Evidence of meeting #146 for Procedure and House Affairs in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was tree.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Paul Johanis  Chair, Greenspace Alliance of Canada's Capital
Andre Barnes  Committee Researcher
Lisa MacDonald  Senior Landscape Architect and Arborist, Department of Public Works and Government Services
Robert Wright  Assistant Deputy Minister, Parliamentary Precinct, Department of Public Works and Government Services
Clerk of the Committee  Mr. Andrew Lauzon
Jennifer Garrett  Director General, Centre Block Program, Department of Public Works and Government Services

12:25 p.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Parliamentary Precinct, Department of Public Works and Government Services

Robert Wright

We would have to take a significant analysis of that.

Before we get to costs, you would have a visitor welcome centre that would not be symmetrical. It would have an impact on how Parliament Hill and the landscape look. There would be no getting away from having a visitor welcome centre that would not have the symmetry that was envisioned from its beginning. We've already essentially created that symmetry with phase one.

Because phase one was essentially an anchor for the visitor welcome centre, we did do a broader conceptual design for the whole visitor welcome centre, which at the time was presented to parliamentarians, as well as going through the NCC and so on. It would be a significant re-envisioning of what the visitor welcome centre is, first and foremost.

Second—I couldn't today—we could undertake an analysis, but it would be a significant cost to try to save this tree. What I could say with confidence today is that it would have a low chance of success.

I think one thing that is important to note—because it has been noted that there is construction, and ATCO trailers and the like that are already there—is that the actual construction zone when we set it up will be much larger than what it is. There is no way that this tree will not be behind the hoarding. For the duration of the project, I can't see how it wouldn't be behind hoarding. It could not be a green space for the duration of the project. I think that's an important element.

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

David Graham Liberal Laurentides—Labelle, QC

When does this tree have to go, for your timelines as they currently stand?

12:25 p.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Parliamentary Precinct, Department of Public Works and Government Services

Robert Wright

We started with the initial plans, of which this was a part of a broader suite. It made sense with the plan to reuse the tree, to cut it before the sap started running. That was important. We had contracts in place to do the other tree, so it made sense to do it as one piece.

As I indicated, there's a suite of work that has to happen this spring and is essentially starting now. Three essential elements include archeological work; the removal of underground services, including an IT duct bank; and a construction road, which will enable Centre Block to go into rehabilitation. It will allow the decommissioning of Centre Block and enable the excavation work to proceed. Those are critical precursor projects.

All of that has to start this spring. At the very end—and it would cause challenges—as the visitor welcome centre is envisioned now, there's really no way to proceed in which the tree could remain, up to a maximum of the late summer.

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

David Graham Liberal Laurentides—Labelle, QC

You talked about planting 64 trees. Would they be around Centre Block or within the precinct generally?

12:30 p.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Parliamentary Precinct, Department of Public Works and Government Services

Robert Wright

At this point they would be within the precinct generally. We've taken essentially a principle to not replant trees multiple times. The escarpment is the focus of replanting at this point, especially along the pathway at the bottom, because we know that there will be no impact over time.

There is a master landscape plan that will be implemented as we proceed with the projects. As you can see with West Block, there are elements of that landscape plan that are being put in place at the end stage of that project. One thing we could take to analyze is if there are ways to accelerate other elements of the landscape plan over time. We took quite seriously the comments about not waiting for 10 years to have more trees and green space on the Hill.

Of course, the long-term vision and plan guides all of the work that we do in partnership with Parliament. That is kind of a co-developed plan, and we are actually undergoing a revamp of that plan right now. It would be a good time to look at how the landscape plan interweaves within the long-term vision plan and whether there are elements that could be integrated more quickly than others.

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

David Graham Liberal Laurentides—Labelle, QC

I don't have a lot of time left, but I do have some more questions.

In my riding, we estimate we have about 3 or 4 billion trees, so I have a slightly different perspective from others to forestry because we practise silviculture, which is the practice of planting trees, cultivating them and harvesting them 40 years later. I have a slightly different perspective from my urban colleagues who might not do that.

You've already talked about cutting down the tree. The sap should start flowing any day now, I assume. Can we turn it over to the House of Commons to carpentry to make long-lasting furniture for the House, for the new chamber? Is that the intention?

12:30 p.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Parliamentary Precinct, Department of Public Works and Government Services

Robert Wright

Absolutely. We would want to work hand in hand with Parliament on what is appropriate.

We've already engaged with the dominion sculptor to commemorate the tree, and that could come from some carvings that would be put in Centre Block. It could be in other parliamentary buildings. It could be furniture; it could be some significant elements. It could be in public space or in chamber space. That's really to work for co-development with Parliament on that.

