Plans for marking Canada's 150th birthday in the nation's capital are taking shape among local Ottawa organizers, but few details are available for how the federal government plans to celebrate the occasion in 2017.

"It seems a long way away but it really isn't," said Ottawa mayor Jim Watson of the sesquicentennial year. "A thousand days and counting means we've got our work cut out for us"

A task force made up mostly of municipal politicians, local business leaders and tourism officials is set on using the year 2017 as an economic opportunity for the city. The task force wants to expand on existing festivals and lure more conferences or big events such as the Junos or Grey Cup in a bid to draw tourism dollars to the city.

It will also hold a town hall in June 2014 to solicit ideas from residents to generate a list of "150 Reasons to Visit Ottawa" to use in marketing materials. The task force has developed a logo for the anniversary year, which Watson said will be in storefronts and on vehicles around the city.

All this would be done using a modest $1.4 million from the municipal budget in the coming years, and through partnerships with the private sector.

"We're not going to be able to replicate Expo '67 because we don't have the money," said Watson, "Our job is to take the events we have and Canadianize them or supersize them to make them bigger and better in that particular year." 

The mayor said he's also looking for more details of what the federal government is planning, to avoid any duplication between city and federal efforts. Watson wants to know more about the Department of Canadian Heritage's budget and timeline, and whether it will offer grants.  He said he met recently with the assistant deputy minister responsible for the 150th celebrations, but hopes to meet Heritage Minister Shelly Glover in the coming weeks.

Federal government holding public consultations

For its part, the office of the federal Heritage Minister said in a statement that "while we are not in a position at this time to offer specifics about the nature, scope or budget of the initiatives that will eventually take place, our government looks forward to a national celebration that reflects our shared experiences, values, patriotism and pride."

The statement noted Glover and other MPs have been hosting round-table consultations in various cities and towns to hear ideas about how Canada should celebrate, in ways that include all communities, large and small. 

More than a dozen of these round-tables have taken place since mid-December 2013. They have involved only invited participants, but another 10,000 submissions have come in through the government's website set up for the 150th anniversary, according to the Heritage minister's office.

The minister's office also said the timeline for planning the sesquicentennial in the capital region had not been affected by the heritage department having taken over special event planning and commemorations from the National Capital Commission in 2013.

Ottawa Tourism CEO Noel Buckley thinks the plans for the large celebration in 2017 in the capital must come from the federal government.

"In light of the fact that there's not been one that is highlighted to be taking place, and now we're talking less than three years from now, I think that the direction of the city and of the mayor and the council is a good one," he said. "Let's ensure people understand that the national capital . . . will have a major national celebration for the 150th anniversary of Canada."