Great Skate #44: Canada150 Rink on Parliament Hill, Ottawa

My Great Skate #44 was at the Canada150 Rink on Parliament Hill, which was built as part of the 150th anniversary celebrations of Canada's Confederation.

Two people wearing warm winter clothing with the Parliament buildings behind them.
With my cousin Ben on Parliament Hill,
waiting for our skating session to start.
Even for Ottawa, the weather on January 5 was bitterly cold, feeling like -30 C with the windchill. That didn’t deter my cousin Ben from joining me. He grew up in North Bay and is used to cold winters. We were each dressed in as many warm layers as possible. In addition to everything I’d worn for my morning skate at Lansdowne Skating Court, I wore snow pants, gloves under my mittens and earmuffs.

The Canada150 Rink has a lot of rules. It’s free, but you need to reserve a pass, and you can’t book your pass more than two days ahead. The pass allows you to skate for 40 minutes. Before you can enter the rink area, a security guard thoroughly checks your bags. Hockey sticks are not allowed (which stirred up a lot of criticism but is actually a common rule on public skating rinks).

Ben and I got to the Hill early for our 7 p.m. skate time. We amused ourselves by watching the son et lumière show that was projected on the Parliament Buildings, taking photos and trying to stay warm near the Centennial Flame. When it was finally time to check in, I had a bad moment when I discovered that my phone, with my skating pass on it, had shut down from the cold. Fortunately I had emailed the pass to Ben earlier, and his phone still worked.

My only grumble about the rink is that the change area for the rink is just a collection of picnic tables, with no shelter from the elements. The wind felt like icy knives and my hands were numb even before I started lacing my skates.

The Zamboni had just finished when we stepped on the ice, and the surface was amazing. We were among a few dozen skaters on the NHL-size rink. Coloured lighting overhead and music from the son et lumière show added to the atmosphere. There were several friendly rink staff skating with us to keep an eye on things, and they were happy to help take photos of the skaters. After we had been skating for 20 minutes, the staff instructed us all to change direction, making this one of the rare occasions when I could skate clockwise on a public rink.

You can’t really talk about the Canada150 Rink without mentioning its price tag. It has become a punchline in jokes about government spending and bureaucratic bungling. The rink, which opened on December 7 and is set to close in early February, reportedly cost $5.6 million. (See this Toronto Star article for a cost breakdown.) Part of that cost was for the logistics of hosting children’s hockey games, which were cancelled due to the dangerously cold weather.

Is the Canada150 Rink worth $5.6 million? Against all the money spent on Canada 150 celebrations across the country last year, that’s probably the equivalent of couch change. I hope the civil servants who worked on the Canada150 Rink project have had a chance to skate on it. And if they did, I hope they had as much fun as Ben and I did.

A beautiful illustration of the Canada150 Rink on the skating pass.
Thanks to the rink staff for taking this photo of us on the ice,
and for getting the Peace Tower in the frame.


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