National Press Building tenants feel squeeze

Media outlets in the National Press Building near Parliament Hill are accusing the federal government of trying to force them out.

Media outlets in the National Press Building near Parliament Hill are accusing the federal government of trying to force them out.

"We have a sense that Public Works is trying to kick us out of this building by stealth," said Hélène Buzzetti, a reporter for the Montreal newspaper Le Devoir.

Public Works and Government Services Canada leases out the space in the Wellington Street building at commercial rates to the Ottawa bureaus of many media organizations.

The building is also home to the Canadian Parliamentary Press Gallery, the organization that represents its media members in Ottawa and regulates access to events on Parliament Hill.

Some of the tenants, including the Gallery and Le Devoir, have been there for 30 years.

The building is just across the street from Parliament Hill and wired to take in TV feeds from government committees.

But recently, when news agencies have moved out, other news agencies have not been allowed to take their place.

Public Works told CBC News that as media tenants leave, the vacant space is being held to address any possible future government requirements.

New lease conditions

Rob Russo, Ottawa bureau chief for The Canadian Press, said it's not just that media that leave aren't being replaced. Public Works is also imposing new conditions on their leases.

Media organizations must now sign an agreement allowing the government to terminate their leases with 90 days' notice as a condition of renewal, Russo said. He added that CP won't sign a lease with that provision.

Buzzetti said media tenants responded to the apparent pressure from the government by presenting officials with a five-page document about a year ago "explaining who the [national press] gallery is, how many members and why we think it's very important to maintain this building."

So far, she said, the government has not responded.