One birthday party or 20 royal visits? What else the $500M earmarked for Canada 150 can buy

Fireworks light up the sky behind the Peace Tower during a New Year's Eve celebration on Parliament Hill, Saturday, Dec. 31, 2016 in Ottawa. Canada celebrates its 150th anniversary of Confederation in 2017. Photo from The Canadian Press
Fireworks light up the sky behind the Peace Tower during a New Year’s Eve celebration on Parliament Hill, Saturday, Dec. 31, 2016 in Ottawa. Canada celebrates its 150th anniversary of Confederation in 2017. Photo from The Canadian Press

2017 marks 150 years since Canada’s colonies joined together as one nation, a birthday the federal government is sparing no expense to honour, shelling out $500 million for celebrations and commemorations, according to the Globe and Mail.

A major part of that, $300M, will be channelled through the Canada 150 Community Infrastructure Program. That money will go to fixing up public facilities and community infrastructure, as well as culture and recreation projects.

Adding to the costs, Parks Canada is offering free admission to all visitors at national parks and historic sites this year. Almost two million people have already ordered free passes in the past month. In addition, a new program in 2018 will allow people under 18 free access to the parks. This is expected to cost $83.3-million over five years.

Meanwhile, Canadian Heritage will dole out $180-million to fund a variety of local and national projects. Some 19 cities across the country already took a bite out of that birthday fund for their New Year’s Eve celebrations. For instance, Calgary got $110,000 to welcome the new year and Ottawa spent $2.5 million for its Parliament Hill party.

Other projects include:

  • $4.8 million to The Students on Ice Foundation for a 150-day sailing journey from Toronto to Victoria by way of the Northwest Passage.

  • $1.3 million to St. Joseph Media to produce a website and app called “Passport 2017,” a database for finding community events.

  • $1 million to Mary Walsh, the creator of CBC’s This Hour Has 22 Minutes, for a “Canada 150 Comedy Show” tour spotlighting up-and-coming and Indigenous voices.

  • $900,000 to Music Yukon to organize shows and workshops for artists from Northwest Territories, Yukon and Nunavut.

But enough about the actual spending plans. Yahoo Canada News compiled a list of other, dreamier uses for $500 million:

20 royal visits: The RCMP spent about $2 million on policing costs during last year’s eight-day visit by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their two young children to British Columbia and Yukon.

12 Canucks in space: One flight and stay aboard the International Space Station costs between $20 to $50 million US for a multi-day stay, brokered by Space Adventures Ltd. So maybe a dozen stellar Canadians can have a ride?

Dozens of islands: If you like your freedom and isolation from the maddening crowds, there’s always the option to purchase an island. Some of the pricier properties listed on include $25 million US for the 1,500-hectare Cebaco Island off Panama’s coast to $50 million US for the 3.9-hectare Motu Tane in French Polynesia. With $500 million of wild money, you can own more than two dozen islands depending on their price.

Haute cuisine for all of Saskatoon: Perhaps we should spare no expense for our gastronomical grumblings? According to Forbes, the most expensive meal in the world is listed at $1,800 US per person (Michelin-starred chef Paco Ranchero runs Sublimation, the restaurant located in the Hard Rock Hotel in Ibiza). With half a billion, you could pretty much invite a small city of, say 200,000 people — just about everyone in Saskatoon — to a fabulous meal.

New old masters for the National Gallery: What about something more aesthetically pleasing like a work of art? Money Inc. listed the most expensive paintings purchased in 2016, at No. 5 was $27 million US paid for Claude Monet’s “Le bassin aux nympheas.” At $63.4 million US, you could own Pablo Picasso’s “Femme Assise.” And with all the extra millions, one could easily scoop up the more of the most expensive paintings in the world to hang in the National Gallery in Ottawa.

25,000 Honda Civics: Or maybe some Canadians are in desperate need of wheels. The most popular car in the country is the Honda Civic and the average price of a 2017 Honda Civic sedan LE (hey, you want to go in style) is about $20,000. That means you can honour about 25,000 Canadians with a new car so they can get to all those national parks across the country.

Maple syrup for some: There’s also our unofficial national food — maple syrup. About 10 million households could get a litre of the sweet sap (about $50 per decorative glass bottle), for a truly delicious feast of pancakes.

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