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Workers setup a large banner as preparations are made to celebrate Canada's 150th birthday and New Years Eve celebrations to ring in 2017 on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa on Friday, December 30, 2016. (FRED CHARTRAND/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Workers setup a large banner as preparations are made to celebrate Canada's 150th birthday and New Years Eve celebrations to ring in 2017 on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa on Friday, December 30, 2016. (FRED CHARTRAND/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Canadians patriotic but not yet engaged with 150th celebrations: poll Add to ...

Canadians are very proud of their country and are looking forward to the 150th anniversary of Confederation – but aren’t yet fully engaged with the celebrations, a government-commissioned poll suggests.

Nearly nine in 10 expressed a lot of pride in being Canadian, the Leger poll found, and they felt very strongly attached to their country. Nearly the same number said they would visit a national park in 2017 or attend a Canada 150 event if it was within 40 kilometres of their home. Three-quarters said they would watch an event on television, and half said they’d travel outside their local communities to mark the occasion.

Forty-seven per cent of respondents said they would be willing to volunteer at a Canada 150 event, which was highest among those 18 to 24 years of age, and those from the Prairies. Most of those who did not want to volunteer said they were either too busy or just not interested.

Related: Ottawa spending half a billion dollars for Canada’s 150th anniversary

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But, as of last summer, few had heard much about what the government was doing to celebrate. Only 19 per cent said they had seen any government ads about the 150th anniversary, and 16 per cent said they were familiar with the “Canada 150” logo and brand. Five per cent said they had personally viewed or participated in Canada 150 events at that point, and fewer than that said they had seen any information about federal investments online or on social media.

The poll was commissioned by the Department of Canadian Heritage and conducted by Leger, a Montreal-based marketing firm. Leger interviewed 2,191 Canadian adults by telephone (landline and cell) from June 3 to June 24, 2016. The margin of error is plus or minus 2.09 per cent in 19 times out of 20.

The survey was conducted as part of the department’s ongoing public consultations as it shapes its Canada 150 plans.

Eighty-three per cent of respondents to the Leger poll said the federal government should spend money on celebrations, although the survey did not ask how much funding they would be comfortable with.

The federal government plans to spend more than half a billion dollars commemorating the 150th anniversary of Confederation. The heritage department has budgeted $180-million for a variety of initiatives across the country, and $20-million for special events, such as the New Year’s Eve party on Parliament Hill.

The bulk of the anniversary money goes to the Canada 150 Community Infrastructure Program to fix up culture and recreation centres across the country. The fund was introduced by the previous Conservative government months before the 2015 election, and it was doubled to $300-million in the first Trudeau budget.

Around that time, the Liberals changed the themes of the Canada 150 celebrations from “Strong. Proud. Free.” under the Conservatives to diversity, reconciliation with indigenous peoples, the environment and youth.

“[The 2017 celebrations are] our chance to reaffirm our social contract – rooted in our two official languages, our attachment to pluralism as well as our continued efforts towards reconciliation with Indigenous peoples,” said Pierre-Olivier Herbert, spokesman for Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly.

Conservative heritage critic Peter Van Loan said the Liberal themes are worth supporting, but he feels that a focus on celebrating the country’s history has been left behind.

“My biggest concern was that in the new themes that they adopted, what they left out was any recognition of Canadian history or of Confederation itself,” Mr. Van Loan said.

One tradition he says he’d like to see brought back is the awarding of medals to honour veterans and other citizens, such as the approximately 30,000 awarded for the centennial in 1967. The Harper government gave out 60,000 commemorative medals for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012.

”The reason that this kind of recognition is such a nice thing is that it goes to those kind of unsung heroes that are very active and involved in their local communities,” Mr. Van Loan said.

Mr. Herbert confirmed the government has no plans to award commemorative medals, but that they would find other ways to honour “deserving, hard-working Canadians.”

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