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Celebrating Centre Block lasts: Senators bid temporary farewell to Centre Block
December 28, 2018

This article is part of a series about the Senate of Canada’s move to the Senate of Canada Building, formerly known as the Government Conference Centre. In 2018, the Senate began to move into the building, a former train station built in 1912, while Parliament’s Centre Block — the Senate’s permanent home — is rehabilitated. The Senate will begin operating from the Senate of Canada Building in early 2019.

The savings to taxpayers will be approximately $200 million compared to the original proposal to find an alternative location on Parliament Hill. The Senate is expected to occupy its temporary location for at least 10 years.


There is a tradition at the end of December – ‘out with the old and in with the new.’ This year, for the Senate, it will be about more than just saying goodbye to 2018.

Canada’s 105 senators have begun their move to the rejuvenated Senate of Canada Building, which will be their temporary home while Centre Block undergoes its first complete overhaul since the building’s opening in the 1920s. The rehabilitation work is expected to take at least 10 years.

Originally Ottawa’s central train station, the newly renamed Senate of Canada Building served until recently as the Government Conference Centre. Extensive renovations have given this historic structure a new lease on life, thanks to the Senate. 

On December 13, 2018, Public Services and Procurement Canada gave possession of the Senate of Canada Building to the Senate in an official handover ceremony.

“It has been truly rewarding to witness the restoration of this magnificent building over the past several years. The Senate’s close collaboration with Public Services and Procurement Canada has culminated in a building of great architectural significance, one which meets the needs of a modern Parliament while staying true to its heritage legacy,” Senate Speaker George J. Furey said during the ceremony. “Today marks an exciting new chapter for the upper chamber and I know all senators look forward with anticipation to serving Canadians in the new Senate of Canada Building.”

That afternoon, the final Senate sitting was held in Centre Block, which included several ceremonial Centre Block ‘lasts’: final remarks from the Speaker, the final Speaker’s Parade, the final Royal Assent ceremony with the governor general giving assent to the final piece of legislation to be passed in the old Red Chamber.

On Wednesday, December 12, some senators paused to reflect on their move from the Senate Chamber in Centre Block to the temporary home in the Senate of Canada Building.

Senate business will resume in 2019, of course, and these procedures, protocols and ceremonies will continue in the new Senate of Canada Building. Beginning in 2019, the Senate will be video broadcast. This will keep Canadians better informed about the vital work that senators do and will show debates on important issues affecting their country. Broadcasting the work of the Senate demonstrates senators’ continuing commitment to transparency and accountability.


Did you know?

While Centre Block is closed to visitors during construction, Canadians can continue to enjoy its art and architecture through the Senate’s virtual tour.


 

 

The final Speaker’s Parade of 2018 proceeds along the Hall of Honour towards the Senate Chamber on Thursday, December 13.

Speaker of the Senate George J. Furey enters the Red Chamber to preside over the last sitting of the Senate on Parliament Hill for at least a decade.

Governor General Julie Payette is escorted into the Senate Chamber by the Usher of the Black Rod to grant Royal Assent to six bills. Behind her are Leader of the Government in the House of Commons Bardish Chagger, Government Representative in the Senate Senator Peter Harder and Leader of the Opposition Senator Larry Smith.

Governor General Julie Payette takes her seat on the Speaker’s dais to grant Royal Assent. It is the last time the Royal Assent ceremony will be marked in Centre Block for at least a decade.

Senators Jim Munson, Scott Tannas and Nicole Eaton chat in the antechamber as they file out of Centre Block’s Senate Chamber for the last time before major restoration work begins in the building.

Senators Diane Griffin, Pierre J. Dalphond, Murray Sinclair and Rosa Galvez make their final exit from the Red Chamber for at least a decade.

Senate pages shut the doors to the Red Chamber for the last time for at least a decade. The Senate will return to Centre Block after a top-to-bottom overhaul of the building is completed.

Public Services and Procurement and Accessibility Minister Carla Qualtrough presents Speaker of the Senate George J. Furey with a key to the new Senate of Canada Building, marking the official handover of the building that will be the Senate’s temporary home during the Centre Block rehabilitation. Senators Marc Gold, Raymonde Saint-Germain, Donald Plett, Scott Tannas, Peter Harder and Patricia Bovey join them for the handover.

Crews will work through the winter adjournment to move senators’ desks and chairs as well as the clerks’ table from the Senate Chamber in Centre Block to the temporary Chamber in the Senate of Canada Building. The new space is less ornate than the Centre Block Chamber but its furnishings, configuration and restrained elegance will clearly reflect the old Senate Chamber.