Victoria Park PM statues should be of 'more worthy people'

Kitchener councillor Frank Etherington says $2 million, largely a donation, should be spent on emergeny shelters or affordable housing and not 22 life-size statues of Canadian prime ministers.
The 22 life-size statues would be placed in the behind the clock tower in Kitchener's Victoria Park. (CBC)

Kitchener Ward 9 Coun. Frank Etherington has come out swinging against the idea of putting 22 life-size statues of Canadian prime ministers in Victoria Park. 

The statues would cost $2 million. The funds will mostly be raised by a group of donors from the community, including Governor General David Johnston. The donor group expects the City of Kitchener to contribute $300,000 to the project. 

"People don't look lightly at spending $300,000 of taxpayer money on any subject," Etherington told the The Morning Edition host Craig Norris Tuesday morning. 

"Some of those prime ministers, I'm not particularly proud of the things they did over the years. Why erect statues of people who, over the years, were responsible for Japanese internment, were responsible for residential schools, even turning away Jewish refugees trying to get into Canada at the time of the Second World War?"

Spend money on shelters, affordable housing

Etherington said "more worthy people" like notable local residents could be honoured. He even suggested scrapping the project altogether, saying the donation could be better spent. 

"Why not use $2 million as an emergency shelter for homeless people or perhaps for affordable housing?"

A map showing proposed locations for statues of all 22 of Canada's prime ministers in Victoria Park in downtown Kitchener (The Statue Project)

He admits the odds of that happening are slim. The donor group have said in meetings another project is not possible, Etherington said. 

"It seems to be 'this is the project we're raising money for, so we can't switch track mid-stream'," he said. 

Kitchener council voted Monday evening to wait until the results come back from a city-commissioned survey on the statues, before spending $30,000 on a master plan for the idea. 

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