Canada’s auditor general says the modernization of Parliament’s Centre Block is within budget so far, but the federal government needs to do a better job at making up their minds before major construction begins.
Karen Hogan warns if decision-making remains fragmented, it could lead to construction delays — and more costs for taxpayers.
The rehabilitation of Centre Block will cost up to $5 billion, and is set to be completed by 2031.
Hogan says the government is responsible for deciding what it wants, including how many office spaces, committee rooms and security measures are needed, and
“it’s important for such decisions to be made promptly so construction cost can be determined and the project can be kept on track.”
The federal government agreed to submit project reports to the Speakers of the House of Commons and Senate twice a year, and it has committed to undergo a study to ensure the space is inclusive.
The report also found that decision making “remained fragmented”, resulting in planning decision delays. For example, despite not having a final decision about the size of the new Parliament Welcome Centre, the department got parliamentary partners’ agreement to start excavation and kept spending under approved amounts.
Construction – and costs – will ramp up in coming years.
“Given the size and complexity of this undertaking, a streamlined decision-making process will be required to continue effectively managing the costs and timelines of the rehabilitation program, as construction work accelerates between now and the planned completion date of 2030–31,” Auditor General Karen Hogan wrote in her report.
Centre Block was built between 1916, when fire destroyed the original building, and 1927, and it has housed the House of Commons and the Senate of Canada since 1922. It has had only minor repairs since then.
Assessments by PSPC revealed issues including decaying structure, failing building systems (like mechanical and electrical), and hazardous material on site.
The rehabilitation project started in 2016 and construction is expected to be completed in 2030 or 2031.