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  #1401  
Old Posted Apr 9, 2020, 8:25 PM
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One thing about Ottawa is that the urban planning was clearly a bit timid going back even to the 1800's. There's no downtown street that follows the Parliament Hill alignment. It's quite odd, and as soon as you cross Wellington you're pretty much in "normal" territory. Had Wellington Street and that central axis been turned into something special extending as a parliamentary precinct over to the canal it would feel like a more expansive and cohesive area (basically, you'd be able to stand in a lot more places and see only better than average Parliament Hill type buildings and finishings).

Most of downtown Ottawa reminds me of Edmonton or Calgary with a height limit and lack of landmark commercial buildings (you don't get the Bow by selecting the low bid when doing a federal office tender), while the neighbourhoods are a mix of Ontario and Quebec style architecture. Unfortunately the Ottawa height limits were not very well planned; it's in the same boat as Halifax except with even more office space crammed in.

The Chateau Laurier addition to me seemed representative of the way things often go in Canada. It's a unique building in a special area with a distinctive style that represents just one small part of the city that would have to be protected. Yet it's still subject to profit maximization and that meant wanting to attach a glass box to it. We don't seem to have a lot of urban districts that we really invest in or maintain their integrity. Anything goes for the most part. The old part of Quebec City is one exception.
There was no capital planning until Wilfrid Laurier came in to power 30 years after the Parliament Buildings were complete. Other than giving up the land for the Château Laurier (named for him, despite his opposition) and Union Station, I can't think of any major project achieved during his time in office.

The ambitious Holt-Bennett report was completed under Borden, but nothing was built due to WW1.

William Lyon Mackenzie King commissioned the War Memorial, Ottawa's greatest monument however, he hired Jacques Gréber in 1946 who came up with the very car-centric bones we have today.

Pearson built the NAC and the "temporary" Science and Tech out in the suburbs.

P.E. Trudeau had some amazing museums built, such as the Civilization and the National Art Gallery.

In all that, we never had a visionary Mayor. Charlotte Whitton built the handsome old City Hall just outside downtown, reachable by car only. She staunchly opposed any development. It's a wonder that Place de Ville, Ottawa's first high-rise complex, was built, under her reign despite her strong opposition.

Today, we have the likes of Watson, a "steady-as-she-goes" type mayor, who is building crucial new infrastructure (many of which were spearheaded by his flashy predecessor O'Brien), in a way that's always a little bit mediocre. Confederation Line is nice (problems aside), but it falls a little short, with narrow platforms downtown and Bayview Station, the transfer point between Confed and Trillium, not built with future possibilities in mind. Lansdowne is nice, but the park space is bland, the stadium is small, the Civic Centre still needs work and the Aberdeen Pavillion's roof is patchy and leaking.

There have been a lot of great plans over the years that we're never built, and even more bullets dodged. Ottawa is the city that tries, but often falls short. It's a nice Canadian City, but doesn't measure up to true world class cities in Europe or Oceania.
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  #1402  
Old Posted Apr 9, 2020, 8:32 PM
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Thanks for the information. That is interesting, and kind of what I figured. It looks like the Parliament Hill area and hotel/canal area was planned in the late 1800's and early 1900's while Wellington Street and the other side looks like 1940's (car-oriented but not freeways).

It is very different from Washington which was planned on a grand scale. Washington also put in a 90-foot height limit in the 1890's. I think it would have been better if Ottawa had been similar. Of course, even if you go back to 1867, there was already a town there and re-aligning streets would always have seemed disruptive. But in retrospect it would not have been a big loss to tear down some small houses in 1870 to lay the groundwork for a much larger city.

Halifax was a planned town in the 1740's but the scale of the original grid is very small. You see the planning though in that George Street is the main axis and it lines up with the town clock and Grand Parade. Outside of this old grid area, the street network becomes irregular. Originally there were walls as well that extended from the harbour up to Citadel Hill (which back then had a few much smaller forts on it).
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  #1403  
Old Posted Apr 9, 2020, 8:36 PM
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Originally Posted by J.OT13 View Post

P.E. Trudeau had some amazing museums built, such as the Civilization and the National Art Gallery.

