Cultural Master Plan – Public Meeting

The second public meeting for gathering input on the Cultural Master Plan was held at the CCC on Thursday – only 42 people showed up, mostly the same people as always come to these meetings.  Three Councillors were there (Deputy Mayor Suzanne Séguin, Councillors Adam Bureau and Nicole Beatty). A draft plan has been issued and it contains Six Strategic Directions which the Public was asked to comment on.  The common theme of the “Directions” is better promotion and communication.  It seems we are already doing well and have a good supply of culture – all we need to do is communicate and promote it better.  The Plan contains no blockbuster recommendations – some thought it might recommend establishing a new venue for staging shows.

Consultant Lauren Millier
Consultant Lauren Millier

The meeting was started with introductory words from Councillor Adam Bureau who said that he (and the Council) “believe in the power of citizen engagement”.  He was followed by Lauren Miller of consultant MDB Insight who went through their findings and the resulting Draft plan (available here).

The plan is intended to guide Council and Staff on their decision making so the concept of “Strategic Directions” makes sense.  The public were invited to comment primarily on the action plans and the idea is that the next version of the plan will incorporate some of these suggestions.  Each “Direction” had a table and citizens had 15 minutes at a table before being rotated to another – at least that was the plan.  The inputs I heard were mostly from people wanting to point out problems and suggesting changes and were not really oriented to commenting on the “directions”.

Strategic Direction #1 – Embrace & Communicate a shared Vision of Culture across the Town

Action Plan

  • Develop an internal communications strategy
  • Establish a municipal cultural team
  • Establish a cultural advisory committee
  • Enhance participation on advisory committees and boards
  • Engage province in support for cultural programming
  • Work with MTCS to develop an appropriate set of performance metrics
  • Develop a cultural report card
  • Convene an annual cultural summit
  • Prepare feasibility study for building and operating a multi­purpose cultural facility
  • Support the expansion of cultural activities in existing community spaces

Strategic Direction #2 – Improve Communications and Collaboration within the Cultural Sector
Action Plan

  • Explore opportunities for a mentorship and coaching program between established & emerging cultural organizations
  • Introduce social media and online forums to Experience Cobourg website
  • Convene biannual meetings between cultural organizations and cultural industries to increase collaboration
  • Provide a calendar of events on Experience Cobourg website
  • Explore collaboration opportunities with external communities to advance regional initiatives
  • Advocate the creation of an external coordinating body to support implementation of plan

Strategic Direction #3 – Promote Cobourg’s Rich History and Heritage
Action Plan

  • Review municipal policy documents & strategies to emphasize consideration and integration of cultural heritage resource conservation
  • Engage heritage community to create a heritage story map of Cobourg
  • Engage in a strategic planning session with the Alderville First Nation to explore how the history culture of their community be profiled
  • Support the recommendations emerging from the Heritage Master Plan that impact heritage tourism, heritage landscapes and storytelling

Strategic Direction #4  – Grow Culture-Led Economic Development Programs
Action Plan

  • Conduct a review of the Town’s cultural grant program
  • Work with Northumberland Economic Development and Community Futures to ensure their grant programs reflect the needs of creative individuals looking to start a business
  • Partner with local organizations to develop business skills workshops for the cultural sector
  • Monitor available cultural funding programs
  • Add targeted information about Cobourg’s cultural resources to existing market materials
  • Explore the expansion of the Down­town CIP to incent the use of vacant building as temporary or pop-up space for artists
  • Advocate and support the creation of art-led maker spaces in the Town’s facilities

Strategic Direction #5 – Strengthen Tourism Products by Leveraging Unique Cultural Assets
Action Plan

  • Explore the concept of a resident attraction marketing program that showcases Cobourg’s cultural tourism offerings
  • Support the growth of cultural tourism by providing relevant content to RTO 9 wayfinding, promotion and programming strategies
  • Launch a community story­telling initiative to support the development of cultural marketing content

Strategic Direction #6 – Increase Community engagement among Youth and Volunteers
Action Plan

  • Collaborate with youth organizations to support a mentoring system that provides opportunities for cultural development
  • Promote the involvement of youth as volunteers on boards for festivals and cultural events
  • In collaboration with Venture13, host an annual youth summit to showcase cultural assets and programming and support culturally based learning
  • Create a volunteer management strategy
  • Promote volunteer opportunities to new residents

When asked about a well signposted “Information Centre” that Dressler House used to be, Staff responded that there are now multiple locations including Victoria Hall.  Since communication about Cobourg’s Culture and Heritage assets seems to be a key issue, some felt that this idea could be re-visited.


