19 February 2013

Closing the Doors

Many years ago I was in a meeting with people from the US Bureau of Reclamation. The discussion centred on the cost of a project. The Bureau had proposed a figure, but added "we could easily do it for twice as much."

That's the type of thinking evident with the Department of Public Works (PWGSC) management of the ground floor facilities at 395 Wellington Street, the building housing the public facilities of Library and Archives Canada.
I'm told that the cost of the facility, typically in the range of a thousand dollars for the BIFHSGO three day conference in previous years has escalated ten times. Public Works keep adding additional mandatory services and costs without regard for economy. These keep increasing in accordance with policy that "Market-based charges for the space will be progressively implemented in 2013." There is no assurance a figure quoted one day will not be higher the next week.
Fundamental to this issue is that PWGSC has no mandate to consider the government cultural mission. From their perspective if the building sits unused costs will be less - that justifies charging every conceivable cost for use. No doubt with restraint they too could do it for twice as much, they're already doing it for ten times as much!
While Paul Dewer, a member of the opposition, can object as reported in the Ottawa Citizen, restoring some balance by considering the raison d'être for the building, and some support from the government side, will be needed before any real change in direction is to be expected.
Meanwhile it's a mistake for organizations that have used the building for events in the past to think they have no other options. While a several thousand dollar deficit for one year might be considered an acceptable option, likely accompanied by a substantial increase in attendance fees, with ever increasing PWGSC charges it is unlikely to be so next year. Why procrastinate? For a meeting next September, as long as minds are open to change and not only in location, there is time.

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