.
Those museums opened when Mulroney was PM, but I guess it was PET who set the wheels in motion to get them built?
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  #1404  
Old Posted Apr 9, 2020, 8:44 PM
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Those museums opened when Mulroney was PM, but I guess it was PET who set the wheels in motion to get them built?
Both projects were created under Trudeau. They were either too far along for Mulroney to cancel them, or political parties of the era didn't waste time and money destroying their predecessor's legacies.
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  #1405  
Old Posted Apr 9, 2020, 9:40 PM
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Originally Posted by TorontoDrew View Post
What a loaded and absolute bullshit comment. Are we to assume you've traveled across all of Ontario and visited each municipality and town within it? Such an ignorant comment meant to do nothing more then insult and stir the pot. Maybe if Montreal spent a little more on it's infrastructure it wouldn't have bridges that collapse onto hwy's or they wouldn't need to buy Toronto's old Go Trains. See I can be an ass as well.
Jesus, calm down. Kilgore is one of the most well-informed, gracious and intelligent contributor here. You are too thin skin and insecure.

Last edited by Martin Mtl; Apr 9, 2020 at 10:13 PM.
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  #1406  
Old Posted Apr 10, 2020, 2:53 AM
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Originally Posted by Kilgore Trout View Post
I've only been to Melbourne but its CBD feels so much more polished than anything in Canada. That's not necessarily true for the rest of the city. Neighbourhoods like Fitzroy feel roughly similar to their equivalents in Toronto – eclectic architecture, lively atmosphere, but pretty basic public space.

Montreal is pretty good at urban design. Vancouver is good too, especially in the downtown area. Ontario is really in a league of its own and not in a good way. The whole province has a culture of low investment in the public realm which is what gives Toronto its uniquely shabby look in spite of all the money and flashy new developments. Whereas Montreal invests in beautifully landscaped sidewalk bulb-outs and Vancouver puts lushly planted traffic islands in residential intersections, Toronto has crumbling concrete planters full of cigarette butts and dead vegetation.

I really don’t want to stir the pot here but I feel the same. While not the best it could be, I feel the public realm in southern BC is better than what I have seen elsewhere in English speaking Canada (in general). I find Ontario to be especially utilitarian at street level. The photos out of areas such as Kitchener-Waterloo always seem especially depressing.

I do feel that climate has some part to play here, in that it is easier to maintain such things as street furniture and water features on the South Coast and the roads don’t get as cracked and beaten during the winter.

For example I feel that Victoria has a very nice public realm / street scape. Also vegetation doesn’t get anywhere near as beaten back as it does in many other places in Canada.

As far as public realm goes in Canada (in general) I feel there are two broad categories, the half decent and the lesser.

For half decent Montreal, Quebec, Vancouver, Victoria and Halifax would be examples.

For lesser Southern Ontario, Edmonton, Winnipeg and St. John’s would be examples.

Calgary and Kelowna are hard ones to place for me, because is some respects they are very polished, in others not so much.

Of course this is just one category of many that makes cities interesting, such as historical building stock, transportation, skylines, events, parks, etc...
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  #1407  
Old Posted Apr 10, 2020, 6:17 AM
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I feel the same way. I think Canada has a lack of really great public spaces but there are some mid-range cities that have some bright spots and potential and some that are kind of lacking and have little beyond basic outdoor public spaces.

Quebec City is interesting. Climate is often used as an excuse for why Canada can't have nice things in its public realm, but Quebec City has one of Canada's harshest climates in a larger city and also some of its nicest urban public spaces. Quebec City tends to have relatively limited greenery though.

Victoria is consistently pretty nice, with lots of improved pavement or fancier light fixtures and so on. I have not been to Australia or New Zealand but cities like Auckland or Melbourne remind me a bit of Victoria or a less run-down San Francisco.

Vancouver has a lot of nice modern water features downtown.

Halifax and Montreal are the "luckiest" cities for having inherited the most extensive historic public spaces.
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  #1408  
Old Posted Apr 10, 2020, 11:14 AM
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Originally Posted by isaidso View Post
Love the thread but with each photo my thoughts instantly focused on how to fix the public realm. When you've just spent a few weeks in a country (Australia) where their public realm is attractive the grim, unwelcoming, primitive look of Canada's public realm is a shock. I suppose it will take me a year before it becomes less jarring to my eyes.

These below are stunningly bleak and this is our national capital. Canada does lots of thing very very well but we're absolutely hopeless when it comes to design.
Glad to hear you've finally visited Australia! Would be fascinated to hear about your other experiences there.
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  #1409  
Old Posted Apr 10, 2020, 12:36 PM
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Originally Posted by Metro-One View Post
I do feel that climate has some part to play here, in that it is easier to maintain such things as street furniture and water features on the South Coast and the roads don’t get as cracked and beaten during the winter.
Then one would think we would at least use quality materials, even if design is a little utilitarian.

