OTTAWA – Some New Year’s Eve plans across the country are being put on ice thanks to a long-lasting cold snap not expected to break until early next week.
What’s projected to be one of the coldest New Year’s Eves in Ottawa in nearly two decades saw organizers of the party on Parliament Hill announce Friday they’re scaling back the event, cancelling live music performances but keeping a fireworks display and light show.
Heritage Minister Melanie Joly said while Canadians were able to manage all the snow that fell around last New Year’s Eve to ring in Canada 150, this year the cold was proving to be too much. According to Environment Canada, the forecast for Sunday evening is -27 Celsius.
“Of course it’s a bit of a disappointment with this extreme cold weather but we have to deal with it and making sure that Canadians are safe and everything is well taken care of in terms of public health we decided to modify the celebrations,” Joly said in an interview.
Hip hop artist Kardinal Offishall was among the artists scheduled to perform on Parliament Hill Sunday night. News of the party’s cancellation prompted him to post his displeasure.
“Noooooooooo!!!,” read a message on his official Twitter account.
“Damn you frigid temperatures!!!!”
Organizers of a New Year’s Eve party in Toronto’s Nathan Phillips Square scaled back their plans too, bumping the party ahead to just before midnight with a countdown and fireworks display. The event was previously scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. and include live music and dance performances.
Toronto officials say they will continue to monitor weather conditions ahead of the celebration and will make more adjustments if necessary.
In Montreal, a huge New Year’s Eve party to cap the city’s 375th-birthday celebrations will go ahead as planned but organizers are expecting attendance to drop because of cold-weather warnings. The weather there is forecast to be -26 Celsius.
More staff also had to be hired, said Martin Durocher, the co-founder of Montreal en Fetes.
“Everything that usually takes one day to do is taking two days because people have to go inside so often to warm up, so that’s why we’ve doubled the number of people working on the party,” Durocher said.
In Quebec City, where it’s forecast to be -15 Celsius, Andre Verreault of Action Promotion Grande Allee said residents are accustomed to the cold.
“This is Quebec City. It’s a winter city. We have lots of beautiful white snow. It’s cold but with gorgeous sunshine. We’re not cancelling anything,” Verreault said, noting 50,000 turned out in 2013 when it was -38 Celsius.
Organizers on the Prairies scoffed a bit at the notion cold could detail their plans.
In Calgary, where temperatures are expected to hover at the -30 Celsius mark on Sunday, celebrations will once again be held in and around the downtown Olympic Plaza.
A number of bands are scheduled to play outdoors prior to the midnight fireworks.
The cold in Ottawa versus the cold in Alberta is different, said Teresa Byrne, arts and culture superintendent of festivals and events for the City of Calgary.
“We say ‘it’s a dry cold’ That’s the thing with Ottawa. It’s a wet cold,” she said.
“…So it’s harder to compare when Ottawa might pull the plug versus when Calgary or Edmonton would pull the plug.”
Since the temperature tends to drop as the night wears on, Edmonton scheduled fireworks there early — for 9 p.m.
Officials are prepared to modify the schedule for outdoor events, should the temperature become too extreme. Fireworks would only be scrubbed if the wind speed reached 40 km/h which, for safety reasons, makes them unsafe to set off.
“We’re a hardy bunch, that’s for sure,” said Tannia Franke, civic precinct supervisor with civic events and festivals, City of Edmonton.
“We’ve had cold temperatures on New Year’s Eve before and we’ve still had large crowds come out, so we’re expecting something similar this year.”
— with files from Ken Trimble in Edmonton, Paola Loriggio in Toronto, Roxanne Ocampo Picard in Montreal.