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Senators all aboard for move to historic train station
January 31, 2017

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.

Moving the Red Chamber into a new home will mean a short trip from Parliament Hill for senators — and huge savings for taxpayers.

“When we were presented with the challenge of finding a new location for the Senate, we felt it was important to have a temporary chamber that mirrored the dignity, solemnity and significance of Parliament’s upper house. We also felt compelled to be fiscally responsible,” said Senator Scott Tannas, chair of the Senate Subcommittee on the Long Term Vision and Plan, which is overseeing the Senate’s move.

Work is underway now to overhaul the Government Conference Centre in Ottawa, the city’s old train station, and make it the Senate of Canada’s temporary home.

There had been a proposal, similar to what the House of Commons is doing, to have the Senate set up shop in East Block with an expensive conversion of the courtyard. However, with taxpayers money in mind, Senators decided to make use of the little-used Government Conference Centre instead at a substantial savings to Canadians.

With preparations to convert the historic train station into the temporary Senate on budget, the savings to taxpayers will be $200 million compared to the original proposal to find an alternative location on Parliament Hill.

Located across the street from the Fairmont Château Laurier hotel in downtown Ottawa, the Government Conference Centre is an historic property in its own right, an example of Beaux-Arts architecture.

The Senate is slated to move there from Parliament Hill’s Centre Block in September 2018.

Finding temporary digs for both houses became necessary when plans were drawn up for an overhaul of the historic Centre Block, its first since it was built nearly 100 years ago. Those renovations are part of an overall $3.2-billion rehabilitation of buildings in the parliamentary precinct, a group of 34 Crown-owned properties. Some of them, including Parliament Hill’s Centre, West and East blocks, were facing serious deterioration. That rehabilitation work is expected to take up to 10 years.

Visitors to Parliament Hill can see evidence of the renovations in the form of cranes, construction vehicles and scaffolding.

Both houses of Parliament have been on Parliament Hill since Canada was born, 150 years ago. The Senate and House of Commons have been in the Centre Block since 1927 after it was rebuilt, following the Great Fire of 1916.

After the Senate moves out of the temporary site, a new use will be found for the Government Conference Centre that will keep it open for the public for decades to come.