Here are some Ottawa examples of tree protector cages that would have needed their own protection.

Bank Street, installed in 2009

https://www.google.ca/maps/@45.41779...7i16384!8i8192

Queen Street, installed in 2017

https://www.google.com/maps/@45.4189...7i16384!8i8192

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Originally Posted by someone123 View Post
Quebec City is interesting. Climate is often used as an excuse for why Canada can't have nice things in its public realm, but Quebec City has one of Canada's harshest climates in a larger city and also some of its nicest urban public spaces. Quebec City tends to have relatively limited greenery though.

Victoria is consistently pretty nice, with lots of improved pavement or fancier light fixtures and so on. I have not been to Australia or New Zealand but cities like Auckland or Melbourne remind me a bit of Victoria or a less run-down San Francisco.

Vancouver has a lot of nice modern water features downtown.

Halifax and Montreal are the "luckiest" cities for having inherited the most extensive historic public spaces.
It's true that Québec City doesn't have loads of greenspace, other than Parliament Hill and the Plains of Abraham. The city's core was built in a time that greenspace wasn't deemed essential, I guess.

Victoria and Vancouver's public realms are amazing compared to most other Canadian cities.
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  #1410  
Old Posted Apr 10, 2020, 3:13 PM
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Originally Posted by Metro-One View Post
I really don’t want to stir the pot here but I feel the same. While not the best it could be, I feel the public realm in southern BC is better than what I have seen elsewhere in English speaking Canada (in general). I find Ontario to be especially utilitarian at street level. The photos out of areas such as Kitchener-Waterloo always seem especially depressing.
Kitchener-Waterloo is like a mini-Toronto in Southwestern Ontario. Through a combination of luck and some foresight, it leaped ahead of its peers*.

The "Montreal" to KW's Toronto would be, of course, London ON, which is more venerable and has the "bigger bones". Toronto's luck is that it was Anglo, and KW's luck is that it's close to Toronto. But like Montreal 70 years ago, London seems to be thinking a bit smaller than its upstart rival. The best example is that KW has an LRT, but it also did things like build an in-town expressway system in the 70s, and is planning a major rail transit hub, and other things that London isn't doing or hasn't done.

So just like how Toronto's "ugliness" is largely a product of having a metropolis grafted onto the bones of a mid-size city, KW's ugliness is largely a product of having a mid-sized city grafted on the bones of a collection of small towns. It has that typical Ontario look of apartment and condo buildings next to Frankenstein Edwardian homes that have been converted into cheap apartments, only in this case the Edwardian homes are even simpler, and the modern buildings more squat and chintzy than they would be in Toronto.


*In 1920, KW was actually smaller than Brantford, which is now a complete afterthought among Ontario cities. Maybe Brantford is KW's Buffalo.
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  #1411  
Old Posted Apr 10, 2020, 5:05 PM
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So just like how Toronto's "ugliness" is largely a product of having a metropolis grafted onto the bones of a mid-size city, KW's ugliness is largely a product of having a mid-sized city grafted on the bones of a collection of small towns.
There is also a question of what kind of development happened. The boom towns of 1860 got Italianate stone facades and fountains, and in 1910 they got terra-cotta-clad skyscrapers that were delicately shoehorned into fine-grained streetscapes. The bigger cities of 1930 were much nicer places than the smaller cities of 1780. In 1960-1990 the boom towns in Canada mostly built concrete jungle type projects with large footprints that attempted to bring in more cars, to enforce a separation of uses and CBD/suburb type commuting patterns.

There's no reason per se why K-W can't get a bunch of nice new buildings and public spaces. I'd expect what is being built there now is better than what was built in the 90's. I haven't been there in many years though. It used to remind me of the scale of Moncton, but back then was probably 3x the size (though admittedly Moncton is really one town, not a cluster like K-W).
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  #1412  
Old Posted Apr 10, 2020, 5:11 PM
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It's true that Québec City doesn't have loads of greenspace, other than Parliament Hill and the Plains of Abraham. The city's core was built in a time that greenspace wasn't deemed essential, I guess.

