Union Station could be renamed “John A. Macdonald Station”

Union Station could be renamed “John A. Macdonald Station”

(Image: Union Station: The City of Toronto; Macdonald: Courtesy of Library and Archives Canada)

When Torontonians think of the city’s main railway hub, they think Union Station—a landmark that has retained its name since 1858, despite two complete rebuilds. Except now, councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong thinks it’s time for a change. At today’s meeting of city council’s executive committee, he persuaded his fellow politicians to take a preliminary step towards renaming the historic station after John A. Macdonald, Canada’s first prime minister. It would be John A. Macdonald Station.

“[Macdonald’s] association with nation building and Canada is clear and unassailable,” Minnan-Wong notes in a letter to the committee. Today’s decision sets in motion a process that could bring about the renaming as soon as July, though city council would have to vote on the idea first.

It’s true that Macdonald has some Toronto cred. He lived here during the mid-1850s, when the city served as the capital of the United Provinces of Canada. His family home was in a boarding house on Wellington Street near Portland, then the western edge of town. While his political fortunes rose during this period (he was appointed co-premier in 1856), his personal life was affected by his wife Isabella’s chronic illness. As prime minister, Macdonald supported the creation of a Toronto daily newspaper owned by the Conservative party, the Empire, in 1887.

While Minnan-Wong’s proposal appears to have the support of deputy mayor Norm Kelly, much of the reaction online has been negative. Commemorative renaming tends to be a minefield. In defence of the proposal, Minnan-Wong’s Twitter feed listed off two dozen other Union Stations across North America, as if to point out that Toronto needs to stand out.

If this manages to slip through city council, the name could have an even harder time catching on than “Rogers Centre” did. As councillor Adam Vaughan put it, “Union Station is Union Station.”

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