City to push feds to keep portrait gallery here

With some councillors calling it “ridiculous” they should have to bid at all, the city is expected today to ask the federal government for time to prepare a case for housing the National Portrait Gallery here.

A city committee is expected to approve a staff report recommending that Mayor Larry O’Brien petition the feds and local Members of Parliament to push for the deadline to be extended, from Feb. 13 to late May.

One reason the city may want to extend the deadline is to learn the fate of the Ottawa Community Concert Hall. The hall is supposed to be built at 150 Elgin St., but the Ottawa Chamber Music Society has had trouble raising money needed to build there, and has a deadline of Feb. 28.


City staff inquired about the site, but property owner Morguard, felt “it would not be appropriate to respond.”

The report also recommends that Ottawa waive development charges, estimated at $431,200.

On Nov. 6, the federal government announced a nine-city competition to house the gallery. But the feeling at City Hall is that there should not be a competition at all.

“We’re not the ones who made this ridiculous decision to put this out to tender,” said Coun. Georges Bedard (Rideau-Vanier).

“The federal government has taken this route, and if we want to be considered, then we have to play their game, but I think this is game that shouldn’t need to be played.”

Ottawa Centre MP Paul Dewar, who blew the whistle on government plans to possibly move the gallery, said he’d support any proposal for a facility at a reasonable cost in Ottawa, but couldn’t understand why the government was insisting on a P-3 financing model.

“We have artifacts that are bought and paid for by Canadians over many years. In every other country that has a portrait gallery, they are publicly financed and administered.”

Sights set on a site

  • The report identified 150 Elgin as the only privately or city-owned “appropriate location” for the gallery.

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