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Mayor frustrated with Ottawa being called 'the town that fun forgot'

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Mayor Mark Sutcliffe no longer wants to hear that Ottawa is the "town that fun forgot."

"It's an insult, we shouldn't be repeating it," Sutcliffe told reporters at the end of a media conference on Tuesday to introduce the city's new nightlife commissioner.

"We should be proud of our city, we should be proud of the people that work in the nightlife economy."

The late Macleans Magazine columnist Allan Fotheringham first dubbed Ottawa "the town that fun forgot" in an article. Ottawa has had several nicknames over the years, including a "sleepy government town."

After seeing several articles, including a CTV News Ottawa story, reference the term while discussing Ottawa's plans to hire a 'night mayor', Sutcliffe expressed his frustration with the use of the slogan.

"That phrase was an insult that was levied at Ottawa in the 1970s; we're 50 years removed from that. I've lived in Ottawa my whole life, this is not the city I grew up in," Sutcliffe said.

"Ottawa is an exciting place to live, it is an exciting place to be and it's an incredibly fun place to be. When I go to restaurants in Ottawa, when I go to Bluesfest, when I go to concerts, when I go to hockey games or soccer games or football games, when I'm out at night in my hometown it's a very exciting place to be. I think it is time to put that phrase to rest."

"It's very exciting right now and it's not the city of 1975. It is the city of 2024 and beyond, we have a lot to be proud of, we have a lot to be excited about and it is a very fun city."

A 2023 survey by U.K.-based King Casino Bonus ranked Ottawa 60th on the list of the world's most overrated cities, and the fourth out of five Canadian cities. The survey looked at data from sites like Tripadvisor.

Of course, Ottawa has received plenty of good reviews and is praised by residents and visitors.

Ottawa is home to dozens of festivals every year, including Winterlude, the Canadian Tulip Festival, Ottawa Bluesfest, the Jazz Festival, Chamber Music Festival and Canada Day events. The National Arts Centre and several other facilities feature hundreds of local, national and international artists and performances every year. The capital is home to national museums and the city has professional sports teams the Ottawa Senators, the Ottawa Redblacks, Ottawa Titans, Atletico Ottawa, Ottawa Blackjacks, PWHL Ottawa and will soon have professional women's soccer and professional men's lacrosse.

Mayor Mark Sutcliffe introduces Mathieu Grondin as Ottawa's new 'nightlife commissioner' on Tuesday. (Leah Larocque/CTV News Ottawa)

In 2023, CNN Travel named Ottawa as a top destination to visit, calling it "graceful and understated."

"It doesn't have Montreal's French flair or Toronto's international oomph, so the Canadian capital can get overlooked," CNN Travel said in a January 2023 article. "That would be a mistake. Graceful and understated, Ottawa has its own draws."

In 2022, Hello Magazine posted an article with the headline, "Ottawa is the ideal city break for thrill-seekers and families alike."

A New York Times piece by Remy Scalza in 2017, as Canada celebrated its 150th birthday, said, "Canada's capital has no shortage of historical charms – from Gothic Parliament buildings to a Unesco World Heritage canal – but it has long been dogged by a reputation as a workaday government centre."

"A weekend in the city, however, proves otherwise. With a thriving food scene, a multicultural and multilingual sensibility owning to its location on the Ontario-Quebec border and an outside nightlife, Ottawa is emerging from the shadow of Montreal and Toronto. Ottawa is anything but business as usual."

Now, Ottawa is appointing a "nightlife commissioner" to help implement a new Ottawa Nightlife Economy Action Plan, focusing on leisure, live entertainment and cultural activities during the 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. economy. Mathieu Grondin will be tasked with working with businesses, city officials, regulators and the public to develop and implement the plan.

As Sutcliffe hopes Ottawa will shake its reputations of the past, it is up to the new nightlife commissioner to make that a reality.

"I think Ottawa is the city that fun's going to remember," Grondin said.

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