It has taken more than four decades, but a new statue should appear on the Quebec shore of the Ottawa River next year commemorating the late tycoon Garfield Weston’s role in the pulp and paper industry in the National Capital Region.
And worry not: it won’t cost taxpayers a dime.
Weston, who died in 1978, became president of George Weston Ltd. on his father’s death in 1924 and turned it into one of the world’s largest food conglomerates, acquiring an estimated 2,000 firms on five continents.
In 1943, Weston bought the E.B. Eddy Company, a major employer in the capital for more than a century, from its owner, R.B. Bennett, a former prime minister of Canada.
Three years later, he added the J.R. Booth Company’s fine-paper mill to his holdings, creating a single monster lumber and production company in the Ottawa Valley.
Weston’s company operated the facilities on Chaudière Island until 1998, when they were sold to Domtar for $803 million. Domtar closed the last mill in 2007 and sold the property in 2013 to Windmill Development Group, which is planning to build a mixed-use community on the site.
The commemorative statue, to be located on National Capital Commission land along the Ottawa River west of the Canadian Museum of Civilization, has never been publicly announced.
But it was referred to in documents recently obtained by researcher Ken Rubin from the Department of Canadian Heritage under access to information.
In response to Citizen questions, Canadian Heritage said the project was initiated in 2012 by the W. Garfield Weston Foundation, a charitable foundation headed by Garfield Weston’s son, Galen, current chair of George Weston Ltd.
According to Jeff Wilson, a spokesman for the foundation, the idea of a monument dates back to 1972, when the NCC bought Eddy’s sulphite mill in Gatineau, which it demolished, and 18 hectares of nearby property.
“Part of the agreement of sale was that we would be allowed to have a commemorative artwork of some sort,” Wilson said. “It’s going to be a nice honour of E.B. Eddy and Garfield.”
The design of the statue hasn’t yet been finalized, Wilson said, though it would be a “good guess” that it will feature Garfield Weston, whose grandson, Galen Weston Jr., is executive chairman and president of Loblaw Companies Ltd.
Though the statue will go on NCC land, no public money will go into the project, Wilson said. “The entire cost will be funded by the foundation.” He wouldn’t reveal the budget.
Work on the commemorative statue is expected to begin next year, with an unveiling in the fall of 2016, said Canadian Heritage, which assumed responsibility for commemoration and public art programs on federal lands from the NCC in 2013.