Statement made on 28 April 2009 by Senator Elizabeth Hubley
Hon. Elizabeth Hubley:
Honourable senators, I would like to thank Senator Grafstein for introducing this bill, and I would like to add my support for the bill and encourage its swift passage.
Bill S-201 would amend the Library and Archives of Canada Act to provide for the establishment of a permanent display in the city of Ottawa of portraits and works related to portraiture from the collection from the Library and Archives of Canada.
The permanent display is to be called the "National Portrait Gallery," and under the provisions of the bill would be located on the site of the former American embassy on Wellington Street.
Honourable senators, it has been eight years since former Prime Minister the Right Honourable Jean Chrétien acknowledged the need for a national portrait gallery and, to my dismay, it still has not been established. I encourage colleagues not to let partisan politics play a role in this issue and to support the establishment of the national portrait gallery.
Recently, in answer to a question in Question Period about the national portrait gallery posed by Senator Mahovlich, the Leader of the Government said:
Given the current economic situation, the uncertainty in the country, and the fact that people in this country are facing job losses and difficult economic conditions, I do not believe that it is prudent for the government to even consider proceeding with this proposal or project at this time.
I beg to differ with my honourable colleague. Perhaps given the work that has been previously done toward the preparation of the site of the former American embassy at the location for the national portrait gallery of Canada, it lends itself well to an infrastructure project that could be quickly started. This project would also help stimulate the economy by creating jobs and encouraging tourism.
The question I always have at these times is why Canadians need a reason to celebrate our culture and our heritage. The former American embassy building is a beautiful site with a prime location in the National Capital Region and, in my view, would be an excellent location to permanently house our national treasures. A permanent location would protect these treasures to ensure that they are preserved and made accessible for the enjoyment of all Canadians now and into the future.
Canadians deserve to have a national portrait gallery to present the wonderful diversity of individuals who have left and are leaving their mark on our culture and heritage. I encourage honourable senators to support this bill.