion offered such trinkets as Celine Dion's first Grammy and Glenn Gould's collection of hotel keys to lure tourists to learn about the world-class achievements of various Canadian notables. The Pavilion also boasted a swell view of the Ottawa River. Open in summer months only, admission was free.

We narrowed our focus to a number of flagship events and activities, such as Canada Day, Winterlude and the Canada and the World Pavilion. These contribute most significantly to the achievement of the mandate, we concluded, and that is where we concentrated our efforts last year.

Chairman Beaudry's Message
2002-03 NCC Annual Report

The NCC initially projected annual attendance of 120,000; in 2001, its opening year, it drew only 62,000 "visits." This increased to 98,000 in 2002, falling to 85,000 in 2003. In 2004, the NCC claimed a surprising 125,000 visits.

Then, abruptly, the Pavilion was no longer central to the NCC's core activities, and in 2005 the NCC announced it would be closed. The NCC stated that, while a smashing success, the "decision to close the pavilion was motivated solely by financial considerations, and by the complexity of sustaining a museum-type infrastructure when faced with financial constraints." Considering admission was free, it's hard to know exactly what financial considerations sandbagged the NCC's beancounters - the facility was only open for four years, what the heck did they budget for back when they were planning the thing?

An NCC report (again obtained by the Citizen via Access to Information) stated that "visitation levels at the pavilion are low and the facility is operated on a seasonal basis. As a result, this use of funds is not the best value for Canadians" and further noted that "operation of this facility is not central to the corporation's mandate" after all.

It's as though the NCC opened the pavilion for something to do, and then closed it because they felt like doing something else. The entire nonsensical exercise, has, however, given the NCC a shiny new Tombstone of Waste to play with. With the museum now closed, the NCC is looking for an alternative use for its building.

The NCC has dribbled away some millions in operating money, plus the $5.7-million cost to build and outfit the pavilion, but the bigger problem is in the long term. The commission's misguided dabbling in the museum business has created a white elephant, and a particularly awkward one. [...] the NCC will continue to bear the costs of heating and maintaining the building. The commission estimates that it will cost $75,000 to decommission the pavilion and return the contents. The staff report earlier said the figure would run to the hundreds of thousand of dollars.

Randall Denley, Ottawa Citizen, 18 October 2005

CBC: Canada and the World Pavilion goes underground [5 Jun 2000]
CBC: NCC cuts pavilion showcasing Canada [17 Jun 2005]
New Edinburgh Community Alliance: A Short Life and an Uncertain Future [28 Sep 2005]
New Edinburgh Community Alliance: Wait Until Spring [8 Dec 2005]