Canada Day fireworks in Vancouver permanently cancelled

May 24 2023, 10:07 pm

The longtime tradition of the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority staging a fireworks show in Coal Harbour to commemorate Canada Day has ended.

This follows the pandemic-time cancellations of 2020 and 2021 when health safety restrictions prevented the gathering of large crowds.

In 2022, the Canada Day at Canada Place fireworks were also cancelled, with the port authority stating at the time that although health safety restrictions had been lifted, the fireworks were cancelled due to rising costs for events, safety, and security.

And now, the Canada Day fireworks for downtown Vancouver will not be making a return for 2023 either, as the port authority has decided to put a permanent end to it moving forward for the same reasons.

Amid high inflation and the slow restart of the events and production industry’s capacity, events and festivals have faced soaring costs, including high municipal and policing costs, forcing them to downsize or even outright cancel. Many major events have only been kept afloat with the help of government grants.

“After careful consideration, we decided in 2022 to permanently discontinue the evening fireworks display for July 1 at Canada Place primarily due to rising costs,” Alex Munro, a spokesperson for the port authority, told Daily Hive Listed.

This builds on the port’s decision last year to take a new approach to its Canada Day celebrations in reaction to the residential school findings, including the renaming of the event to Canada Together, with a refocus on daytime programming planned collaboratively with the local First Nations of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh. Last year’s revamped theme was “weaving together the fabric of a nation.”

“We look forward to welcoming everyone back in 2023 under the same theme — chosen to honour Canada’s diversity and set an intention for the day to gather, celebrate, learn and share,” he continued. The port authority will release its Canada Together 2023 programming over the coming weeks.

Footage of the last Canada Day fireworks at Canada Place in 2019:

The port authority has been winding down the size of its festivities marking Canada’s birthday ever since 2017, when the port significantly expanded its annual celebration to a two-day event for Canada 150, attracting an all-time record attendance of over 1.5 million people to the area in and around Canada Place and Coal Harbour.

In 2018, the port cancelled the Canada Day parade typically held along West Georgia Street in the evening, shortly before the fireworks. Hundreds of thousands of spectators would watch the parade before assembling around the central waterfront to wait for the fireworks.

Then in 2019, the District of West Vancouver indicated the port authority was pulling its financial support for the Ambleside Beach fireworks barge, which was the other half of the simultaneous two-barge fireworks show, with the other barge located in Coal Harbour for the vast majority of the crowds located in downtown Vancouver. At the time, the port authority’s intention was to have West Vancouver’s municipal government cover the full cost of the Ambleside fireworks barge starting in 2021.

Canada Day fireworks Vancouver

Dual-barge Canada Day fireworks in Burrard Inlet; fireworks barge in Coal Harbour in downtown Vancouver (left) and another barge in Dundarave in West Vancouver (right). (Shutterstock)

The fireworks “alternative” of using drones is not technically possible in the area either for safety reasons, following December 2022’s last-minute cancellation of both Christmas-themed drone shows due to unexpected signal interference from marine traffic.

According to the port authority, the Canada Together daytime festival at Canada Place in 2023 attracted an estimated 150,000 people. While this attendance figure remains significant, it is far smaller than the pre-pandemic normal annual attendance (not including the Canada 150 year) of about 500,000 people, including 200,000 people for the fireworks.

“We’re disappointed to see this event cancelled for 2023,” said Mayor Ken Sim in a statement to Daily Hive Listed.

“One of our core goals is to make Vancouver a more vibrant, fun, and exciting city to call home — our team is fully committed to working with organizers to make it easier and more affordable to host events, shows, and festivals in the City of Vancouver.”

Downtown Van, the local business improvement association for the area, was unable to immediately provide a comment on the potential smaller economic boost for businesses in and around downtown Vancouver due to the smaller crowds.

While the Canada Day fireworks in Vancouver are now cancelled, there are still other Canada Day celebrations with fireworks planned elsewhere in Metro Vancouver.

The City of Burnaby has indicated its Canada Day celebrations concluding with smaller-scale fireworks at Central Park will return in 2023. Likewise, the City of Coquitlam’s fireworks will continue as well, held at Lafarge Lake in Town Centre Park.

As well, the City of Surrey’s Canada Day festival at the Bill Reid Millennium Amphitheatre in Cloverdale will return with a fireworks finale this year. According to Surrey’s municipal government, its Canada Day event has now overtaken Vancouver’s event as Western Canada’s largest July 1 event.

But fireworks revellers can still look forward to the return of the Honda Celebration of Light fireworks competition in English Bay several weeks later, which is Vancouver’s largest public event, attracting about 500,000 people over three nights. The 2023 Honda Celebration of Light fireworks are scheduled for July 22, 26, and 29.

Kenneth ChanKenneth Chan

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