Sober second look? National portrait gallery gets bipartisan Senate support

Sober second look? National portrait gallery gets bipartisan Senate support

The reputation of the Red Chamber is still taking a beating after the actions and comments of senators Don Meredith and Lynn Beyak, and there are emerging accusations of gamesmanship, "threats," and legislative "ambushing," being lobbed across the aisles.

But there is one thing they seem united on — turning the old U.S. embassy in Ottawa into a national portrait gallery.

On Tuesday Liberal Senator Serge Joyal, Conservative Paul McIntyre and Senator independents Patricia Bovey and Douglas Black sent a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urging him to support resurrecting the gallery project for Canada's 150th birthday.

Fifty-five of the 99 sitting senators have signed on to the initiative, including members of the Conservative and Liberal Party caucuses as well as members of the independent senators group.

"National Archives' portraits should be its base, but the gallery should be much more — vibrant, living, not just of the past but of the present," reads the letter, noting the archives has more than 20,000 portrait paintings and photographs.

"We believe the time has come to put this collection on display to tell the story of Canadians to Canadians…Many countries, including England, the United States and Australia have a permanent National Portrait Gallery. In London and Washington, for instance, young people make up the majority of attendees."

Abandoned building 

The former U.S. Embassy at 100 Wellington St., a prominent spot across from Parliament Hill, was slated to become a national portrait gallery at the end of the Chrétien era.

An institution was created, with staff, but the large collection of portraits never left the vault.