New report says Queen’s Park in need of major renovation, requires ‘immediate attention’

Fire hazards, floods and unsafe electrical systems have become the norm at Queen's Park. Richard Southern with why urgent renovations are needed.

By Richard Southern and Meredith Bond

A new report looking at the issues facing the legislative buildings at Queen’s Park paints a very troubling picture and shows it’s in need of a major renovation.

The internal report showed the legislative building is “vulnerable to fire due to the combustible nature of existing construction materials and decades of haphazard renovations.”

“It is clear the building is not safe from fire, water damage, electrical malfunction or technological failures,” it reads.

“The greatest threat to the safe occupation of the Legislative Building is the potential catastrophic failure of one or more of the physical systems within the structure,” the report goes on to say.

It also said a serious incident is likely to occur if this work is delayed and several issues require “immediate attention.”

The report goes on to say that the grand staircase area in the Legislative Building is a particular fire worry as it is a large open space where air circulates between three floors.

The building hasn’t undergone a renovation since it first opened in 1893. Since then, the provincial government has spent each day working at Queen’s Park.

Ted Arnott, the Speaker of the House, said the building is “not up to code in many respects.”

“It’s the electrical systems, it’s the fire systems, fire suppression that we don’t have,” said Arnott. “There’s some suggestions it’s not a safe workplace.”

The need for repairs is evident when you walk the halls of the building, with the committee room, which flooded just the other day, as just one example.

“Unfortunately, we’ve had a water leak, and water has come down from upstairs, causing us to not be able to use the room until we can get things dried out and hopefully renovated,” explained Arnott.

He said this is not an isolated incident.

“We’ve had a lot of water damage in recent months here at the legislature because of pipes that are bursting.”

Other political leaders agree something needs to be done.

“Every day, I come here I almost pinch myself and think what a beautiful place to work. But it’s clear that it does need to be upgraded and renovated,” said Green Party leader Mike Schriner.

“The HVAC system here is pretty awful. Half the building right now has their windows open because it’s too hot and the other half are freezing,” he added.

While several options are being looked at, the report recommends a full closure of the legislative building for renovations that could take up to eight years.

“It would be massive, and it would be essentially gutting the building to be able to put back up-to-date plumbing, wiring, and ventilation systems,” said Arnott.

“There is a need for a complete decant of the assembly to another location such that we can do the renovations that are required and bring the building back to standard for the generations to come,” he added. “We can’t continue to fulfill our essential function as a legislature in this building as it is as it continues to, unfortunately, crumble around us.”

Arnott said there are some estimates being thrown around, but they are not in the position “to release a cost estimate now with any degree of confidence or certainty.”

The timeline of when this renovation will take place is still unknown, but it will likely be around five years before the legislature closes down.

“We’re in the preliminary planning stages where we’re working with the government and the Minister of Legislative Services, who also has a deep and sincere interest in helping us move forward with this project,” added Arnott.

A renovation is currently underway at Parliament Hill as well, including the House of Commons in the Centre Block, meaning MPs have had to move into a temporary House in the West Block during the 10-year project.

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