MPP JOURNAL for the week of July 9, 2021

Ontario Only Province Not to House Lieutenant-Governor

            Ontario is the only province that does not provide its Lieutenant-Governor with an official residence, where the Queen’s representative may reside and perform his or her vice-regal duties.  Instead, the Lieutenant-Governor is provided with a suite of rooms in the Legislative Building itself, which are suitable for receiving visitors and conducting official business, but not as living quarters. 

            Until 1937, Ontario followed the other provinces and maintained a Government House for its Lieutenant-Governor.  In that year, Premier Mitch Hepburn closed the official residence at Chorley Park in Rosedale, then and now one of Toronto’s most affluent enclaves.  Chorley Park covered 14 acres, on a site overlooking the still rural Don Valley. 

            Government House was built at Chorley Park during World War One at a then staggering cost of $1.2 million.  It was undoubtedly the most magnificent Government House in all of North America.  The five Lieutenant-Governors who lived there entertained British and European royalty, leading British politicians such as Sir Winston Churchill and David Lloyd George, various Canada Prime Ministers and Governors-General, as well as Lieutenants-Governor from other provinces. 

            However, Chorley Park was expensive to maintain, and even during the economically prosperous Roaring Twenties, murmurs of complaints arose from Members of all parties at Queen’s Park about the burden it imposed on the taxpayer.  Chorley Park finally emerged as a political issue during the 1934 election campaign, when Liberal leader Mitch Hepburn promised to shut it down if elected.

             In his first term as Premier, Hepburn failed to make good on this promise, but ever mindful of the electorate’s sensitivities, he was careful to maintain his distance from the Rosedale edifice.  Shortly after being re-elected in 1937, Dr. Herbert Bruce, Lieutenant-Governor at the time, handed in his resignation after controversy arose over who Premier Hepburn preferred to be the Queen’s representative.

             On November 30, the Hepburn government promptly put the building up for sale and auctioned off its contents.  Over the next two decades, the building served variously as a military hospital, RCMP headquarters, and as housing for Hungarian refugees.  The City of Toronto bought the property in 1960, and demolished the house and outbuildings shortly there after to make way for a public park.  All that remains on the site today is the little bridge in the forecourt, a modest reminder of the magnificent edifice of 60 years ago.

             Hepburn decreed that the new Lieutenant-Governor could perform his public duties in the space known as the “Speaker’s House”, on the second floor of the Legislative Building’s west wing.  The Speaker was obliged to move up one floor and take over the apartment hitherto occupied by the Sergeant-at-Arms, who was assigned office space elsewhere in the Building.  The cabinet’s old private dining room, as well as a large reception room which had been used as a Members’ dining room during sessions, was added to the Lieutenant-Governor’s new suite.  The new rooms opened on April 19, 1938. 

Now that Chorley Park was gone, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth had nowhere to reside during the Royal Visit to Toronto the next year (the first visit to Canada by the reigning monarch), and so they stayed on their train, shunted onto a siding at Union Station.






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