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

David Graham Liberal Laurentides—Labelle, QC

We talked to the previous witness about the fact that the University of Guelph has taken stubs of this tree. Would you be able to plant the same tree back on the Hill by doing that?

12:30 p.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Parliamentary Precinct, Department of Public Works and Government Services

Robert Wright

Yes. There are two things. One is that they have the genetic material from the tree to be part of their ongoing scientific research. Second, yes, the plan is to plant the same stock throughout the parliamentary precinct. We would be more than happy to work with Greenspace Alliance and Parliament to find the appropriate spots to place those.

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

Thank you.

Mr. Reid.

April 2nd, 2019 / 12:30 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, ON

Thank you to all three of you for being here, and particularly Mr. Wright. I know of your genuine love of this place. We had the chance, just by coincidence, to find ourselves both on the floor of the House the day before Parliament moved to West Block. I could see you looking on the one hand with a critical eye and on the other hand with a loving eye on the work that had been done thus far. While we are all critical in our own ways of this or that aspect of the move, I think what has been achieved in West Block is, in many respects, absolutely remarkable, quite an extraordinary accomplishment.

I also want to say one other thing. Someone decided to hold off on cutting down the tree until this meeting occurred. I don't know if that was you or somebody else, but if it's you, thank you. If it's somebody else, perhaps you could pass on our thanks for respecting the fact that we did want to meet with you earlier. Events beyond the control of anyone in this committee put that off.

Having said that, I want to ask a few things. I didn't know there was such a thing as the master landscape plan. I wonder if you'd be in a position to send that to our clerk just so that we can get an idea of what that is. We'd all be very grateful for that.

12:35 p.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Parliamentary Precinct, Department of Public Works and Government Services

Robert Wright

Absolutely.

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, ON

Should I assume that's a living document that changes with time?

12:35 p.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Parliamentary Precinct, Department of Public Works and Government Services

Robert Wright

Absolutely, and as I said, we're going through essentially a reboot of the long-term vision and plan, so that is one element that will be updated as well. The master landscape plan dates to 2012, I think, to inform many of the projects such as West Block and others. It is one of those elements being updated as part of the long-term vision and plan update.

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, ON

I have here a copy of the 2006 update to the site capacity and long-term development plan. Is that the most recent update of this plan, or is there a more recent one?

12:35 p.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Parliamentary Precinct, Department of Public Works and Government Services

Robert Wright

That is the most up-to-date plan at this point.

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

Can I interrupt just for a second? Just for the lights, it's a quorum call, so you don't have to worry about it.

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, ON

Okay, thank you, Mr. Chair.

Please, Mr. Wright.

12:35 p.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Parliamentary Precinct, Department of Public Works and Government Services

Robert Wright

That is the existing framework, and that is the plan that is being updated. There's a trio of documents that create that long-term vision and plan and the implementation framework that goes along with it. We've completed phase one of the update, and now we're in phase two. We'd be happy to come and make a presentation on that.

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, ON

On page 64 of that document is an overhead view of where everything is located, including the visitor centre. I know this is no help to you, as I'm sure you're intimately familiar with this. To state the obvious, it is south, rather than east, of Centre Block, and the tree is not on the footprint of the visitor centre as shown here. I gather something has happened since that time that has been approved through the appropriate channels to extend that footprint.

12:35 p.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Parliamentary Precinct, Department of Public Works and Government Services

Robert Wright

As you can see, that's almost a line drawing at that time from a conceptual perspective. What has evolved is the design development around phase one of the visitor welcome centre, which has recently opened, which also, in a positive way, forced thinking about the broader visitor welcome centre. That initial line drawing has continued to develop, both with professional architects and with the administrations of Parliament, about what would be envisioned in that space.

Again, we'd be happy to come and discuss where we are right now in working with parliamentary officials on what is envisioned, both in Centre Block and in the second phase of the visitor welcome centre.

I would say that the final decisions certainly have not been made with regard to the exact elements that will be in there. However, we are envisioning a visitor welcome centre phase two that would be approximately five to six times the size of phase one, which is a little over 5,000 square metres, so it's a sizable—

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, ON

The 5,000 is the current one or the one you're going to build?

12:35 p.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Parliamentary Precinct, Department of Public Works and Government Services

Robert Wright

The 5,000 is the current one, it's phase one.

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Kingston, ON

Would we be talking about building something that's 25,000?

12:35 p.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Parliamentary Precinct, Department of Public Works and Government Services

Robert Wright

That would be up to 30,000. That is grosso modo where we are looking.

Again, that's not final at this point, but this is driven by requirements that we're working to put in place.