By Ryan McGreal
Published August 04, 2006
Brian McHattie, Councillor for Ward 1, just issued a press release calling on Ontario Culture Minister Caroline Di Cocco to release the provincial heritage report on the Lister Block.
Back in May, McHattie asked Di Cocco to designate the Lister Block a provincial heritage building in the event that City council voted to permit its demolition.
The building was already a designated municipal heritage building, and the Municipal Heritage Committee, LACAC, had already issued a report recommending the building not be demolished.
Nevertheless, Council appeared poised to grant the permit to Labourers International Union of North America (LIUNA), the building's owner, and Hi Rise Group, LIUNA's partner, to demolish the historic building and construct a replica in its place.
The plan turned on a ten year contract with the city to lease half the office space in the replicated building at far above the going rate, effectively paying the entire cost of the demolition and reconstruction.
In response to McHattie's request, Minister Di Cocco asked the Ontario Heritage Trust to prepare a report on the Lister's heritage value. No one has seen the report, but the Trust's chairman, Lincoln Alexander, said, "[Mayor] Larry Di Ianni is going to be disappointed."
Di Ianni is a major supporter of the LIUNA plan (and LIUNA, in turn, is a major supporter of Di Ianni, having illegally overcontributed to his 2003 election campaign and also having helped to raise funds to pay Di Ianni's legal costs), so this strongly suggests the report recommended saving the building.
City Council voted on June 14 to issue the permit with the proviso that it be delayed for 60 days to see if the involved parties could work out some kind of compromise.
Controversy has swirled around the ad hoc committee that has been working in secret on this initiative, because it is heavily packed with pro-demolition partisans, including Maria Pearson, a political ally of Di Ianni and the only member of LACAC who voted to approve the demolition.
In all this time, the provincial heritage report still has not been made public.
McHattie wrote a letter to Di Cocco, arguing, "Release of the report will allow this critical provincial examination of the building to be viewed by the public, in advance of the outcome" of the review committee.
He also suggested it was in everyone's best interest "that deliberations surrounding the Lister Block ... be conducted in a fair, transparent, and open manner."
Well, it's clear that some people have benefited from the secretive process this boondoggle has followed up until now: LIUNA, which benefits directly and materially from the absence of public oversight into its dealings with the Mayor and the city.
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