Newly ren­o­vated West Block turned over to Speaker

The Sun Times (Owen Sound) - - NATIONAL NEWS - TERRY PEDWELL

OT­TAWA — The newly ren­o­vated West Block of Par­lia­ment was for­mally turned over to the Speaker of the House of Com­mons Thurs­day as Ge­off Re­gan ac­cepted a large, sculpted cop­per key on be­half of MPs.

“If this is the key, I want to see the size of the lock,” Re­gan quipped as he was handed the symbolic lock-turner by Pub­lic Ser­vices Min­is­ter Carla Qual­trough at a cer­e­mony just out­side the tem­po­rary Com­mons cham­ber the build­ing now holds.

While a few fin­ish­ing touches re­main, in­clud­ing in­stalling the desks where MPs will de­bate leg­is­la­tion over at least the next decade, the ren­o­va­tions to the stately 19th-cen­tury build­ing are all but com­plete.

Mem­bers of Par­lia­ment are set to move out of the Cen­tre Block, which will un­dergo its own mas­sive up­grade, over their Christ­mas hol­i­day break and be­gin de­lib­er­at­ing gov­ern­ment busi­ness in the trans­formed West Block once they re­turn on Jan. 28.

The West Block ren­o­va­tion took seven years, with a price tag ap­proach­ing $1 bil­lion.

“On bud­get and on sched­ule,” Qual­trough high­lighted as she spoke of the re­design.

Re­fur­bish­ing Par­lia­ment’s Cen­tre Block, in­clud­ing the in­tri­cate clean­ing and restora­tion of its ex­te­rior stones, is ex­pected to take at least a decade.

Ren­o­va­tions to West Block have “brought to­gether the old with the new,” cap­tur­ing the his­tory of the stone her­itage build­ing while in­cor­po­rat­ing new tech­nolo­gies, in­clud­ing a glass ceil­ing over the tem­po­rary Com­mons that is de­signed to cap­ture heat in the win­ter and ex­pel it in the sum­mer, Qual­trough said as she stood in­side the still­new-smelling in­terim House.

“The idea that the heat is cap­tured by the ceil­ing and then dis­trib­uted across (the floor) re­ally helps re­duce the (en­ergy) out­put,” said Qual­trough.

“And then in the sum­mer the heat that ac­cu­mu­lates in the roof can be vented to re­duce air-con­di­tion­ing ex­penses,” added as­sis­tant deputy pub­lic ser­vices min­is­ter Rob Wright, who has helped lead the ren­o­va­tion project.

The build­ing was also de­signed to be more ac­ces­si­ble, in­clud­ing ramps into a new wel­come cen­tre built be­low ground be­tween the west and cen­tre blocks where vis­i­tors will go through se­cu­rity screen­ing be­fore en­ter­ing.

The West Block build­ing was con­structed be­tween 1859 and 1906 and in­cluded a cen­tre court­yard. In­clud­ing that green space in the ren­o­va­tion’s de­sign, along with four new lev­els be­low ground, has nearly dou­bled the build­ing ’s us­able space to 26,000 square me­tres.

SEAN KIL­PATRICK/THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

The new tem­po­rary House of Com­mons is seen prior to a cer­e­mo­nial han­dover mark­ing the com­ple­tion of the his­toric restora­tion and mod­ern­iza­tion of the West Block and the new vis­i­tor wel­come cen­tre on Par­lia­ment Hill in Ot­tawa.

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