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August1991

$5 Billion Renovation for the Federal Parliament

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Construction of four temporary meeting rooms for MPs in a federal building next to Parliament Hill in Ottawa cost over $24 million, CBC News has learned.

The rooms are being used for Commons committee meetings while other buildings on the Hill get a $5-billion, long-term restoration.

Greg Weston CBC

I know what they're going to say. Like the $1.2 billion summit in Toronto, "that is what these things cost... "

Well, they're wrong.

I have no patience for the argument that "The buildings need repairs. This is what it costs." Whatever the value of these federal government symbols, they have become far too expensive over time. One billion for a summit in Toronto, five billion for a renovation...

Second, I have no patience for the argument that "It's Canada, we have to do this right." The federal parliament is not Canada. To be Canadian, Canadians do not need elaborate, expensive symbols of a federal government.

----

Years ago, I was part of the federal bureaucracy. I saw how easy it is to spend someone else's money, supposedly in "Canada's national interest", for a motorcade to drive foreign/Canadian politicians/bureaucrats to a pointless meeting where everyone felt important.

This has to stop.

Edited by August1991

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I actually stopped in to post this up myself. I find the $5 Billion excessive for upkeep costs. I'd like to see the line items on these ones - I have the feeling you may find $10,000 toilets and $1000 hammers. $5 Billion is like half the cost of buying Nortel's Campus EDIT: it is actually 25x the cost since the nortel campus only cost about $200 million and it is a 300 acre 11 building tech complex.... (you could buy one of these each year for the cost of upkeep) You could buy an aircraft carrier (note that the UK is shelving its aircraft carrier...) for $5 Billion dollars.

I don't see where a bunch of 10 million dollar contracts adds up to 5 billion. even 20 projects would only be a total of 200 million this works out to like 500 projects costing 10 million dollars.

This seems excessive.

Someone with the inside scoop do tell.

How much does it cost to build one of these buildings?

Originally it cost $2,591,760 - this however is difficult to adjust since inflation rates don't exist much beyond 1914 but in 1914 dollars it would work out to around 50 million dollars for the total construction costs.. I'm going to try to a conversion of sterling from 1860... but I am guessing the overall costs of building all these buildings is less than what the annual upkeep is.. I'm not oblivious to the fact these buildings probably don't contain much the originals anymore.

What we arrive at is

£182,000,000.00 ( 292.000122 million CAD)

using the retail price index

£268,000,000.00 (429.978202 million Canadian dollars)

using the GDP deflator

£1,690,000,000.00 (2.71142971 billion Canadian dollars)

using the average earnings

£2,080,000,000.00 (3.33714425 billion Canadian dollars)

using the per capita GDP

£4,460,000,000.00 (7.15560739 billion Canadian dollars)

using the share of GDP

I bet Canada could build this for 5 billion http://www.ottawa.ca/residents/heritage/archives/virtual_exhibit/building_en.html

This is what the US is getting for twice the cost of this program

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/australiaandthepacific/guam/8085749/US-to-build-8bn-super-base-on-Pacific-island-of-Guam.html

Edited by William Ashley

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I think the whole business is very tricky. The expense is staggering, yet perhaps more importantly the ongoing costs become troublesome. Should we expect to go from one project to the next in an ongoing drain to our paychecks? Where does it stop!

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I think it includes a nuclear energy plant - to keep future energy costs down, of course. They are always thinking of the taxpayer.

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For 5 billion you could build a new nuclear powered parliament building!

If it serviced all of Ottawa and made medical isotopes it might be a win - on the down side Canada's politicians might actually start to look like reptiles and that would mean no incumbents as the disguise would be blown. Ok I said the last part for kicks, as we all know Nuclear power plants don't really emit enough radiation to make people look like reptiles by casual exposure.

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I thought it was much also. Let's not forget that the PM residence is also needs updating and I'm not sure what the tab on that will be. The problem is when the gov't is in a deficit, should they be doing all this renos? I know it needs to be done but I like to know the thinking of the gov't in their planning of spending. The longer this gov't stays in power the deeper the debt becomes.

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My first thought on reading this was to wonder if we couldn't just tear them all down and build something new for half or a third the cost. I dunno, though, whether Canadians want to replace these beautiful old buildings with another glass and steel office tower. They clearly mean little to August, but then, Canada means little to August.

Apparently a billion has already been spent. The reason for the high cost is the buildings are not so much being renovated as completely gutted and rebuilt. And while they are being rebuilt, new housing has to be found for MPs, and that has to be paid for as well. This article explains a bit about the high cost and complexity.

Mr. Wright said these are projects of great complexity, particularly because the West Block will be the first 19th century load-bearing masonry building to be updated in this way. The West Block's walls are composed of three layers of stone and rubble, he said, requiring a meticulous stone-by-stone assessment.

"It's like taking apart a huge Lego kit and putting it back together," he said.

In preparation for the work, extensive research and experimentation has been done in partnership with "centres of excellence" such as the Isis Canada Research Network and the National Research Council, Mr. Wright said. Much research is being done with seismic shake tables, he said, to simulate how the Parliament Buildings will withstand earthquakes and to find the "least invasive approach to the heritage fabric of the buildings."

