Kitchener-Waterloo

Life-size prime minister statues proposed for Kitchener park

Kitchener residents may one day be able to stroll among life-sized statues of all of Canada's prime ministers, if a proposal by a community group that includes Governor General David Johnston goes ahead.

Kitchener residents may one day be able to stroll among life-sized statues of all of Canada's prime ministers, if a proposal by a community group that includes Governor General David Johnston goes ahead.

The plan calls for 22 statues of prime ministers, including short-term PMs like Joe Clark and Kim Campbell, to be set outside the path ringing the Victoria Park Commons. 

The group, which also includes former Kitchener-Waterloo Collegiate principal Jim Rodger and Sandvine CEO Dave Caputo, will officially present their proposal to the City of Kitchener's planning and strategic initiatives committee on December 2.

The statues are meant to be a Sesquicentennial project with national significance, to mark the 150th anniversary of Confederation in 2017, as well as a celebration of leadership and as a tourist attraction for the region.

"Our prime interest in it is the notion of leadership. When you put aside party lines, that as a country we've had very strong leadership but we've never really celebrated it," said Rodger who is co-coordinator of the group, who call the plan The Statue Project.  

"Surprisingly there aren't very many statutes or sculptures of prime ministers in Canada. There's fewer than 30 across the country, from our research, and more than half of them are of either Sir John A. MacDonald or Sir Wilfrid Laurier," he said. 

Pauline Houston, the deputy chief administrative officer of infrastructure services for the city sees the project as an opportunity to draw people to Kitchener and to emphasize the historical aspects of Victoria Park.

"We thought it was a really interesting and idea and could create a lot of interest from the public," said Houston. 

"We thought it was a great opportunity for the city."

The city wants to go through a public consultation process, as well as consultations with various stakeholder groups before committing to funding the project, said Houston.

Statues would have 'easter eggs'

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

Each statute is estimated to cost between $75-100,000. An additional $300,000 is the estimated cost for the bases of the statutes and would also cover landscaping and electrical work.

The group says it has raised about $1.1 million in pledges so far, and has currently budgeted the project to cost $2 million in total.  

"It will be coming from individuals and there's a lot of corporate interest in the project as well," said Rodger when asked where funding is coming from. 'Some people are forward thinking in terms of the Sesquicentennial and they're seeing it as a good project they'd like to buy into." 

The group is asking the city to consider paying the $300,000 for the bases, officially endorse the project and provide tax receipts

"Whenever there's any kind of investment in the community, there's always proponents and those that are not so much in favour of these kinds of projects," said Houston. "In the overall context of the project I think it's a small investment for the city to make to show our commitment to the project moving forward." 

Canadian artists would design each statue to reflect a significant moment in each prime minister's rule. The group is also proposing 'Easter Eggs", or features that illustrate details like personal interests, party affiliations and clues to each leader's significant moment. Each statue's glance would hold  meaning, with some glancing towards Ottawa, others to their places of birth or other historical locations. 

The only prime minister to come from the region is William Lyon Mackenzie King, who was born in 1874 in Kitchener, then called Berlin, and went on to become the country's longest-serving prime minister.

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