September 15, 2013
phil charalBy Phil Charal
LO president

I am sorry to report that Flora Niagara 2017, the international horticultural exhibition will not take place.

Quite simply, the reason is that we have not been successful in raising the funds to stage this major event.

Michel Gauthier began planning for Flora Niagara about six years ago. He has a long history of promoting and establishing international and national events. Some of these events include the Tulip Festival, International Flora Montreal and Rideau Canal Festival. He sits on several boards, including Canada Blooms.

Flora Niagara was going to be a AIPH-sanctioned event. It was to run from May 10 to Oct. 9, 2017, and be located right next to the Horseshoe Falls. The idea was to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday, with plans to engage all provinces and territories. The event would have attracted visitors from the U.S. and throughout the world.

Satellite sites were to be established within Niagara Parks, Royal Botanical Gardens and Vineland Research and Innovation Centre. The primary site was to measure 34 hectares and attract over three-million visitors, create 4,800 jobs and have an economic impact of over $600-million.

Flora Niagara was to be the Olympics of the world’s horticulture, while showcasing and promoting all the great things about Niagara, Golden Horseshoe, Ontario and Canada. After the event, the site would become a world class garden tourism destination.

It was expected that 50 countries would participate in Flora Niagara. After attending Floriade 2012 in The Netherlands with the Canadian delegation, where we received our sanction to operate Flora Niagara, I developed a new perspective on how vital and important these world horticultural exhibitions are to the region hosting them. Flora Niagara would have left a legacy and a lasting tourist attraction.

Having said all that, the event was a perfect fit for Landscape Ontario and the horticulture industry. It was a great opportunity to advance our industry in stature and professionalism. Besides economic growth and the creation of green jobs, it would have encouraged young people to see landscape/horticulture as a career choice.

As disappointed as we were with the failure of Flora to take place, I have to echo what our executive director Tony DiGiovanni said to me throughout this process. “The reality is that this has been the most inexpensive government and public relations exercise that this association has ever done.”

This is so true. What our industry so vitally needs is public and government awareness of how beneficial and important our industry is to this country’s people and environment. It would be impossible to put a dollar value on the promotional value we achieved while trying to make Flora a reality. Our quest put us in front of many MPPs, MPs, mayors, councillors and the media. It gave us an opportunity to tell the story of our wonderful industry to people who would never have heard about Landscape Ontario, what we do and how passionate we are about what we do for a living.

I have a feeling that Flora Niagara will take place some day. We got very close, and everyone we met supported the idea. Had this not been a period of provincial government mismanagement, we may have been successful in obtaining provincial and federal government financial support.

The good news is that a seed has been planted, which will grow opportunities in the future.