The vote on the Château Laurier that City Council will have tomorrow is profoundly important. Not because of its potential impact on what gets built (I remain pessimistic about that), but because it is City Council’s last chance to atone for evading its responsibility a year ago, when it voted to “conditionally accept” the proposed addition.

The Château, as the mayor is fond of repeating, is privately owned. But it is also a National Historic Site and designated under the Ontario Heritage Act. City Council has a legal obligation to uphold that act, and therefore has – or at least had – the authority to disallow any alterations to the building that compromise its heritage value.

Council completely dropped that ball last summer, when they “conditionally” approved a design that was widely condemned as hopelessly incompatible with the historic building. They then cynically downloaded responsibility for deciding whether their conditions had been met to unelected City staff, ensuring that they would not have to vote on it again. Pontius Pilate is alive and well and working at 110 Laurier.

Except. Councillor Mathieu Fleury is determined to make Council debate the provisional heritage permit granted last year, and vote on whether to allow it or revoke it. Tomorrow, they will vote on whether or not to have that debate.

They must, at the very least, have that debate. Anything less would be an unconscionable dereliction of duty. City Council has the authority and responsibility to decide this. The public has shown they care deeply about the issue. As our elected representatives, they owe it to us to make a final decision, in full public view, and live with the political consequences of that decision.

Last summer, Council all but ensured that we’d get an addition to the Château Laurier that was widely condemned by experts and despised by the public. Even if they lack the vision to fix that mistake, they should at least have the courage to own it.

Peter Coffman