A royal what if? Left-off towns make tour pitches

As certain parts of Canada prepare to greet Prince William and Kate Middleton this week, cities and towns left off the list are holding out a glimmer of hope the royal newlyweds might surprise them with a visit.

Fun to dream, but don't bet on surprise visits from William and Kate, prof says

Prince William and Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, are due to arrive in Ottawa on Thursday to begin their nine-day Canadian tour. (Toby Melville/Reuters)

As certain parts of Canada prepare to greet Prince William and Kate Middleton this week, cities and towns left off the list are holding out a glimmer of hope that the royal newlyweds might surprise them with a visit.  

The royal couple's official nine-day itinerary, which kicks off in Ottawa for Canada Day festivities on Friday, includes stops in Montreal, Quebec City, Charlottetown, Summerside, P.E.I., and Yellowknife, and ends in Calgary with the opening of the stampede. 

But with the Canada calendar already crammed, it's unlikely such cities as Toronto, Vancouver, Winnipeg, St. John's and Halifax will get a chance to shine for the newlyweds.

Those hoping for a last-minute tour change to their hometowns shouldn't hold their breath, as complicated security logistics make royal visits very difficult to tweak at the last minute, says Michael Behiels, a Canadian constitutional history professor at the University of Ottawa.

"These things take months and months and months to plan," Behiels said of the official itinerary. 

There is a suggestion the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge could visit the wildfire-damaged Alberta community of Slave Lake, something Heritage Minister James Moore would neither confirm nor deny when announcing the itinerary last week. In Yellowknife, the itinerary states they will go on a retreat, but doesn't specify where. 

Previous tours of Canada by the Queen, Prince Charles and Diana have been dominated by rumours of detours and deviations from the formal path, Behiels added.

"These events have always generated the same sort of speculations in the past, and they almost never pan out," he said.

Robert Finch, chair of the Monarchist League of Canada, told CBC News that it was unfortunate that cities like Toronto and Vancouver fell victim to "scheduling challenges."

"The good news is that this tour is the first of many, and hopefully both cities will be on the itinerary next time," said the Hamilton-based Finch, who pitched local options like the Royal Botanical Gardens  and the Warplane Heritage Museum.

Tourism Vancouver's Amber Sessions created a mock royal itinerary for her city, billing it as a potential "post-tour tour" or a "royal vacation" option with plenty of art history and outdoor options tailored to the royal couple's tastes. Sessions suggested a private tour of the Vancouver Art Gallery, which features exhibits from internationally renowned artists such as Ken Lum and Jeff Wall, as well as a scenic helicopter tour from the top of Grouse Mountain.

"It's almost kind of good for us to be left off the list," Sessions told CBC News. "That way, they can come at the end and we could give them some scope, and really home in on the things they like."

The end of the couple's tour coincides with a three-day festival on Vancouver's 125th anniversary celebrations, she noted.

Make your own itinerary

We put the question to Canadians, as well as representatives from tourism bureaus from  across the country: What would you show William and Kate in your city?

(Yes, plenty of you say you don't care, and we hear you and respect that. The great thing about these appeals is we get to see the considerable effort people make to point out that they don't care.)

For those who do care, here's a sample so far of what you're saying, which we'll try to keep up to date:

Hamilton: "I'd say come out to a Ti-Cats game, tour the Royal Botanical Gardens (granted royal charter in 1930), fly on a vintage aircraft at the Warplane Heritage Museum  (his father, the Prince of Wales, is the patron of the museum), and enjoy a day exploring Hamilton's industrial past while experiencing the city's thriving arts and culture scene." — Robert Finch, Monarchist League of Canada

Winnipeg: "A stopover in Winnipeg means visiting The Forks National Historic Site  — recently voted as the best public space in all of Canada — and of course a hard-hat tour of the soon-to-be-completed Canadian Museum for Human Rights. The first national museum to be built outside Ottawa, this ground-breaking project will welcome visitors from around the planet while educating and challenging perceptions. After that it’s off to Assiniboine Park — an urban oasis inside the city. Here you’ll visit the peaceful Leo Mol Sculpture Garden and get a sneak peek at the upcoming Journey to Churchill Exhibit that will see those world famous polar bears coming to live right in the city. No visit to Winnipeg would be complete without a gift basket full of unique local products like Bothwell cheese, organic treats from Tall Grass Prairie Bakery, Old Dutch chips and Rigby Orchards wine. To complete your tour, you’ll experience a completely Winnipeg moment at the hands of Lorna Hiebert. This renowned artist will sit down with you and design your very own fleece so you’ll have a cherished souvenir to take home with you." — Chantal Sturk-Nadeau, Tourism Winnipeg

"Yes! What's wrong with a stop in Winnipeg? We are a beautiful city!!" — Shirley Mclaughlin, on CBC's Facebook page

St. John's: "Newfoundland would love to see them, I know I would. I saw his mother and father when they came." — Sonia Belbin-Downey, on the CBC News Facebook page

Toronto: "Sure, I'd give them a free lemonade. I just want to be able to shake their hand, and maybe take a picture." — Normita Galang, server at Toronto's Lemon Squeeze

Prince George, B.C.:   "I would love to see Will and Kate visit Prince George just as his Mum and Dad did, and his grandparents did." — Elaine Tenborg, on the CBC News Facebook page