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SENATORS’ STATEMENTS: Chateau Laurier Extension

Hon. Serge Joyal: Honourable senators, I think it is only proper to draw your attention to a project to expand the Château Laurier, which is located across the street from the Senate building, because the Château Laurier is part of Parliament Hill’s historic core. Indeed, many of you stay at the Château Laurier when you are in Ottawa for work. The same underground tunnel we use to get to the Senate committee rooms also leads to the Château Laurier.

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Let me remind you that back in 1912, the Château Laurier’s architects, Ross & MacFarlane from Montreal, also developed the plans for the Union Station, where we sit now. The objective at that time was to build two outstanding buildings to give visitors to Ottawa the impression of a grand and perennial national capital in the classical historical style of ancient Rome, with a train station modelled on the Roman public baths of Emperor Caracalla, and an impressive hotel with all the charm of a medieval castle with its turrets and towers.

Today, the historical integrity of the Château Laurier is threatened by an expansion project that would add a modern addition to the original construction that would have, as commented on by Mayor Jim Watson, the subtlety of a pile of containers.

Heritage Ottawa, a group of concerned citizens, has pushed to compel the developer to review the plan and take into account the importance of the immediate environment because the expansion project would drastically change Ottawa’s historical horizon line, which includes the Parliament Buildings on the east side with the green space of Major’s Hill Park.

Honourable senators, we cannot remain indifferent to the historical mistake that will happen with this ill-conceived expansion project, as very nearly happened before.

Let me remind you that in 1966, the federal Public Works Department had decided to demolish the train station where the Senate sits now to allow for parking spaces, supposedly to accommodate the thousands of visitors who would flock to Ottawa for the celebration of the Centennial the following year. What a disaster it would have been. We would not be sitting here today in this beautiful historic building.

Senators should have their voices heard as standing against the proposed expansion project of the Château Laurier because the architectural details are ill matched. It does not take into account the character and soul of the original building and its built environment and, in fact, it is part of an exercise of maximizing commercial profitability.

Parliamentarians represent the loyal customers who support the profitability of the Château Laurier. We are also trustees of the integrity of Parliament Hill. Let us have our voices heard in denouncing such a historical error. I believe future generations will credit us for preventing this mistake, as we today thank those who prevented the demolition of this very Senate building in 1966.