Millennials Leaving Their Mark on Modernizing Parliament Hill
THE SPECTACULAR MODERNIZATION project unfolding today on Parliament Hill will serve as a 21st century legacy to the people of Canada, thanks in no small part to the spirited contribution of the millennial generation.
Front and centre today is a massive seven and a half year, $863 million effort to rehabilitate the West Block, Canada’s oldest Parliament building, which dates back to 1859 and is scheduled to reopen later this year as the temporary home for the House of Commons.
Since November 2013, the Ironworkers Local 765 union, headquartered in Metcalfe, has contributed a yeoman effort to this project. More than 100 of its members, including millennials, working for various contractors, have installed some 3,000 tons of steel, while logging 130,000 work hours – all without serious lost-time incidents.
“The guys are awfully proud that they worked on that project. They all tell me that when they bring their families downtown, they take them to Parliament Hill and tell them ‘that’s where I’m working,’” says Don Melvin, the president and business agent for Ironworkers Local 765.
Melvin notes that the Ironworkers Local 765 membership has increased from about 260 in 2002 to over 700 members today. The union has, he insists, also appealed to the millennials, who are now roughly between about the ages of 20 to 38.
All of the members in Local 765 approach their job in a similar fashion. “It has always been that the older guys pass along the tricks of the trade and bring the proud history of Ironworkers to the younger generations to get the work done,” says Melvin.
There are about 150 members of his union in the youngest generation, and they are appreciative of what belonging to a union can do for their careers. “All of them are happy that they have joined. They see a good wage, and pension and benefits,” Melvin says.
As well as having contributed to a project that will leave its mark on Canadian architectural history. “We put in all the reinforcing rebar in the concrete. After that, the structural guys came in and did a lot of work shoring up the massive stones that make up the West Block,” Melvin explains.
The ironworkers also literally did a lot of the heavy lifting for this project, as they were instrumental in efforts to lift an existing floor in the West Block using a shoring system to stabilize it. They also installed a large skylight between heritage stones that couldn’t be removed without causing damage. And they positioned a temporary bridge between the West Block building and the Visitors Centre, while working in very tight quarters.
This complex rehabilitation project also necessitated the replacement of electrical, mechanical and life-safety systems. Asbestos was removed. Information technology and multimedia capacity was installed. Some 44,000 cubic metres of bedrock had to be dynamited to hollow out a large area, which required the installation of 920 metric tonnes of reinforcing steel and large stud rails.
“The biggest part of the job was constructing the atrium that’s right in the middle of the West Block,” recalls Melvin.
On the exterior of the West Block, workers have replaced windows and the roof, refurbished the exterior masonry, as well as sculptural elements and, with the participation of Local 765, rehabilitated the building’s decorative ironwork. With the Ottawa Valley situated in one of the most earthquake-prone zones in Canada, the building also underwent a seismic and structural reinforcement to be able to survive a potentially serious earthquake.
Opening is scheduled for the Fall 2018 session of Parliament, while the Centre Block is itself refurbished. Various support functions for the House of Commons, including four committee rooms, along with offices for the Prime Minister, House officers and political party leaders and its whips, will also abode in the new West Block.