Hill Times

So it's not like you hire a crew to just rip out the old drywall and slap up a new sheet and paint it. Instead you hire a whole bunch of master masons to carefully work free every stone, examine it, then put it back in place with reinforcing or repair. You hand carve replacements for everything that's broken, and you test it all for earthquake resistance, on top of all the other rewiring and reinforcements being done. I don't think much of their efficiency or timelines, though. Despite the complexity it shouldn't take that long. It only took the Americans 4 years to renovate the white house the last time. Mind you, there are half a dozen buildings involved here.

Edited by Argus

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I thought it was much also. Let's not forget that the PM residence is also needs updating and I'm not sure what the tab on that will be. The problem is when the gov't is in a deficit, should they be doing all this renos? I know it needs to be done but I like to know the thinking of the gov't in their planning of spending. The longer this gov't stays in power the deeper the debt becomes.

I can't speak to the Parliament buildings and such, but in general, the longer you delay renovations and upgrades, the more expensive they ultimately become. You see a classic example in people who tarp up leaky roofs, in the end all they do is guarantee that not only with the roofing itself have to be replaced, but probably the sheathing underneath.

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My first thought on reading this was to wonder if we couldn't just tear them all down and build something new for half or a third the cost. I dunno, though, whether Canadians want to replace these beautiful old buildings with another glass and steel office tower. They clearly mean little to August, but then, Canada means little to August.

It would be a crime to knock them down. Old buildings, particularly very large ones, cost a lot of money to upgrade. Somebody mentioned the White House, well it's undergone numerous refits, and is now practically a different building structurally from the one that Lincoln slept in.

People were making the same clatter in Britain after the fire at Buckingham Palace, as if the history and symbolism meant nothing. Sometimes I think we've become a cheap and tawdry little civilization, with no respect for our architecture.

Edited by ToadBrother

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I have no idea whether the estimates are excessive or not but it depends on what kind of value Canadians put on their history. Countries that do, go to great lengths to preserve at least the character of old buildings even if they have little historical significance. In London it is not unusual to see the complete front facade of an old Victorian building sitting there on its own, supported with all kinds of reinforcement to become the front of the completely new building being built behind it.

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I am disgusted with the amount of money that has gone into these "the master stone masons" and others who designed and worked on these projects and the more than 10 years renovating and the more than a BILLION DOLLARS - hasn't produced buildings that can last another 50 to 100 years. What the heck is going on?

It is disgusting.

How can you not make a standing building for a billion dollars? The thing isn't that big.

Don't tear the sucker down turn it into a museum and cermonial center.. move the buisiness somewhere else and open the buildings to the public.

Edited by William Ashley

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Five billion dollars is expensive, by any standard at all. The reality here is that its the peoples money being spent by the government. On what it doesn't really matter, they are held accountable. At least they should be at the first opportunity.

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I am disgusted with the amount of money that has gone into these "the master stone masons" and others who designed and worked on these projects and the more than 10 years renovating and the more than a BILLION DOLLARS - hasn't produced buildings that can last another 50 to 100 years. What the heck is going on?

It is disgusting.

How can you not make a standing building for a billion dollars? The thing isn't that big.

Don't tear the sucker down turn it into a museum and cermonial center.. move the buisiness somewhere else and open the buildings to the public.

If you want to keep it and use it, you will have to fix it no matter what you use it for. Nothing goes to pot faster than an unused building.

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This seems excessive.

Someone with the inside scoop do tell.

How much does it cost to build one of these buildings?

I have no idea but a new 300 bed hosptial in Calgary costs 1.4 billion...5 billion for a reno seems a wee bit much...

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Do we even have enough helicopters to fill a small carrier?

Not sure whether the Navy even has enough for its frigates and destroyers.

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It is disgusting.

How can you not make a standing building for a billion dollars? The thing isn't that big.

Don't tear the sucker down turn it into a museum and cermonial center.. move the buisiness somewhere else and open the buildings to the public.

Apparently you missed the part where they said the buildings are at the end of their lives and are now too dangerous to be kept open any longer. You want them to collapse on the heads of the general public?

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I have no idea but a new 300 bed hosptial in Calgary costs 1.4 billion...5 billion for a reno seems a wee bit much...

It's more like gutting them and rebuilding them brick by brick, and there are half a dozen of them. Oh, and they apparently want to add another new building - while putting most of the MPs and meeting rooms and such in some other building they'll have to rent/buy and renovate for that purpose - for years.

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The cost probably isn't high at all. The reality is, these are some of the finest examples of gothic revival and Victorian high gothic (the Library) in the world. They are national symbols and they are the seat and offices of our federal government. It doesn't how much they cost. The same really goes for Rideau Hall and the Citadel. These buildings are our history. How can we put a price on that? I say fix them, no matter the cost. Money can always be replaced. These buildings can't. I can't believe that there is even an argument over whether or not they should be renovated and restored.

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I agree they should be restored but five thousand million dollars seems like a lot of money to me. The things aren't even 100 years old yet.

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