Victoria and Vancouver's public realms are amazing compared to most other Canadian cities.
To my eyes the greenery in Quebec City looks a bit plain or simple. Not many varieties of trees or plants, and a lot of open flat green spaces. Some of this is definitely due to climate and some of it might just be the style. It works fine in dense urban settings where the architecture and built environment has a lot of fine-grained detail (little stone pavers help with this).

Halifax tends to be really overgrown in comparison which I don't necessarily think is a good thing. Vancouver and Victoria don't suffer from this as much although some of the suburbs do. Part of the problem is that trees have become sacred and hard to remove, but they're not always well-planned and they can get damaged in storms. I see a lot of properties in metro Vancouver that just look overgrown and dark, and are not very desirable to me. If you look at great public parks, they have a careful balance of forest and open space, and some great public spaces have almost no greenery at all.

Last edited by someone123; Apr 10, 2020 at 5:22 PM.
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  #1413  
Old Posted Apr 10, 2020, 5:19 PM
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There's no reason per se why K-W can't get a bunch of nice new buildings and public spaces. I'd expect what is being built there now is better than what was built in the 90's. I haven't been there in many years though. It used to remind me of the scale of Moncton, but back then was probably 3x the size (though admittedly Moncton is really one town, not a cluster like K-W).
The architecture and urban grain of KW's development in the 1990s was atrocious, even by Canadian standards of the time, since downtown KW was very forlorn and not at all desirable. In fact, I remember that in the early 2000s there was a wave of fires that destroyed numerous downtown buildings and many of these were just replaced with vacant lots.

Based on such a low bar, it's safe to say that development quality has improved dramatically since back then.

There are two kinds of urban developments in the KW area. There are condos in downtown Kitchener, Waterloo and along the King Street LRT corridor. These are fairly standard, architecturally, but they are reasonably urban. There are some notable redevelopments of old factories that are actually very nicely done.

Then there are the student apartment towers being built near the university campuses in Waterloo. These are kind of unique in that they're replacing entire neighbourhoods of old bungalows that were carved up into student ghettos, so it's one of the rare occurrences of density following the demands of the market, rather than the dictates of NIMBY zoning. On the other hand, these are some of the ugliest multifamily buildings going up anywhere in North America.
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  #1414  
Old Posted Apr 10, 2020, 6:01 PM
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Quebec City is interesting. Climate is often used as an excuse for why Canada can't have nice things in its public realm, but Quebec City has one of Canada's harshest climates in a larger city and also some of its nicest urban public spaces. Quebec City tends to have relatively limited greenery though.
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It's true that Québec City doesn't have loads of greenspace, other than Parliament Hill and the Plains of Abraham. The city's core was built in a time that greenspace wasn't deemed essential, I guess.

I think that the city of Québec is not well-known in general by members of this forum (except for Lio45, Davidivivid, Franks and a few others who don't often contribute to the discussion threads). As a Quebec City long-time resident myself, and an avid reader of this forum through the years (though I don't contribute a lot), I am often surprised by the opinions I read on here, that are more than often dropped as facts about my own city.

Public spaces take different forms here in Quebec City. In the older parts of the town, most are small public squares located at intersections (not in the anglo/victorian sense - with greenery, but rather close to the French/Italian version of a place, plaza - a hard ground made for gatherings, from façade to façade). There a some victorian squares too - I can think of 4 at least in the walled city only. There are larger neighbourhood parks and they are quite lushy, and many contemporary parks and places too - the city has built dozens of kms of new public spaces along the St-Lawrence and St-Charles rivers. In terms of large spaces, there is way more than the Plains of Abraham : Bois-de-Coulonge, Domaine-Cataraqui, Domaine-de-Maizerets, Compagnons-de-Cartier, Marly and others that I forget...) are all large public spaces made of forests, historic monuments, networks of paths and so on.

Québec is certainly not on par with Montreal, Vancouver or Toronto and will never be. But it is certainly way richer in terms public spaces as people seem to assume here.

