THOUGH Ontario may need to up its game in terms of enticing tourists with catchy slogans, Premier Doug Ford’s idea for changing the phrase on provincial licence plates seems lame compared to what other province’s sport on their vehicles.

There are many cool slogans out there that were undoubtedly crafted to fire up the imagination, catch a traveller’s eye and instill a sense of pride: “Land of the Living Skies” (Saskatchewan), “Great Lakes Splendor (Michigan), “Wildrose Country” (Alberta) and “Canada’s Ocean Playground (Nova Scotia).

Quebec’s former “Belle Province” slogan seemed very apt, but in 1978 it was changed to “Je me souvien (I remember)” a reference to that province’s unique culture. Some might object to the political overtones, but the fact that it’s in French is still appealing to tourists.

Other slogans you just don’t monkey with because they’ve said it so well for so long: Florida is “The Sunshine State.”

Ontario’s current licence plate slogan — “Yours to Discover” — might seem a bit bland compared to the aforementioned, but then, we don’t have oceans or mountains or vast expanses of prairie. Still, there are many parts of Ontario that are indeed a feast for the eyes, with many of the best visuals right here in Northern Ontario. Among other things, we are home to a freshwater ocean dotted with sleek coastal islands.

If Ford has his way, the Ontario plate slogan will reportedly be changed to “Open For Business,” which — what a coincidence — originated last spring when he was campaigning to become premier. In Ford’s myopic world, politics trumps beauty and evocation.

If you’re a European tourist planning a trip to Canada this summer, which parts of the country are you going to put on your must-see list? Land of the Living Skies (so cool), Beautiful British Columbia (enough said) or Open For Business?

One can imagine the kids in the back of the rented minivan: Hey mum and dad, after we take in the soaring mountains and the breathtaking sunsets, can we stop at Ontario to grab a pack of paper clips and a couple of pens? Oh, here’s something: Ontario’s premier operates a label factory. How incredibly thrilling.

The thing about Open For Business is that it implies, ridiculously so, that other provinces don’t value entrepreneurs and major manufacturers as much as they want tourists. Alberta’s economy, which has taken a hit lately, heavily relies on the fossil-fuel industry; but its message to the world is Wildrose Country, not Oilsands Here We Come.

Equally ridiculous is the notion that Ontario, under Ford, has just figured out that it, too, wants to make money and boost its commercial tax base. Successful businesses already know their way around the globe; they don’t need a silly slogan to attract them. Tourists, on the other hand, like to be enchanted.

Ontario’s Yours To Discover slogan has served this province well for many decades. It suggests there are a lot of things to offer, not just in terms of business or tourism-related pursuits. But it could be getting stale and in need of being replaced by something more evocative.

If we’re going to bother to review our slogan, let’s at least take the time to kick around some ideas, rather than just arbitrarily slam in a politician’s tiresome campaign rallying cry. Ford says he’s “for the people”; maybe he should ask them what they think.

Home of the inland sea. Now that has a nice ring to it.

(Originally published April 8, 2019)

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