Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Good morning, colleagues.
As you know, I'm reporting here today as the chair of the long-term vision plan working group. I'm joined here again by officials who are on this project on a daily basis. We have Susan Kulba, with digital services and real property section here in Parliament; and Rob Wright and Jennifer Garrett from PSPC.
To update you on essentially two main points that arose out of our meeting on February 5, the first is to share some costing information that has been shared with the working group from PSPC, and, secondly, to put in front of you our recommendation for a concept design option for the main entry to the Parliament welcome centre.
Before we go to those, I want to give you a few little photos of a presentation on the progress of construction, which continues to move along well and remains on track with respect to all of the project plans.
On the first item, PSPC presented their approach to establishing a full costing for the Centre Block project. They outlined the key project decisions that have been made so far that have impacted the overall costs, including preserving the existing size or footprint of the House of Commons, for example, the size of the Parliament welcome centre, and things like the proposed use of the existing light courts and light wells.
To build on this, they went on to itemize some of the remaining decisions that will further add to the accuracy and overall costing of the project.
To give you an idea of where the project is currently, in terms of expenditures relative to budget, the initial allocation for Centre Block was $655 million. This was for the five-year period, fiscal 2017-18 through until fiscal 2021-22. To date, $150 million of that $655 million has been spent, and that has been used to enable the design and construction activities, including interior demolition work and the abatement of hazardous materials.
With regard to the second part of that budget relating to the Parliament welcome centre, an initial budget of $106 million was allocated, again for the same five-year period, 2017-18 through to 2021-22, the next fiscal year. To date, out of that $106 million, $35 million has been spent, and that's been used to essentially complete all of the design elements as well as to begin the excavation activities.
As a final note on the cost side of this equation, decisions have been taken that have helped to put some precision around these costs. I point to a decision, first of all early on, when, as an example, the House of Commons chamber was established with a decision not to make it any bigger than it currently is—to keep the existing footprint. That essentially avoided a cost of an extra $100 million, had we chosen to expand it.
Secondly, on the Parliament welcome centre, you will recall that we opted for the medium-size approach to the welcome centre, and that was $120 million less than had we gone for the larger welcome centre.
Public Services and Procurement Canada, or PSPC, will stay in touch with its parliamentary partners to make the other important decisions this spring. Turner & Townsend will complete the construction cost estimates and benchmarking reports, after which we will have more information for you.
We also received an update from Centrus, the architectural firm responsible for the Centre Block, on its work since the fall to refine the access strategy for the Parliament welcome centre.
Indeed, you may recall that we have used an independent design review panel, or IDRP, to provide advice during the development of this important part of the project. This committee is comprised of reputable professionals in the design community who have experience with issues related to the project.
It was created last fall by PSPC, with the support of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada, to provide an independent assessment of the main entry project. This entry and its location are extremely sensitive from a heritage perspective and given their potential impact on the front lawn of Parliament.
After considering the review panel's concerns and suggestions, Centrus officials presented us with various options for the central entry, and then indicated which one they preferred and which received unanimous consent from the panel members. They liked the simplicity and elegance of this option and the way it mitigates the impact on the heritage elements surrounding it.
The preferred option locates an entrance on either side of the central stair. You'll see before you on slide 4 a plan view of what we mean, with an added pathway on each side departing from the central walkway as you approach the central stairs, each leading directly to each new entrance.
The geometry of the paths themselves is drawn from the existing geometry. You'll see that the pathways, the symmetry or the geometry, if you will, of the paths on either side of the walkway very much mirror the approach taken by the Pearson-designed entrances under the Peace Tower.
Some advantages of these entrances are the fact that they're visible. Each of them will be visible from the central walkway, so it's an intuitive and easily understood pathway for visitors who have never been to the Hill before. It's a gentle slope towards the new entrances, so these will be ramps that help improve accessibility and will not require handrails. Thirdly, the entrance design is simple and is accomplished with as little intervention into the heritage features and materials as possible. There's minimal impact on the use of the lawn that is enjoyed by so many for activities throughout the year.
We as a working group had the opportunity to ask questions and have a discussion with the IDRP to understand and explore the design that they had presented, and we are satisfied and believe that the proposed option responds to any concerns as to how the entrance might interfere with or encroach upon the front lawn and that it meets the operational requirements of the Parliament welcome centre.
Based on the merits of the proposed option, the working group recommends that your board endorse this design option for the central entry to the welcome centre.
I'll welcome any questions or suggestions the board may have on those concept options.
Our next steps will be to review the key elements of the decisions advocated by PSPC in order to establish the basic costing. After reviewing each of these key elements, we will make recommendations and seek your advice.
We will also be meeting with our Senate colleagues in the coming weeks to discuss the proposal to fill the skylights in the Centre and East Blocks, and we will inform you of the outcome of our discussions.
I thank you for your attention, and I'm happy to take any questions that you may have.