OTTAWA – The federal government is planning to spend almost $50 million to create a new underground welcome centre for the hundreds of thousands of tourists who visit Parliament Hill each year.
But it’s simultaneously cutting the budget for guided tours, ensuring some 20,000 fewer visitors will actually get a peek inside the majestic buildings housing the seat of Canada’s national government.
As of Saturday — one day before the annual Canada Day bash on the Hill — there’ll be no more evening tours of the Centre Block, the heart of Canada’s democracy.
Tours during the peak summer months will end three hours earlier — at 3:20 p.m. — starting Sept. 4.
“Budgetary restraint measures mean that, effective June 30, late tours will no longer be available,” confirmed Cynthia Cusinato, associate director of corporate communications for the Library of Parliament, which is responsible for the tours.
About 355,000 visitors take the tours each year, about 20,000 of them in the evenings, according to Cusinato.
She said it’s too soon to say how much money will be saved by eliminating the late tours as the library’s contribution to the government-wide spending restraint program is still being finalized.
When Parliament is not sitting — and it very rarely does over the summer — guided tours are the only way for tourists to get inside the Centre Block, site of the House of Commons, the Senate, the iconic Peace Tower and the breathtaking Library of Parliament.
When Parliament is sitting, visitors can attempt to get tickets to sit in the public or members’ galleries overlooking the Commons and the Senate.
Tickets for the tours are limited and handed out on a first-come, first-served basis. Even before the cut to the tour schedule, thousands of disappointed tourists have been turned away each year.