By Ryan McGreal
Published April 25, 2008
Lister Block heritage supporters are one step closer to knowing what advice the Ontario Ministry of Culture received on the heritage value of the Lister Block.
Advocates have been calling since 2006 for the Ontario Ministry of Culture to release the report prepared by the Ontario Heritage Trust to the public. The report was to assess the building's heritage value.
The report was never made public, and under a compromise between the Ministry, the City of Hamilton, and Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA), the property owner, the building was not provincially designated as a heritage building.
Toward that end, Kieran Dickson, a Hamilton lawyer and heritage advocate, has been attempting to access government documents related to the Lister Block via Freedom of Information (FOI) requests.
The Ministry argues that the report is exempt under subsection 13(1) of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, which exempts:
advice or recommendations of a public servant, any other person employed in the service of an institution or a consultant retained by the institution.
This week, Dickson received a redacted copy of a report titled, "Report of the Provincial Development Facilitator on the Lister Block" and submitted by Alan Wells, the provincially appointed development facilitator, on September 27, 2006.
The redacted section discusses the Heritage Report prepared by the Ontario Heritage Trust:
Heritage value: As noted in the Heritage Report this building can be rehabilitated in a cost effective and efficient manner [rest of paragraph redacted].
Paragraph with redacted text from the Report of the Provincial Development Facilitator on the Lister Block
An annotation reads, "access denied in part to pg. 28 under s.13 as disclosure would reveal advice to government.
Interestingly, the same document is available in its entirety [PDF link] on the City of Hamilton's website.
In the non-redacted version, the same paragraph reads:
Heritage value: As noted in the Heritage Report this building can be rehabilitated in a cost effective and efficient manner – the building has local, provincial and national historic significance and its key attributes will be maintained through this rehabilitation. We believe this approach has support from the heritage community and Ministry of Culture and is consistent with the assessments made by the Ontario Heritage Trust. [emphasis added]
This strongly indicates that the Heritage Report, still unavailable to the public, concluded that the Lister Block has "local, provincial and national historic significance" - and may even have recommended designating the Lister as a provincial heritage building under the amended Ontario Heritage Act.
Why, then, did the Ministry of Culture not designate the Lister Building?
A letter by Premier Dalton McGuinty to LIUNA Vice President Joe Mancinelli, also made public through an FOI request, may provide an answer. It indicates that the Ontario Government wanted to see the issue resolved "with minimal involvement from the minister's office".
In other words, the Ontario Government may have ignored the advice of the Ontario Heritage Trust and decided not to exercise its powers under the Ontario Heritage Act so it could broker a political compromise with people, like Mancinelli, who believe that the province has no business interfereing in municipal affairs.
Of course, there's no way to be certain without reading the Heritage Report, but the Ontario Government continues to deny access to it. As Dickson concluded in a recent email:
According to the Ministry, [the reacted passage] reveals the advice to the Ontario government by the Ontario Heritage Trust. If this is the case, then I think we have learned why the Ministry of Culture is investing so much time and energy in preventing access to the Trust report.
More to come as more information becomes available.
By realcity (anonymous) | Posted April 25, 2008 at 12:50:50
Thank YOU RYAN
Thank goodness for this site.
Lights. Cockroaches. you know what happens next.
By hmag (anonymous) | Posted April 25, 2008 at 13:00:55
THANK YOU KEIRAN
for all your hard work on this...
By reshpeckabiggle (anonymous) | Posted April 25, 2008 at 14:58:08
My question is, why the heck isn't this being covered by the mainstream media? Why does it take some guy to make foi requests on his own dime when that's supposed to be the paper's job? And they wonder why people accuse them of being in collusion with the developers...
By Trepidactivist (anonymous) | Posted April 25, 2008 at 15:43:59
OK so lets say we find out the Heritage Report recommended designating the Lister Block but the government didn't do it. What do we do then?
By jason (registered) | Posted April 25, 2008 at 18:43:54
start investigating and try to figure out why. I'd start with some research into election campaigns, government construction contracts, personal friends/buddies etc.....
Also, city council deserves blame too. They should be more interested in this report than anyone.
If they're going to toss $37 million to someone for a builidng, the least they can do is make sure due diligence is followed first.
By Rob (anonymous) | Posted April 26, 2008 at 03:46:56
Thank you for this update!
By MediaWatch (anonymous) | Posted April 26, 2008 at 09:08:17
The mainstream media has covered the Lister Block saga ad nauseum. The Heritage report is perhaps viewed as anti climactic old news.
So its left up to sites like this to dregde up and disseminate.
Is it conspiracy theory or valid info? I suspect your personal perspective will let you decide that.
