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Canadian complacency

The founder and Editor-in-Chief of Monocle Magazine, Tyler Brûle, recently had a nice trip to Ottawa:

If you’ve never been to Ottawa, don’t bother. Of all the G7 capitals, it’s one that hardly conjures up much in the way of attractive images. Don’t believe me? Try it. What comes to mind? What stands out? You see what I mean? No Big Ben, no Lincoln Memorial, no Eiffel Tower. Ottawa might have had an easier time when Germany was partitioned and Bonn was its capital but that credit ran out when Berlin was reinstated as Haúptstadt and the Brandenburg Gate roared back as a symbol for the Federal Republic’s capital.

He and his mom also thoroughly enjoyed their hotel:

We walked into the bar and the whole space seemed gripped by a similar force that plagued the front desk: no speed, movement or sense of urgency. A man-child showed us to the table and barely said a word. His colleagues at the bar were having their own discussion, disconnected from the patrons around them. I started to laugh. My mother urged me to stop. “It’s incredible that this is the best that our country can do for people coming to the capital, no?” I said.

As an unabashedly proud Canadian, this is deeply upsetting. It is upsetting because a lack of movement, a lack of urgency, and an overall lack of engagement are truly terrible qualities to possess. But more importantly, it is upsetting because one could argue that Tyler’s Ottawa and hotel experiences were a microcosm of some broader national issues around Canadian complacency.


  1. Could not agree more with Tyler Brule. A real pity because the Fairmont Chateau line of grand railway hotels, probably Canada’s most illustrative national architectural icon, (except the one in Lake Louise) is actually a very unique achievement on a global scale. But sadly like him, I also had to leave Canada to live in a country that values design as much as ice hockey is to Canada.


  2. Tim Dako

    Yes. Now let’s pour a couple billion dollars into the kind of capital project that would impress this guy, so we can be just like the country that has the Lincoln memorial.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Chris Dulaba

    That’s unfortunate as my experiences have been different. Maybe he just happened to get a bad hand that day. Happens to us all.


  4. doug pollard

    I lived there for fifteen years and drift to the side of general agreement. I recall when I was searchng for a home in a vibrant downtown neighbourhood (in 1998) I was told that the type of neighborhood I was searching for did not exist. Ended up across the river in the beautiful Quebec countryside instead and driving into work and shop etc. There are now pockets of vigour though: the market area during the pandemic was buzzing because many restaurants were now fully in the street and other streets also came alive for similar reasons. There was once a proposal to create a champs D’elycee-type boulevard south of the parliament buildings and the peace tower but that involved moving a ton of buildings so it never materialized. All that said I would take gentleness (interpreted as complacency) over dissension and riots any day.


  5. Bob K

    Brulé makes two assertions: one is that Ottawa doesn’t have a standout architectural attraction, but that would obviously be the Parliament Buildings, in much the same way that the Capitol in Washington is much more potent image that the Lincoln Memorial. His second assertion is that the service in a restaurant was poor. I have literally walked out of establishments in Rome and Paris both, laughing at the crazy terrible service. Those experiences didn’t really make me feel less about the city. A bit unfair to compare a capital like Ottawa – in no way the dominant city of Canada, with other G7 capitals that are either the largest city, or which have a hold on the historical imagination. For those with some imagination, Ottawa is a great visit.


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