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To my eyes the greenery in Quebec City looks a bit plain or simple. Not many varieties of trees or plants, and a lot of open flat green spaces. Some of this is definitely due to climate and some of it might just be the style. It works fine in dense urban settings where the architecture and built environment has a lot of fine-grained detail (little stone pavers help with this).
That is definitely not true. The Faubourgs certainly lack of street trees; well there is no space for that. Streets in the neighnourhoods that were built at periods similar to other young canadian cities, in the 19th and 20th centuries - Limoilou, Montcalm, Maizerets, St-Sacrement and so on - are just as green and lushy as anything you will find in inner Montreal.
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  #1415  
Old Posted Apr 10, 2020, 6:23 PM
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That is definitely not true. The Faubourgs certainly lack of street trees; well there is no space for that. Streets in the neighnourhoods that were built at periods similar to other young canadian cities, in the 19th and 20th centuries - Limoilou, Montcalm, Maizerets, St-Sacrement and so on - are just as green and lushy as anything you will find in inner Montreal.
I was thinking of areas like Montcalm, where there is more space.

A lot of the usual suspects of landscaping here in BC are missing in Quebec City. You could definitely not have a palm tree or monkey puzzle tree there. But also maybe not a lot of rhodos or magnolias, Japanese maples, or classic urban street tree varieties like London planes. If you took the Halifax Public Gardens and moved them to Quebec City most of the plants would not survive the winter.

Of course the same dynamic exists when you go farther south to a place like Savannah that has live oaks and Spanish moss. People from the Southern US must find the northern areas stark looking, particularly in winter.

And I think Quebec City manages to have lots of nice outdoor spaces despite the harsh climate.
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  #1416  
Old Posted Apr 10, 2020, 8:13 PM
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What a loaded and absolute bullshit comment. Are we to assume you've traveled across all of Ontario and visited each municipality and town within it? Such an ignorant comment meant to do nothing more then insult and stir the pot. Maybe if Montreal spent a little more on it's infrastructure it wouldn't have bridges that collapse onto hwy's or they wouldn't need to buy Toronto's old Go Trains. See I can be an ass as well.
WTF? I'm talking about a province's public expenditures. Why would you take something like that personally?

And yeah, Quebec was criminally negligent in infrastructure maintenance for about 40 years.
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  #1417  
Old Posted Apr 10, 2020, 8:31 PM
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Kitchener-Waterloo is like a mini-Toronto in Southwestern Ontario. Through a combination of luck and some foresight, it leaped ahead of its peers*.

The "Montreal" to KW's Toronto would be, of course, London ON, which is more venerable and has the "bigger bones". Toronto's luck is that it was Anglo, and KW's luck is that it's close to Toronto. But like Montreal 70 years ago, London seems to be thinking a bit smaller than its upstart rival. The best example is that KW has an LRT, but it also did things like build an in-town expressway system in the 70s, and is planning a major rail transit hub, and other things that London isn't doing or hasn't done.

So just like how Toronto's "ugliness" is largely a product of having a metropolis grafted onto the bones of a mid-size city, KW's ugliness is largely a product of having a mid-sized city grafted on the bones of a collection of small towns. It has that typical Ontario look of apartment and condo buildings next to Frankenstein Edwardian homes that have been converted into cheap apartments, only in this case the Edwardian homes are even simpler, and the modern buildings more squat and chintzy than they would be in Toronto.


*In 1920, KW was actually smaller than Brantford, which is now a complete afterthought among Ontario cities. Maybe Brantford is KW's Buffalo.
I see what you mean. Although Guelph couldnt be more different than KW. The architectural quality and fabric of old Guelph looks like and feels like a smaller and more dead version of Montreal than most of KW. Although KW has a few nice signature buildings.
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  #1418  
Old Posted Apr 16, 2020, 11:11 AM
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I was going to answer again but totally forgot, and this is very late in the game, but...

Vancouver and Victoria (and some other cities in SW BC) I would agree are pretty decent in terms of public realm. It was something I intended to mention but did not.

As for Quebec City and vegetation, I have never found it to be sparsely green and certainly not stark or bleak.

Obviously the oldest parts of town with buildings right up against the sidewalks don't have that many trees but that's very typical of that urban form. (Most of Paris doesn't have street trees either.)

But as for the rest:

https://www.google.com/maps/@46.7922...7i13312!8i6656

https://www.google.com/maps/@46.8280...7i13312!8i6656

The species might be slightly different and less varied, but I don't see a discernible difference between Quebec City and places like Montreal and southern Ontario.
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  #1419  
Old Posted Apr 16, 2020, 11:31 AM
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P.E. Trudeau had some amazing museums built, such as the Civilization and the National Art Gallery.
.
You sure about that? They were both completed years into Mulroney's term. Ah, I see you updated the info. Okay.
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  #1420  
Old Posted May 8, 2020, 4:03 PM
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