By Jason Menard
The eyes of the world will be on London in just a few short weeks — and it appears that our civic inferiority complex will be on full display.
Highlighted by a laser light show; edged with spray-painted trees, and bankrolled to the tune of $100,000, we’re going to take the opportunity to share with the figure-skating world that we are London — just not that one.
Earlier this week, council approved the funding and usage of a new Canada’s London logo to be used as part of promotional materials designed to take advantage of the upcoming World Figure Skating Championships.
The logo itself is pretty passive and non-offensive. And I don’t have a problem with the process in how it was developed, nor do I have an issue with the 100K price tag. After all, advertising and promotions cost money and we do have an opportunity to put London, Ontario on the global map.
However, we’ve chosen to do it with an asterisk. A self-imposed one at that.
Apparently it’s not enough to focus on what we are; instead we have to focus on what we’re not. And it’s exactly that type of thinking that keeps London inert, while similar-sized cities (and cities that were once smaller than us — ahem, Waterloo) pass us by on the road to national prominence.
You want to ensure people watching figure skating aren’t confused by our stubborn insistence of not being in Europe? Fine. “London — Canada’s Forest City” would have worked just fine, adding the disclaimer as a complementary statement and reinforcing a claim that we feel sets us apart within our country.
Instead, with this $100,000 disclaimer, we call attention to something that most viewers likely wouldn’t have cared about — but something that we’re now forcing them to think about: “Oh, that’s right. They’re not the REAL London…”
When comments and questions first arose on social networks, two people intimately involved in the decision stepped to the fore. Kadie Ward, the London Economic Development Corporation’s director of marketing and communication explained how “over 30 public sector organizations were a part of this discussion…,” adding her contact information for anyone who was interested. She concluded, “This is a great news story of collaboration with the City’s [sic] key institutions coming together to leverage our external marketing.”
And Elaine Gamble, the City of London’s director of corporate communications added, “From our perspective, we are not the London everyone thinks of first. And we like attaching ourselves to the strong and proud Canada brand,” she wrote. “It’s about being proud of who we are, not who we aren’t.”
She too added her contact information.
While I respect their statements and decisions, I still have to disagree. I shared my concerns with Mayor Joe Fontana and the councillors on the City’s corporate services committee (Bud Polhill, Joe Swan, Nancy Branscombe, and Judy Bryant) in an e-mail on January 7th, in advance of the meeting on January 8th.
And while I received no response from any of the e-mail’s recipients (and, as of 6:30 p.m. on Jan. 10th, I’ve still received no notice at all — not even a form thank you), Gina Barber indicated that Councillors Joni Baechler and Harold Usher (neither of whom were recipients of my e-mail) expressed some concerns from constituents.
What’s done is done. And while I firmly believe that Gamble is sincere in believing that the effort is about “being proud of who we are, not who we aren’t,” the nature of the statement — Canada’s London — is a clear reflection of inferiority.
I believe that we have much of which to be proud in London — yet, I also believe that we’re stuck with conflicting perceptions, motivations, and actions.
We are a mid-sized city, with big-city aspirations. Yet we find ourselves consistently held back by our small-town thinking and behaviour.
That’s the legacy of Canada’s London — a reflexive statement about who we aren’t.
Instead, I’d rather focus on telling the world why we’re proud to be London — and whether you choose to complement our name with “Canada’s Forest City,” “the Heart of Southwestern Ontario,” or “the Health Care/Education Capital of Canada” that’s a standard I’d be proud to bear.