This article is part of a series about the Senate of Canada’s move to the Government Conference Centre. In 2018, the Senate will begin to move in to the conference centre, 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 conference centre 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.
The Senate’s decision to make Ottawa’s historic downtown train station its home for the next 10 years means it will be restored much earlier — and more cheaply — than planned.
Senator Scott Tannas, Chair of the Senate Subcommittee on the Long Term Vision and Plan — the body overseeing the Senate’s move to the Government Conference Centre — described the changes in a recent interview.
Q: Tell us about this building — Ottawa’s historic Union train station and the future home of the Senate.
Senator Tannas: It’s a downtown Ottawa landmark. This 105-year-old building on Rideau St. used to be the Grand Trunk Railroad station. It spent the last few decades as a Government Conference Centre and is soon to be the home to the Senate of Canada for the next 10 to 15 years.
Q: Why did senators choose the Government Conference Centre?
Senator Tannas: Senators came up with a cost-saving measure that would save taxpayers around $200 million by refurbishing this building instead of building a temporary Senate in the East Block courtyard.
Q: The Senate is to begin televising its proceedings when it moves into the Government Conference Centre. What are you excited about Canadians being able to see?
Senator Tannas: Canadians will see thoughtful debate. They’ll see humour. They will see the incredible skill and thoughtfulness of their senators. There are many wonderful people in the Senate. I think Canadians will enjoy and feel good about the participants and about the quality of the debate.
Q: The historic Senate chamber is open to the public. Will Canadians be welcome to watch the Senate proceedings while it is located in the Government Conference Centre building?
Senator Tannas: Of course, Canadians will be welcome to watch the proceedings in the Senate Chamber. There will be lots of public gallery space and space, as well, for media.
Q: What is the value for Canadians in rehabilitating this unique heritage building?
Senator Tannas: We’re just really pleased, as a Senate, that we could contribute to the restoration of the Parliamentary Precinct in a way that saved money and moved timing of the restoration of important buildings forward. We’re looking forward to moving in here in the fall of 2018.