By trey (registered) | Posted April 26, 2008 at 11:21:27
I also wouldn't miss Lister if it was replaced with a better building. NOT A REPLICATE. By better I mean something with landmark status and architectural significance -- ie something we'd fight to save in 100 years.
Judging by what gets built as replacements -- if something gets built and its not another parking lot -- kit buildings such as the Federal Building and Staybridge Suites, I fear what would replace it. No is going to be fighting to save Staybridge Suites at the end of its lifetime in 40 years.
Make Lister into Condos, we have too much vacant office space already. Build a highrise in the back void of the building to get an economy scale and use the bottom 5 floors for a parkade. It's possible and it would be successful only it requires private investment dollarsmoney, not tax dollars and sweetheart government lease deals.
By Baystreeter (anonymous) | Posted April 27, 2008 at 09:15:17
If as the report states, "As noted in the Heritage Report this building can be rehabilitated in a cost effective and efficient manner –" then why has the cost apparently gone up and up and up.
Someone isn't telling the truth...either whoever wrote the report is incompetent or those examining the costs are.
My guess is the former. The reports were, according to media stories, apparetnlty done on the run and in short order.
I hope Council will fix this eyesore once and for all. Heaven help us if we have to rely on the so called Heritage community to do it.
Did you see them at the Council meeting? A rag tag group of bad women and old men, and youung tatooed idealists.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest right here in Hamilton!
By Baystreeter (anonymous) | Posted April 27, 2008 at 09:16:54
With apologies to the 'bad' women of Hamilton, of course I meant 'bag' women.
By highwater (registered) | Posted April 27, 2008 at 10:14:56
"My guess is the former. The reports were, according to media stories, apparetnlty (sic) done on the run and in short order."
Well of course that would be your 'guess', as that is what fits most neatly into your preconceived notions. And just what media stories would those be, as there has been no media coverage of the Ontario Heritage Trust report? Do please provide some links.
By the way, I was a member of the 'rag tag group' at council the other night and find your spin amusing. First of all, the group was over 70 strong and made up of people from all walks of life. I for one, am neither old, nor young and tattood (although I've been known to be bad and idealistic). I'm a middle class, middle aged soccer mom and there were plenty of others like me.
People like you are afraid of engaged citizens so you attempt to marginalize them by stereotyping. I suppose it makes you feel safe and superior somehow. But any one present at the meeting with eyes in their head, could see that your characterization of this group is flat out wrong.
By hmag (anonymous) | Posted April 27, 2008 at 11:20:14
Baystreeter shall I send you some photos from that night - because you must've watching something else as what you described is a flat out lie. Shame.
By Baystreeter (anonymous) | Posted April 27, 2008 at 22:14:55
I was there and saw what I saw.
By m-hag (anonymous) | Posted April 28, 2008 at 08:33:21
"Someone isn't telling the truth...either whoever wrote the report is incompetent or those examining the costs are. My guess is the former."
Yeah because LIUNA has been SOOO responsible and trustworthy with regards to the Lister Block. :P
By jason (registered) | Posted April 28, 2008 at 08:58:45
I'm curious who exactly is allowed to participate in democracy in Hamilton. According to Baystreeter, women, men and young people aren't. What about pets and wild animals??
By highwater (registered) | Posted April 28, 2008 at 10:03:28
No Jason, only idealistic young people aren't allowed. The apathetic ones are fine. So according to Baystreeter, the only people allowed to participate are the ones who don't want to participate. If that's the case, why even have public meetings at all? Let's take everything incamera. Afterall, the only citizens who are interested in transparency and accountability are freaks and wierdos and people who have had the nerve to age, and they don't count.
By trey (registered) | Posted April 28, 2008 at 12:56:18
The current leadership/establishment's favourite words.... "idealist" and "realistic" anyone who suggests something that isn't the status quo is labelled as an "idealist" and written off as someone who doesn't understand the 'real world'. As if the 'realistic' folks in this city have done anything to improve the situation. It's time for 'idealist' thinking because nothing else is working. We used to be the Ambitious City. Now we're the Lame-Duck-follow-the-wrong-examples-laggard-City. Thanks to the 'realists'.
By Frank (registered) | Posted April 29, 2008 at 09:06:19
I'm young and not tattooed and I would really like to see the Lister Block remain and LIUNA with their nuts cut off walking away from the whole project. NEVER should something like this be such a difficult decision. The building, restored to it's former glory will look amazing! Architecture like that doesn't happen today and I don't care what Baystreeter or WRCU2 think, demolishing it and letting LIUNA do what they want is like giving a child the sugar cereal in order to avoid a scene in the grocery store. Guess we know where the money comes from don't we?
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