Cen­tre Block reno de­layed

Se­nate, House won’t move un­til end of year

The Daily Observer - - NATIONAL NEWS - JOR­DAN PRESS

OTTAWA — Par­lia­ment Hill’s iconic Cen­tre Block won’t be shut­ting down this sum­mer, de­lay­ing the start of a badly needed ren­o­va­tion un­til at least next year.

Sen­a­tors and MPs de­cided Thurs­day that nei­ther will of­fi­cially move out of their cur­rent home un­til the end of this cal­en­dar year to make sure they aren’t rushed into tem­po­rary abodes that aren’t yet ready to host either cham­ber.

Fed­eral of­fi­cials over­see­ing a mas­sive ren­o­va­tion of the build­ings that make up the par­lia­men­tary precinct had planned to close the Cen­tre Block for a decade-long re­hab start­ing this sum­mer.

On Thurs­day morn­ing, the Se­nate’s in­ter­nal econ­omy com­mit­tee ap­proved a phased-in mov­ing sched­ule to re­lo­cate sen­a­tors’ of­fices in the fall to tem­po­rary quar­ters in Ottawa’s for­mer down­town rail­way sta­tion, fol­lowed by a final move into a new Se­nate cham­ber start­ing in late De­cem­ber af­ter sen­a­tors leave for their win­ter break.

Hours later, MPs on the House of Com­mons’ board of in­ter­nal econ­omy made a sim­i­lar de­ci­sion: Some of­fices in the Cen­tre Block will start mi­grat­ing to neigh­bour­ing build­ings this sum­mer but a final move will have to wait un­til af­ter the win­ter ad­journ­ment, which typ­i­cally starts shortly be­fore Christ­mas. Com­mons Speaker Ge­off Re­gan said in a state­ment the de­ci­sion was taken af­ter a “thor­ough sta­tus re­view and risk anal­y­sis of the Cen­tre Block project.”

Ren­o­vat­ing one of the coun­try’s most iconic build­ings is a mas­sively com­plex project that has been years in the mak­ing, in­clud­ing creat­ing a tem­po­rary House of Com­mons cham­ber in­side the West Block.

“Par­lia­ment is a unique en­vi­ron­ment that re­quires a fully func­tional and op­er­a­tional fa­cil­ity with un­in­ter­rupted ser­vices,” Re­gan said in a state­ment.

“Tak­ing the time to en­sure that the West Block is fully func­tional with all re­quired tech­nol­ogy, that it pro­vides safe and se­cure fa­cil­i­ties, and that it has the ap­pro­pri­ate level of fully trained ser­vice staff is im­per­a­tive to sus­tain­ing the work of Par­lia­ment.”

Re­ha­bil­i­tat­ing the par­lia­men­tary build­ings is ex­pected to cost more than $1 bil­lion once all work is com­plete.

The depart­ment over­see­ing the work said in an email the de­ci­sion to de­lay re­lo­ca­tion of sen­a­tors and MPs shouldn’t in­crease the bud­get for ren­o­va­tions, pro­vided that work­ers can get into “sig­nif­i­cant empty por­tions of the Cen­tre Block” to do some pre-ren­o­va­tion in­ves­ti­ga­tions and that the Cen­tre Block is “com­pleted va­cated” by the end of 2018.

Pub­lic Ser­vices and Pro­cure­ment Canada didn’t say what the de­ci­sion means for project’s 10-year time­line.

THE CANADIAN PRESS FILES

The Cen­tre Block of Par­lia­ment Hill is seen from the front gates in Ottawa. The Se­nate won’t of­fi­cially move out of its cur­rent home un­til the end of the cal­en­dar year, po­ten­tially push­ing the start of a badly-needed ren­o­va­tion of the Cen­tre Block un­til at least 2019. Fed­eral of­fi­cials over­see­ing a mas­sive ren­o­va­tion of the build­ings that make up the par­lia­men­tary precinct in the cap­i­tal had planned to close the build­ing for a decade-long re­hab start­ing this year.

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