The West Block of Parliament Hill in Ottawa is one of 120 fully occupied office buildings run by Public Works that are in a state of serious disrepair. Renovations are expected to be completed by 2017.
Nearly 5,000 federal buildings and homes are in serious disrepair, a national database shows.
The RCMP headquarters in Ottawa, Parliament’s West Block and other office towers in the capital’s core are at “high risk of building system failure,” according to data from the Treasury Board, which monitors federal real estate.
In Ottawa, workers occupying federal offices told the Toronto Star of malfunctioning elevators and undrinkable water.
Michel Duquet, executive director of the Canadian Historical Association, said he is “not at all surprised” that his agency’s former office building at 344 Wellington St. — also known as West Memorial — is classified as critical.
“I remember piles and piles of spring water coolers supplied for free. We couldn’t drink the water there,” said Duquet, whose association relocated to a healthier, new space.
“I did not feel safe when I went into their elevators,” said Lyne Larente, an administrator with Library and Archives Canada, which has also relocated.
Also topping the list:
• More than 2,300 National Defence buildings, including housing for soldiers and their families on military bases in Ontario and beyond.
More than 370 buildings run by the Correctional Service of Canada, including prisons, treatment centres and staff training compounds.
More than 600 structures maintained by Parks Canada, including cottages, recreation halls and amphitheatres.
West Memorial, an official heritage site erected in the early 1960s as a tribute to those killed during World War II, “has not been upgraded in any significant way since then,” said Mélanie Bergeron McAndrew, a spokeswoman for Public Works and Government Services Canada.
It is one of about 120 office sites run by the department that are listed in poor or critical condition.
Currently vacant, West Memorial is scheduled for major renovations within the next five years, McAndrew said.
The federal real estate directory holds data on nearly 40,000 owned and leased government buildings across the country.
An official appointed by the custodian for a particular building, typically a Crown corporation or federal department, must classify the condition of the structure and report that information to the Treasury. Sites may be ranked as good, fair, poor or critical. The ranking is reviewed annually.
Both poor and critical designations describe properties with “serious signs of deterioration.”
The Treasury defines critical sites as those where “operational and maintenance costs are high with frequent emergency maintenance and repair required. Risk of building and building systems failure is high.”
Of 2,302 military buildings operated by the Department of National Defence, 665 are housing units in poor condition.
A hundred of the Canadian military’s substandard housing units are at Camp Borden, 15 kilometres west of Barrie. The base has 744 homes in total.
On a street called Walcheren Loop, an army wife who shares a two-storey home with her husband and children told the Star she has been waiting nearly four years for the Canadian Forces Housing Agency to fix the wonky concrete steps that lead to her backyard.
“Whenever I ask, they always say it’s about budget,” said the woman, who asked that her name not be used.
The Department of National Defence said plans to repair, demolish or replace housing are prioritized case by case.
“Tactical priorities, funding availability, as well as the assets’ overall condition, suitability, compliance and utilization levels are also taken into consideration,” DND spokeswoman Nancy Cook said in an email.
RCMP headquarters — the L.H. Nicholson Building — at 1200 Vanier Pky. in Ottawa has been listed in critical condition for years.
In 2009, as part of the federal Economic Action Plan, Public Works pledged to invest nearly $90 million to repair and restore properties across Ottawa, including the RCMP headquarters. More than $6 million was spent on renovations at 1200 Vanier, it said.
Three years later, the RCMP is moving out.
A police spokeswoman said the building’s “capacity and systems no longer meet the long-term demands placed upon the RCMP in today’s policing environment.”
The new location for the headquarters at 73 Leikin Dr. “has allowed the RCMP to consolidate many of its programs and functions which were located in several facilities around the National Capital Region,” Cpl. Laurence Trottier said.
The last group of about 3,000 employees is expected to move in by the end of this year. The new building is owned by Minto Developments Inc.
As for what will become of the soon-to-be vacant space at 1200 Vanier, Public Works said it is “currently reviewing its options for the future of the asset and, as such, a new tenant has not been identified.”
Public Works is also responsible for the West Block of Parliament, another federal heritage site, which was slated to be part of a $5-billion, 25-year plan to renovate Parliament Buildings.
Renovations hit a snag after reports came out in 2010 that the $9-million contract to renovate part of the West Block went to a Montreal construction company after its owner, Paul Sauvé, allegedly paid off a Tory-connected businessman.
Trottier would not confirm whether the RCMP is still investigating.
Public Works said renovations across the entire building are expected to be completed by 2017.
The National Capital Commission operates more than 200 facilities categorized as poor and critical. While many are agricultural storage facilities, barns and silos, some of the properties are tenanted housing.
Repairs to the homes’ foundations and roofs have been completed in six of the department’s 15 tenanted homes, which are located in the Ottawa greenbelt or Gatineau Park, NCC spokesman Jean Wolff said.
Similar work is underway or remains to be started in the other nine houses, he said.
Just because a National Capital Commission property is graded poor does not mean it is unlivable, Wolff said.
The commission’s director of real estate, he explained, will assign a poor designation to a site if its plumbing lines, for example, are “of a certain age” and not necessarily because the plumbing needs to be replaced immediately.
Many properties were purchased in parkland or greenbelt areas, Wolff said, with the intention of demolishing them once the properties had run their use.
It’s part of a plan to “renaturalize” the land, he said.
Data analysis by Andrew Bailey
Comments what should the Government do about these buildings, should they leave them as is,rebuild, tear down?