Toronto’s Union Station is a gateway for millions every year, and now a city councillor wants it to be a reminder of the country’s past as well.
Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong is pushing to rename the country’s busiest passenger hub after Canada’s first prime minister, Sir John A. Macdonald, in time for his 200th birthday next year. Calling him “the George Washington of Canada,” Mr. Minnan-Wong said it’s time he was given more recognition from the country’s biggest city.
City council’s executive committee agreed, directing staff Tuesday to study the proposal, consult with the public and report back to its July meeting.
The proposal has the backing of a small group called the Toronto Friends of Sir John A. Macdonald, who hold a dinner close to his Jan. 11 birthday. This year’s event attracted more than 200 people and it was there that the idea of naming a landmark was floated.
“We want to make Canadians more aware of his indispensible contribution,” said Alan Broadbent, chair of the group and the founder of the Maytree Foundation, which works to promote diversity and the welcoming of immigrants.
The group had suggested renaming Avenue Road, but when Mr. Minnan-Wong suggested Union Station, which is owned by the city, Mr. Broadbent said the group thought “it was a great idea.”
Not everyone agrees.
“I don’t feel comfortable with that right now,” Mayor Rob Ford said when asked about the name change. “I like Union Station. Let’s keep the name as it is.”
Councillor Adam Vaughan, who is not a member of the executive committee, said the city should find another way to mark the bicentennial of Macdonald’s birth. “I don’t think you obliterate history to honour history. I think you find ways to take things that aren’t named, things that are new and honour someone who deserves recognition,” he said.
Mr. Minnan-Wong said renaming the train station is in keeping with the former prime minister’s legacy. “Sir John A. Macdonald was known for Confederation. He was a nation-builder for building a railway from coast to coast,” the councillor said. “We do not give enough recognition of some of our prime ministers.”
Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly, a former history teacher, said the renaming would make the Toronto station unique. “There are lots of Union Stations sprinkled throughout North America,” he said. “But if this goes through, there will be only one Sir John A. Macdonald Station, and that will be in the City of Toronto.”
With files from Ann Hui