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Ontario NDP Leader’s local office leaves city-owned arts space

Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath meets with people at the Malvern Town Centre food court in Toronto on Tuesday, May 13, 2014.


NDP Leader Andrea Horwath has moved her local Hamilton riding campaign office after the party's first choice for location – a city-owned building offering subsidized space for artists – ruffled feathers.

The original office was set up in a space on the ground floor of a downtown Hamilton building owned by CityHousing Hamilton, the city's public housing commission. The building, which once was home to a strip club, was recently redeveloped to the tune of $3.5-million with the upper two floors housing subsidized loft spaces for local artists.

CityHousing has an agreement with local record label Sonic Unyon to sublease the lower level as a studio and live music venue, but Sonic Unyon decided to lease the space to the local NDP party while awaiting a building permit to renovate the space.

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"We at CityHousing never contemplated that there would be an opportunity or that anyone would want it for any kind of sublease while the improvements were going on," said Mike Kirkopoulos, the city's corporate communications manager.

On Monday, the public housing board discovered the party was setting up headquarters in the space and "had a different view" on how the space would be used, Mr. Kirkopoulos said.

"The intention of that agreement is specific to local arts," he said.

The NDP quickly changed offices to avoid causing a stir, though there was already some backlash on Twitter as Hamilton residents questioned why the party was pitching its tent in a building owned by an arms-length city agency.

Speaking at a media event on Tuesday in Toronto where she spent the morning glad-handing with local candidate Neethan Shan, Ms. Horwath said her team thought leasing the currently-vacant space would be mutually beneficial.

"But the moment we found out that there was a question about whether this was the right thing to do, we decided that the best thing was to be respectful and move to another office," she said.

While many of the upper floor lofts have been rented, the main floor space has sat empty for months awaiting renovations to convert the space into a live music venue. Mr. Kirkopoulos chalked up the situation to a misunderstanding.

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"It's now a non-issue."

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