  1. The above is a report on the plan as it is now – it’s labelled a draft and is expected to be changed before it’s finally accepted by Council – scheduled for October.
  2. You can still provide comments and input by going to the Engage Cobourg Web site here. Comments will be accepted there up till September 12.  You can also get copies of the Background study and Draft plan there.

Here are some photos of the event


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Keith Oliver
7 September 2019 10:28 am

I believe that this whole initiative as it applies to “culture” is important. My problem, which I have tried to explain before, is that there are two different meanings to the word culture. One is associated with the arts, visual, written, performed, heard, while the other applies to identity as it is shared between all members of a community. There is little if anything in this planning process and this latest draft to acknowledge the difference. The Cultural Master Plan for Cobourg is an opportunity to discribe a way of making citizens aware of the difference between the two, connecting the two and having them reinforce each other. In this regard and like others, I have worked to make both Cobourg residence and visitors more aware of our unique local history. I approve of Strategic Direction No 3 and its’ emphasis on history/heritage … but I would like to see more thought and planning given to encouraging the use of our heritage and the arts as a means of developing a sense of a “shared identity” between Cobourg citizens as members of common community, one in which we interact with each other in an unplanned and planned manner (public input meetings, poetry readings, Council meetings, choirs, etc being four of many examples). The expression of culture is much more and has more significant meaning that the economic and tourism benefits as emphasized in Strat Directions Nos 4 and 5. There is such a person as a Londoner, a Parisian, a Montrealer. In this frantic and disconnected world can we not find and put into play the means by which our sense of a shared identity with each other as functioning and caring citizens of an historic town called Cobourg be encouraged and enhanced? In my opinion the final Cultural Master… Read more »

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Keith Oliver
7 September 2019 1:13 pm

Keith, you are certainly correct regarding the two meanings of “culture”. For almost 200 years Cobourg was largely populated by people coming from a small portion of the world. They shared a rich culture based on a shared history, shared religion, shared language and shared experiences. In Canada (and to a growing extent Cobourg) changes in patterns of immigration have largely eliminated interest in our unique local history; it is foreign to the history of most visitors or new residents. A Cultural Master Plan cannot magically convert disparate backgrounds into the shared culture that we cherished in the past. A pity!

Wally Keeler
Reply to  Ken Strauss
7 September 2019 6:04 pm

In 1981, I spent three months hitchhiking across Canada. What a great country! But, I noticed a phenomenon that Canada was unique in the world because it celebrated only foreign poets and authors.

The American poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, has a bust in Grand Pre National Historic Site in Nova Scotia.
The Ukrainian poet, Lesya Ukrainka, has a statue in Toronto’s High Park.
The Scottish poet, Robert Burns, has statues all over Canada: Edmonton, Fredericton, Halifax, Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, Victoria, Windsor and Winnipeg.
The Ukrainian poet, Taras Shevchenko has a statue in Oakville, Ottawa and Timmins, of all places.
The Hungarian poet, George Faludy, has a bust in a Toronto Park
The Russian author, Leo Tolstoy has a statue in Carlyle, British Columbia.
The English poet, William Shakespeare has a statue in Stratford, Ontario.
The Irish playwrite, George Bernard Shaw, has a statue in Niagara-On-The-Lake, Ontario.

In 1985 I spent three months tripping around Eastern Europe. I noticed that in Warsaw, Prague, Budapest there were busts and statues and streets, and parks, and city blocks named after their own composers, writers and other creative folk.

And Canada, Land of the Blandscape, only recently began to acknowledge that we have creative folks worthy of celebrating and honouring.

Reply to  Wally Keeler
7 September 2019 11:18 pm

Do you think that we have here in Canada any statues erected, or schools, roads or parks named after, Robert Service, Alexander Muir, Al Purdy, Emily Carr, Leonard Cohen, Bliss Carman, Octave Crémazie, Stephen Leacock, Pauline Johnson (just to name a few)?

