Must-see QP: Ottawa’s old bread factory languishes

Your daily dose of political theatre

Adrian Wyld/CP

Adrian Wyld/CP

Maclean’s is your home for the daily political theatre that is question period. If you’ve never watched, check out our primer. Today, QP runs from 2:15 p.m. until just past 3. We livestream and liveblog all the action.

The must-see moment

Ottawa is full of national museums that are sometimes gleaming, other times sombre, and occasionally breathtaking. The war museum is the sombre one, designed to resemble a bunker. The nature museum is gleaming, after years of construction and an impressive, modern addition to a heritage building that briefly housed Parliament. The air and space museum is full of natural light, cool airplanes, and the last surviving bits of the venerable Avro Arrow. The agriculture museum is a charming bite of rural life in the middle of an urban farm. The Canadian Museum of History, which sits on the Gatineau side of the Ottawa River, is the breathtaking museum that hosts big galas in its spectacular Great Hall.

Then, smack in the middle of an industrial neighbourhood surrounded by suburbia, is the National Science and Technology Museum. No one’s visiting that one, because its doors are locked. Forty-seven years after an old bread factory was converted into the museum in time for the country’s centennial celebrations, inspectors detected unacceptable levels of mould in the air and shuttered the place indefinitely. Recently released documents describe the slow collapse of the museum’s roof and presence of asbestos.

Those various woes finally forced the government’s hand. On Nov. 18, a couple of cabinet ministers announced an $80.5-million refurbishment of the museum. John Baird, the foreign affairs minister and cabinet’s point-man in Ottawa, said the money would produce “a complete makeover, not a Band-Aid.” Paul Dewar, a nearby MP, was just relieved that no one was hurt as the museum’s condition degraded. “I’m just glad that the roof didn’t collapse when there were people there. You know, this is a place for families, for young people, for kids.”

This afternoon, Dewar rose in question period, curious about timing. Documents revealed that the government knew about the mould, asbestos and leaky roof for at least a year before the museum closed. “Why did the minister delay funding, and let things get this bad?” he asked.

Heritage Minister Shelly Glover rose, expressed pride in the government’s plan to refurbish the museum, and expressed dismay that the NDP would oppose spending on the Canadian Museum of History.

The recap

The context

We kept wondering how the veterans affairs file could get more troublesome for a government. This won’t help: “The federal government will argue Wednesday that its social covenant to care for injured veterans was just political speech and not meant to be taken seriously.” That’s a lede from Paul McLeod’s story in the Halifax Chronicle-Herald about a legal tussle between government lawyers and veterans unhappy with how they’re receiving disability benefits. Let’s watch the government talk its way out of yet another mess on a file that’s slipped out of its control.

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