Visitors to Canada Day 'fiasco' report high levels of dissatisfaction, government survey shows

Visitors to last year's Canada Day celebrations in the national capital reported significantly higher levels of dissatisfaction than those who attended the festivities two years earlier, a federal government survey shows.

The share of visitors reporting dissatisfaction with their experience spiked compared to 2015

Members of the public wait in line to go through security screening before being allowed onto Parliament Hill on Canada Day in Ottawa on July 1, 2017. (Patrick Doyle/Canadian Press)

Visitors to last year's Canada Day celebrations in the national capital reported significantly higher levels of dissatisfaction than those who attended the festivities two years earlier, a federal government survey shows.

Marking the 150 years since Confederation, the events that took place in various locations around Parliament Hill in 2017 were marred by long line-ups, bottlenecked security checkpoints and inclement weather.

The survey was conducted by the Quorus Consulting Group and commissioned by the Department of Canadian Heritage, which was responsible for organizing the event. It found that 34 per cent of respondents were dissatisfied with their overall experience, while 51 per cent were dissatisfied with the organization of events — and 37 per cent said they were very dissatisfied.

The CBC's polls analyst Eric Grenier looks at a new government-commissioned poll on Canada's 150th birthday celebrations in Ottawa. 3:05

When a similar survey was done in 2015, only about four per cent of respondents said they had been dissatisfied with the organization of that year's event.

While a majority of those surveyed — 55 per cent — said they were satisfied or very satisfied with their overall experience, that was down from 86 per cent in 2015. The number who said they were satisfied with the event's organization fell by more than half to 38 per cent, down from 80 per cent in 2015.

Garbage bins around Parliament Hill were overflowing by early afternoon. (David Rockne Corrigan/CBC News)

The contract for the survey was awarded on June 22, more than a week before the event was held — so it was not commissioned in response to the outcry from frustrated revellers. But the difficulties that attended the events did have an impact on the survey itself, which was supposed to recruit participants in three locations around Parliament Hill in order to survey them after the event.

According to the methodological summary, Quorus's recruitment efforts at one of the locations were significantly curtailed "due to challenges related to the weather, interviewer scheduling and increased security to access Parliament Hill."

Suggestions for improvement

Not surprisingly, 74 per cent of respondents offered suggestions to improve the logistical aspects of the Canada Day experience, through shorter lines, speedier security processes and better crowd management. In 2015, just 20 per cent of visitors called for improved event organization.

Only 12 per cent of respondents in the recent survey suggested that the content of the event itself should be improved; 29 per cent made suggestions along those lines in 2015. A majority, or 63 per cent, said they felt that the 2017 activities "were representative of Canada," but that was down eight points from 2015.

A spokesperson for the Department of Canadian Heritage told CBC News in an email that "this survey is conducted regularly, and it continues to be an important tool to assess the satisfaction of Canadians with the celebrations taking place in the Capital.

"We acknowledge the survey's recently released results, and we are committed to working with our partners, including the Parliamentary Protective Services, and the RCMP, to ensure that celebrations in the capital remain accessible, safe, and enjoyable for all."

Some positive impacts

But despite stories of visitors standing in line for hours only to discover that the line went nowhere, the event had some positive impacts. Fully 60 per cent of respondents to the survey visited from outside the Ottawa-Gatineau region, and half of tourists stayed in the National Capital Region for two to three nights. Another 31 per cent stayed for four or more nights.

The average respondent spent $621.78 during their visit to Ottawa or Parliament Hill — up significantly from 2015, when the average spent was just $338.54.

The "absolute fiasco" — to quote one vexed tourist from Vancouver — did not seem to significantly dampen visitors' patriotism. Nearly three-quarters of respondents agreed that it was a "great occasion for me to celebrate my nationhood" while over two-thirds agreed it "helped me appreciate my country" and "increase my sense of pride about being a Canadian." But the difficulties did take a bit of a toll: the share agreeing with these statements was down from 2015.

Prince Charles, left to right, Camilla Duchess of Cornwall, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, Hadrien Trudeau, Ella-Grace Trudeau and Xavier Trudeau take part in Canada 150 celebrations on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

The survey was conducted online between July 4 and 20 among the 1,534 participants who were recruited on-site on July 1. In all, 679 attendees completed the survey. As the data were not demographically weighted and based on a non-probability sample, a margin of error does not apply.

The survey cost $29,925.23.

About the Author

Éric Grenier

Politics and polls

Éric Grenier is a senior writer and the CBC's polls analyst. He was the founder of ThreeHundredEight.com and has written for The Globe and Mail, Huffington Post Canada, The Hill Times, Le Devoir, and L’actualité.

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