Wally Keeler
Reply to  Frenchy
8 September 2019 12:49 pm

There’s also Irving Layton, Gwendolyn McEwan, bpNichol and others. Canada, “recently began to acknowledge that we have creative folks worthy of celebrating and honouring.” .

Reply to  Wally Keeler
8 September 2019 2:24 pm

“recently began to acknowledge that we have creative folks worthy of celebrating and honouring.”

Just because you didn’t see them in your travels in 1981 doesn’t mean they didn’t exist. Perhaps you were traveling on the wrong paths.
I was a student at Alexander Muir Public School from 1959 to 1966. The school was named after him in 1925.
Robert Service High School opened in 1971.
A bust of Octave Crémazie was unveiled on June 24, 1906 at Square Saint Louis in Montreal.
The Stephen Leacock Award was created in 1947 and the Stephen Leacock Building at McGill University was built and named in 1965.
In 1947 a statue of Bliss Carman was erected at the University of New Brunswick.

Gwendolyn MacEwen (note the correct spelling) was probably too young to have a statue erected or a park named in her honour at the time of your ‘81 tour. She has since had a park re-named in her honour in 1994 and a bust of her erected there in 2006. Your other examples of bpNichol and Irving Layton are also of relatively contemporary poets.

We are a very young country compared to those on your list. We‘re working on it, just give us a little time Wally.

Wally Keeler
Reply to  Frenchy
8 September 2019 3:37 pm

Of course we are a young country; how many times have I heard that repeated over and over, over the years? Not news. So many statues of foreign authors (16), and only one for a Canadian, with a couple busts thrown in. Thanks for making my point even clearer.

I was at the unveiling of the Al Purdy statue, (I shared a stage with Purdy) also the George Faludy bust unveiling. (Faludy is one of Hungary’s greatest contemporary poets with whom I worked). Not just those, but also Irving Layton, my mentor and with whom I was a guest in his home. His Avenue was dedicated in 2007.

Reply to  Wally Keeler
8 September 2019 4:45 pm

“So many statues of foreign authors (16), and only one for a Canadian”
I’d wager that there are more than 16 statues of foreign authors around Canada and I’m pretty sure there is more than just one of a Canadian author. How about that statue of Farley Mowat out in Saskatoon?
Surely you would have stopped in at a place called the Poets’ Corner of Canada at UNB on your ’81 tour. A nice monument (originally erected in 1947) there honouring Bliss Carman, Charles GD Roberts and Francis Sherman

Wally Keeler
Reply to  Frenchy
8 September 2019 10:36 pm

So many statues of foreign authors (16) and only two for a Canadian. WOW! that changes everything, NOT. Go ahead and wager what you will. Do the research. dig and dig and dig and til you find the correct balance. Btw, I have been in Farley Mowat’s home several times, being mutual authors and all, same with Layton, Atwood and others. And you?

Reply to  Wally Keeler
9 September 2019 1:00 am

Big deal, I was once in Marie Dressler’s house.

Reply to  Wally Keeler
9 September 2019 10:38 am

3. Unless 2 statues of the same guy count as 2, then this is 3 & 4. (duplicate of this one is in Guelph)

Wally Keeler
Reply to  Ken Strauss
8 September 2019 10:48 pm

Ken Strauss says, “In Canada (and to a growing extent Cobourg) changes in patterns of immigration have largely eliminated interest in our unique local history;”

Really? So there was a time when our unique local history held compelling interest. Then along came non-European immigrants who eliminated the interest in our unique local history. There is zero merit in such a contention. Mr Strauss does not contend that non-Europeans ‘attempted’ to eliminate interest. but actually accomplished the task.

… it is foreign to the history of most visitors or new residents.”

Well, of course. I wouldn’t expect visitors from Timmins to know anything about our “unique local history” let alone want to eliminate it. Nor do I expect new residents from Denver or Karachi to know anything about our “unique local history”. So what’s your point?

A Cultural Master Plan cannot magically convert disparate backgrounds into the shared culture that we cherished in the past. A pity!”

