Special Report: Heritage

Council, Province Have an Obligation to Protect Heritage

At both the municipal and provincial level, there is a clear process for determining whether and when to intervene to protect a heritage building from demolition.

By Kieran C. Dickson
Published August 05, 2013

There is no question that both Council and the Province have the ability to protect our built heritage, in particular the buildings at 18-28 King Street East, threatened with demolition.

I will go a step further and say that both levels of government have an obligation, as a matter of good governance, to use their powers under the Ontario Heritage Act when appropriate.

But when is it appropriate to intervene? Not every old building can or should be saved and the determination of whether a building warrants preservation is complex. So how do our elected representatives know when to act?

Municipal Heritage Committee

At the municipal level, we have heritage staff and a Municipal Heritage Committee consisting of professionals and others who have a special interest in built heritage.

The Committee is charged with advising Council on heritage matters and does so after evaluating individual cases on their merits, based upon criteria set by regulation under the Ontario Heritage Act.

On December 20, 2012, our Municipal Heritage Committee considered both 18-22 King Street East and 24/28 King Street East and advised Council to designate these properties, all of them and without condition or limitation.

Council has not yet acted on this recommendation because of the controversial agreement struck with the property owner.

Council should immediately take the action recommended by the Municipal Heritage Committee.

Ontario Heritage Trust

At the Provincial level, designation of buildings is the responsibility of our Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport, Michael Chan. The test for designation by the Minister is also set by regulation and also requires a determination of worthiness on the merits.

Fortunately, the Minister has access to the very specialized guidance of our Ontario Heritage Trust, which has amongst its objects "to advise and make recommendations to the Minister on any matter relating to the conservation, protection and preservation of the heritage of Ontario."

Whenever there is a serious question of whether he should exercise his powers under the Ontario Heritage Act, Minister Chan can and should seek guidance from the experts at the Trust.

The Trust exists for this reason and Ontario taxpayers have a reasonable expectation that the Province will avail itself of this resource.

It is not known whether Minister Chan has yet sought advice from the Trust. If not, this should be done immediately.

Time is of the Essence

Time is of the essence. While there seems to be a general recognition that the Gore Park streetwall must not be lost, the demolition permits remain outstanding, demolition fencing is in place, and the buildings remain under imminent threat.

The time for action - by both Council and Minister Chan - is now.


Tell Council and the Province to designate the Gore and protect these buildings from demolition:

mtrmclco@ontario.ca, mchan.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org>, Bob.Bratina@hamilton.ca, Brian.McHattie@hamilton.ca, Jason.Farr@hamilton.ca, Bernie.Morelli@hamilton.ca, Sam.Merulla@hamilton.ca, Chad.Collins@hamilton.ca, Tom.Jackson@hamilton.ca, Scott.Duvall@hamilton.ca, Terry.Whitehead@hamilton.ca, Brad.Clark@hamilton.ca, Maria.Pearson@hamilton.ca, Brenda.Johnson@hamilton.ca, Lloyd.Ferguson@hamilton.ca, Russ.Powers@hamilton.ca, Robert.Pasuta@hamilton.ca, Judi.Partridge@hamilton.ca, kevin.finnerty@ontario.ca, Peter.armstrong@ontario.ca, tamara.ansoncartwright@ontario.ca, tmcMeekin.mpp@liberal.ola.org, ahorwath-co@ndp.on.ca

Kieran C. Dickson is a partner with the downtown Hamilton law firm Evans, Philp LLP. He is the Vice President, External Affairs and Government Relations, of the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario and has carried out his own heritage property redevelopment projects in the downtown core.

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By Finger (anonymous) | Posted August 07, 2013 at 07:45:56

Thanks for the great effort. Why can't this go through? Oh right the council we have.

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By Connie (registered) | Posted August 09, 2013 at 04:40:54

Our councillors aren't capable of making the right decisions on making downtown viable. They only understand big box stores and miles of parking lots. Pedestrian street life? Not in their experience. They don't get it.

But maybe they won't get reelected with six holes in the ground where the Gore heritage district once stood. These are the councillors who refused to designate the buildings last January, and are entirely responsible for their demolition: Colins, Clarke, Ferguson, Partridge, Pearson.

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By Majorian (anonymous) | Posted August 13, 2013 at 14:44:18

As a lawyer Kieran Dickson must be aware that the Ontario Heritage Act is enabling legislation and places no obligation upon municipalities to designate property either under Parts IV or V of the Act.

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By z jones (registered) | Posted August 13, 2013 at 15:03:57 in reply to Comment 90855

Maybe you missed where he wrote "...as a matter of good governance..." Guess you're not a lawyer.

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By banned user (anonymous) | Posted August 13, 2013 at 16:49:16 in reply to Comment 90857

comment from banned user deleted

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