Old building housing temporary Senate makes new cameras shake

By The Canadian Press
February 8, 2019 - 3:00pm

OTTAWA — The long-delayed introduction of cameras to broadcast meetings of the Senate is proceeding after a shaky start.

The House of Commons has been televised for more than 40 years but the Senate is only beginning to broadcast meetings in its main chamber with a move into a temporary home while Centre Block is being renovated.

It hasn't gone perfectly smoothly.

"Currently, there is one remaining camera in the Senate Chamber that is still vibrating and we're confident it will be resolved," Senate spokesperson Alison Korn wrote in an email.

A special engineer was brought in to deal with the wobbly cameras, which were attributed to "natural vibrations and inherent movements" endemic to older structures. The new Senate chamber was retrofitted into a former train station in downtown Ottawa, a block off Parliament Hill, that opened in 1912. It's older than Centre Block, which had to be rebuilt after a devastating fire in 1916.

Dampers, which aim to absorb mechanical vibration, and isolators, which separate equipment from a source of vibration, were installed to provide permanent stability for the cameras.

"It's all brand new equipment, every last piece," said Alberta Sen. Scott Tannas, the chair of the Senate committee overseeing the move to the new building. "The challenge has been getting all of that technology harnessed and co-ordinated but my understanding is we are 99-per-cent done and working on the last one per cent."

Further testing is expected in the next few days. When the Senate next sits on Feb. 19, only audio will be broadcast, with video to follow by March.

"We've had cameras in the committee rooms for a long time and I would say nobody is thinking too much about it," Tannas said. "So it'll be a novelty in the chamber for a while and our question period maybe gets a little livelier for a few weeks. But my bet is that we will come back to our true characters over time."

Opening of the new Senate chamber was previously delayed by a design flaw in the ceiling that produced echoes and caused "disruptive noise levels," according to a December news release.

Stephen Cook, The Canadian Press

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