Quite the contrary. Take a look at all the statues in Canada that celebrate foreign authors, 16 compared to two for Canadians. Those 16 statues are part of Canada’s shared culture. It sets a civic example for Canadians to emulate. Nothing pitiful about that.

You are quite correct that a “Cultural Master Plan” is not a magic anything. It is a governing issue. The Town of Cobourg wants to exert some governing control over culture. Why? To what end? Governments at any level are mostly uncreative. Committees have a tendency to make mediocrity out of good ideas.

We will soon enough see what kind of mediocrity the Town will distribute in our park system next year when they roll out the artistic trash bins that Lydia Smith and myself called for last year.

7 September 2019 8:19 am

Sounds like a Make work project & Job preservation deal to me
We have all the Cultural tourism the water front can handle 3 months of the yr.. — the problem as I see it is they DO NOT patronize the down town . everyone in Cobourg but the people pushing this idea know this . If you want Culture push the local country culture that we moved here to enjoy get some more decent parking with out Pot Holes
and spruce up the down town bring in some interesting shops and maybe the local culture will return
Go check out Port Perry . Port Hope , Bracebridge, Picton Fantastic , Interesting , Clean Parking

Reply to  perplexed
7 September 2019 10:37 am

Well said!!! I agree 100% Perplexed I hope you are either already on the council or plan to be :))
cause you’ve got my vote!

Reply to  perplexed
7 September 2019 2:01 pm

I’m sorry Perplexed, but I don’t want Cobourg to follow the paths of the locations you have mentioned. They’re all too Disneylandish. What you really want is gentrification.

What Cobourg needs is money, pure and simple. Too many major industries have moved out of town and have taken with them the money they provided to the local citizenry. General Foods and General Electric are two good examples, along with General Motors in Oshawa. If council would/could strike a committee charged with enticing a major industry to locate in Cobourg, the downtown would benefit. Let’s see what impact the cannabis industry has when it gets rolling.

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Ciw
7 September 2019 3:19 pm

Ciw, downtown could thrive if the stores offered desirable merchandise at an affordable price and were open when people want to shop. As an example Market and Smør seems to be doing well — every time that I visit they have numerous happy customers. When I suggest that they carry a different product they listen. It is not the duty of the taxpayers nor of Council to ensure that a few downtown merchants thrive against their will. Council’s emphasis should be on making Cobourg a desirable place for residents with low crime, well maintained infrastructure and low taxes.

Ken Strauss
6 September 2019 3:23 pm

Actually it did favour construction of a new venue in Strategic Direction #1: “Prepare feasibility study for building and operating a multi­purpose cultural facility”

John Draper
Reply to  Ken Strauss
6 September 2019 3:26 pm

Good catch – I had not noticed that. In a side conversation, Dean Hustwick suggested that the old Memorial Arena may be a candidate for that.

Supporter of "Culture"
Reply to  Ken Strauss
7 September 2019 8:10 am

Our table (that Ken S was at), did think that “Prepare feasibility study for building and operating a multi­purpose cultural facility” was a block buster and a no-brainer… With the operational costs and ongoing costs associated with carrying the mortgage @ the CCC and the community’s never-ending focus on sports, there’s no way we will get a cultural centre. Taxpayers can’t afford it.

C Toth
Reply to  Ken Strauss
8 September 2019 3:17 am

What about the Cobourg Community Centre that continues to operate in the red? That was supposed to be a ‘multi-purpose’ venue. The old arena is decrepit as I understand it, and the Park Theatre that the Town of Cobourg bought has been left to languish. The Town Hall is a great venue for cultural events AND is an historic building. Is it really necessary to build another venue?

ken strauss
Reply to  C Toth
8 September 2019 8:00 am

Fortunately Cobourg didn’t waste $500,000 or so to buy the Park.

Reply to  C Toth
8 September 2019 10:19 am

It may be decrepit but only through lack of use – great indoor stadium space and only needs an elevator to get to the community space. Use this place immediately.

Wally Keeler
Reply to  C Toth
8 September 2019 1:02 pm

“… the Park Theatre that the Town of Cobourg bought…”

When did they buy the Park Theatre and for how much?