Senator wants NCC to have power to limit development near Parliament Hill

Senator Serge Joyal. Photo: David Kawai / Postmedia

Thursday, December 12, 2019

OTTAWA CITIZEN, By Tom Spears

Serge Joyal will leave the Senate in February, but first he wants to give the National Capital Commission power to regulate development near Parliament Hill.

The raucous public debate over a planned addition to the Château Laurier drove him to launch a private member’s bill, Bill S-203, the Liberal senator said in an interview Thursday.

Currently the NCC can make decisions about development on the Hill itself, but not on private land nearby, Joyal said.

“Canada is the only G-7 country” that does not have the power to regulate development near national historic sites, he said.

He said this allows developers to build projects that cast a shadow over Parliament Hill and which are not in keeping with the Parliamentary district.

It was, he said, a problem that only occurred to people once Larco Investments made public its plan to add a seven-story, contemporary addition to the century-old Château.

He is not opposed to expansion of the Château, but this proposal does not meet the criteria for the type of development that should be allowed next to such an important historic site.

“I will be retiring in February. I will stay for second reading (of the bill) and then Senator (Patricia) Bovey will take over as sponsor,” he said.

The bill is called “An Act to amend the National Capital Act (buildings or works of national significance)” and was introduced to the Senate on Tuesday. It would apply to both building and demolition within several hundred metres of the Hill and other national historic sites.

Provinces have the power to protect the areas around their important sites, Joyal noted.

The controversial addition to the Château is in limbo after the city’s committee of adjustment rejected the hotel owner’s request for a minor variance in September.

In a written decision, the city’s committee of adjustment rejected Larco Investments’ request for a variance that would have allowed the firm to break ground on its seven-storey, 147-room addition to the historic hotel.

In rejecting the request, the five-member committee said the variance was not minor in nature.

Larco will appeal.

Heritage supporters have widely attacked the Larco plans. The City of Ottawa’s official heritage protectors — a panel of community experts in heritage and architecture — said council’s planning committee should reject the latest design.

Joyal said other senators have been supportive of his idea so far. If his bill passes the Senate it would be sent to the House of Commons, where he believes it may be non-partisan enough to pass even with a minority government.

He also thanked this newspaper for keeping the story in the public view.

 

Read private members Bill S-203 here. La version française est ici.