• Myrna Driedger

Legislature Restoration Project

Originally published in the November, 2020 Lifestyles

In 2019, the Manitoba Legislative Assembly passed The Legislative Building Centennial Restoration and Preservation Act. The purpose of this is to fund the upkeep of our beautiful Legislative Building. This year marks the 150th anniversary of our province and importantly, the centennial of the Manitoba Legislature. When it was built in 1920, this building was the one of the most impressive and grand buildings in all of North America. And rightfully so.

Winnipeg was a booming center with a population growing rapidly. Our geographic location nurtured our standing as an important transportation hub, we are after all the gateway to the west. Agriculture was and continues to be an important economic driver in Manitoba. These factors are represented by our Golden Boy who is modeled after the Roman god for the spirit of enterprise and holds wheat in one arm. Details like these are abundant throughout our building and call to attention just how much thought and planning went into this architectural and design marvel. Despite working in the Manitoba Legislative Building for a number of years, I continue to be inspired everyday by the fascinating aspects of our building. The design of this place was forward thinking and planned for long term population growth. Just think, all those years ago builders placed more seats in the chamber than there were MLAs- an ode to the expected population growth and the need for an increase in provincial representatives.

Any building that is 100 years old will need upkeep, but especially a building as large, as utilized, and as symbolic as our Legislature. For many years, the upkeep was pushed down the line. Now, we’ve reached the point in which we must invest in this building for upkeep and restoration. In my role as Speaker, I have been tasked with co-chairing the Manitoba Legislative Restoration and Preservation Committee. I am so honoured and grateful to lend my voice to this important project. This committee will provide advice and guidance on the long term restoration plan. Our committee is chaired by myself as Speaker of the Manitoba Legislative Assembly and Roberta Christianson who is also Chair of the Manitoba Foundation for the Arts. The committee members are each experts on important facets that relate to this building restoration. We have people who are experts in architecture, engineering, history, a former long time Legislative grounds keeper, and the long time Legislative building manager, to name a few. Each of these committee members has a knowledgeable perspective that will help to guide these projects on a strong path forward.

The Legislative Building Centennial Restoration and Preservation Act sets out a 15 year plan. Any restoration project in a unique and 100 year old building will need to be well thought out and completed to the highest standard. It’s important that we understand many of these projects are enormous undertakings that need time to execute. This 15 year time frame allows for the proper levels of research, planning, and labour to be input into these important projects.

Anyone who drove down Broadway over the summer will have noticed scaffolding built up around the front of the Legislature. This was one of the first restoration projects undertaken. Cleaning the exterior limestone is part of the overall exterior stone restoration. A few methods were used to clean the stone including water misting, steam application, and chemical cleaners. This project took place over three months and has made an impactful difference. Just look at the example of the Sphinxes- what a difference!

Currently, a restoration project underway is the rotunda project. This project includes painting the domed ceiling and improving the lighting. The rotunda is one of the most remarkable interior places of our legislature and a place I am very familiar with. Every day that the House is sitting, the Speaker’s parade walks through the rotunda into the Chamber. What an interesting experience it was to walk through the scaffolding on October 7 when the House resumed with the Speech from the Throne!

I am honoured to be a part of this significant endeavour. The Manitoba Legislative Building is a gem and needs to be treated with great care and respect. The restoration taking place over the next decade and a half will ensure that this building is here and standing strong for the future generations.

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