Should visitors to Kitchener’s Victoria Park be greeted by life-size busts of Canada’s 22 prime ministers?
That’s the idea being proposed by a group headed by Kitchener resident Jim Rodger, who sees it as an opportunity to celebrate the country’s upcoming 150th birthday.
“We thought it would be good for 2017, for the sesquicentennial, to recognize the leadership that we have in Canada,” he tells CTV News.
It’s a proposal being met with mixed reviews in the community – particularly because the City of Kitchener is being asked to foot part of the bill for the statues’ cost.
“We’re being asked to put up $300,000, so lots of taxpayers are saying ‘No way,’” says Coun. Frank Etherington.
Private donations for the statues have already been raised to the tune of $1 million.
Etherington describes himself as “right down the middle” on the issue even if taxpayer money isn’t involved.
“We’re supposed to be celebrating leadership, and quite honestly there are a number of prime ministers who showed appalling lack of leadership over the years,” he says.
Coun. Berry Vrbanovic is more enthusiastic about the proposal, suggesting it could spark discussion about Canada’s leaders, their strengths and their weaknesses.
“I personally think it is a great idea,” he says.
“It’s a great opportunity for young people to be able to experience it here as opposed to having to go to Ottawa.”
A quick survey of people using Victoria Park on Tuesday revealed more concerns about the project than praise for it.
“I think after a long weekend, you’re going to see them all really painted and graffitied nicely,” said Jim Detzler, pointing to a picnic table that had recently been forcibly relocated into the park’s lake.
“I think they could probably find a more appropriate location for it,” said James Petrosky.
“This part of the park is better for activity – in the summer, all the children running around with their Frisbees and balls. You’d have children climbing on them here.”
There are already two statues of prime ministers in Waterloo Region – one of Sir Wilfrid Laurier at the university bearing his name and one of William Lyon Mackenzie King at Kitchener Collegiate Institute and Vocational School.
No decision is expected on the issue until March.