Inside Politics

Parliament's six-month repair job

While a lot of people will be busy this month working on new year's resolutions to get fit and healthy, people working on Parliament Hill have been locked out of their main fitness centre since last summer.

The five-year-old gym lets anyone who works on the Hill use it basically free of charge -- everyone from political staffers to those providing maintenance and security support to journalists in the press gallery. There's a one-time $25 user fee and then the fitness centre is accessible, other than when it's closed an hour a day for cleaning, all day, every day.

It was initially closed for repairs near the end of June and expected to re-open by the end of August. Then another notice went out extending the closure until October, followed by a notice extending the closure until December. The latest notice went out Dec. 22, extending the closure by a further two weeks. It was supposed to re-open Dec. 31, but now will be closed until, the notice assures users, Jan. 16.

What was expected to be a six-week repair job is now at 25 weeks, or about six months.

Looks like the East and West blocks aren't the only parliamentary buildings on a delayed repair schedule.

A spokesman for Public Works and Government Services Canada says the fitness centre was closed to replace tiles in the showers.

"Tiles located along the lower walls in the shower stalls are breaking away and need to be replaced. PWGSC is replacing all the one-inch [2.5 cm] mosaic tiles the bottom six inches [15 cm] of the stalls, and replacing them with larger two-inch [5 cm] tiles," Sebastien Bois wrote in an email.

Bois says the repair schedule was deferred so a design engineer could do a secondary review of the repair plan, confirm the source of the problem, and ensure "the chosen solution would be long-lasting." 

"The secondary review confirmed the original plan and the project is now scheduled to be completed by January 16, 2012," he wrote.

Asked whether it was a mold problem, Bois said, "No, the renovations were prompted by a health and safety concern as broken and missing tiles represented a risk in the showers to users and not due to mold."

Bois says the repair costs $28,000, to be shared between the House of Commons and Public Works, and that even though the gym has been closed four times longer than expected, the delay didn't increase the cost of the project because the scope of the work didn't change.

MPs and senators, however, have no excuse for not working on their new year's resolutions: MPs have a private gym, and senators and Senate staff have a work-out room in one of the Senate buildings.

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