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Thousands sign petition to rename Hwy. 400 in Lightfoot's honour

'This petition and this idea of renaming the 400 is ... to honour Gordon Lightfoot, and it's to make as many people as possible aware of his songs,' says Orillia native
A petition to rename Highway 400 the Gordon Lightfoot Memorial Highway has garnered close to 13,000 signatures since being launched two weeks ago.

A push to rename Highway 400 in honour of Gordon Lightfoot is gaining traction after garnering the support of thousands of Canadians in just two weeks.

Last year, a group of passionate Gordon Lightfoot fans from Orillia and around North America hatched the idea to commemorate the late folk legend by changing the highway’s name to the Gordon Lightfoot Memorial Highway, and a petition seeking that change has collected close to 13,000 signatures.

Petition organizer Douglas Walkinshaw said he was pleasantly surprised to see such a high level of support since he launched the petition earlier this month.

“I didn't know if it was going to work. I'm not into social media,” the Orillia native said. “Within a day or two we had 1,000 people, and then it really grew and now it's a steady few hundred or a little more a day.”

Walkinshaw said he has spoken with a couple elected officials from around the province, who expressed tentative support for the idea, and he decided to move forward with a petition following the suggestion of a friend who said the government will be more likely to green-light the change if enough people express their support directly.

As the petition is still garnering hundreds of new signatures per day, Walkinshaw said he plans to write a letter to Premier Doug Ford once those numbers dwindle.

“What I'm gonna do is, when it all dies down, and we're not getting new ones, then I'm just going to do a letter to our premier,” he said. “Obviously, he's a politician – he needs numbers. He needs to know that this will be favourable for him.”

One of the hopes for the proposed name change, Walkinshaw said, is to expose greater numbers of people to Lightfoot’s name and, from there, his music.

“Who’s heard of Gordon Lightfoot at the age of 14? Nobody,” he said. “They've got their own side, and I get it ... but none are as picturesque and as meaningful from an emotional viewpoint (as Lightfoot’s music).”

Walkinshaw suggested that signage at certain stops along the highway could incorporate QR codes linking travelers to some of Lightfoot’s music, saying “there’s lots of opportunities” to explore with the idea.

Since the concept was floated by Walkinshaw and his group of friends last year, he said he has seen some express hope that Highway 11 – which passes directly by Orillia – be renamed in Lightfoot’s honour instead.

Although Highway 400 was selected by the group for its connection to the singer’s hometown of Orillia and Toronto, Walkinshaw said the main idea behind the proposal is that Highway 400 will expose greater numbers of people to Lightfoot and his music.

“This petition and this idea of renaming the 400 is not to honour … Toronto where he lived, or Orillia where he grew up – it's to honour Gordon Lightfoot, and it's to make as many people as possible aware of his songs and the meanings and ideas that he plants in your brain.”

The petition to rename Highway 400 in Lightfoot’s honour may be found here.


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Greg McGrath-Goudie

About the Author: Greg McGrath-Goudie

Greg has been with Village Media since 2021, where he has worked as an LJI reporter for CollingwoodToday, and now as a city hall/general assignment reporter for OrilliaMatters
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