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Is there any sense in renaming Union Station?

Posted by Chris Bateman / February 4, 2014

Union Station renameNext stop, Sir John A. MacDonald Station. What? Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong moved a motion at this morning's executive committee meeting asking whether Toronto's main transit hub could be renamed for Canada's first prime minister.

"There is no greater Canadian than our founding father and first Prime Minister, Sir John A.
Macdonald," Minnan-Wong, the Chair of the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee, wrote. "As the bicentennial of his birth approaches, the City of Toronto has a unique opportunity to recognize his contribution to our country."

MacDonald, a father of confederation, was instrumental in the formation of the Canadian Pacific Railway and was an early advocate for women's suffrage.

The original wooden Union Station, located on Station Road, was so named because it marked the meeting point between several privately-owned railways - the Grand Trunk Railway, Northern Railway and the Great Western Railway. The name stuck as the building was replaced and subsequently moved.

Will the change happen? Probably not. Minnan-Wong says the extensive renovation of Union Station is a good chance to consider a new title, but 156 years is a long time to grow attached to the status quo. And, really, wouldn't be silly to mess with a bit of established history like this?

City staff will investigate the idea and report back before July.

Chris Bateman is a staff writer at blogTO. Follow him on Twitter at @chrisbateman.

Image: Gerald Querubin /blogTO Flickr pool.



Spike / February 4, 2014 at 11:00 am
To be frank, I think that we should build a new train station, new trackage to go up to that station, and have only the inter-city trains go though that (including any future high-speed rail trains.) We can build it underground (the train platforms) with the stations aboveground, and have said station be in the middle of the city, and call it Toronto Central Station. Let Union be for commuter rail instead.

As for re-naming Union after Sir John A.
Macdonald, why not?
Andrea / February 4, 2014 at 11:00 am
I guess to name the station after him would be fitting since he was all about the railway-- also on weekends after last call it would be fitting since he was sloppy drunk.

But yea, I don't think they should rename it.. we don't need to name the station after a historical figure when Union is already a piece of history itself.
Stuart Watt / February 4, 2014 at 11:10 am
Sorry, but this is a bad idea. "Union" is symbolic of the unity of confederation through transit. This unity was John A.'s vision. We can celebrate that vision better through "Union".

Of course, we could remind ourselves of that history. That would be a better investment.
Deric / February 4, 2014 at 11:11 am
Definitely don't think it should be renamed - Union Station as Andrea said above is a piece of history itself and doesn't need to reflect anything more. Not to mention the cost of renaming the station for marketing purposes (GO, TTC, VIA, City signage, etc) would be astronomical. In the end, we'd all still call it Union Station anyway - it's just not worth it.
Digital / February 4, 2014 at 11:15 am
This counsellor has all the other problems of the city fixed and now has time to think of renaming Union Station? Was he not there last week for the budget? Changing the name would cost millions of dollars that we do not have.
the lemur / February 4, 2014 at 11:16 am
No, there is no sense at all.

DMW thinks Sir John A should be honoured - fine. But there's already plenty that's named after him.

DMW thinks there are so many other train stations named Union something or something Union. But it's not as if people get on the wrong train because of that (unlike cases of passengers/travel agents confusing Sydney NS with Sydney Aust, Monterey, CA with Monterrey, Mex, etc.).

Of all the issues we could be addressing with the time and money that this stupid idea would involve ... more evidence that DMW is just a weasel and a shitbag creating distractions for attention.
jay / February 4, 2014 at 11:17 am
Could this be a veiled initiative by the Harper gov?--the only name they'd like better would be War of 1812 Station.
judy / February 4, 2014 at 11:18 am
This is a horrible idea. This is Union Station. Minnan-Wong has way too much spare time to ponder such garbage ideas. UNION STATION is a Toronto historical landmark....don't mess with perfection.
Jim from North York replying to a comment from Deric / February 4, 2014 at 11:25 am
Astronomical, I think not. However, I will agree it is money that doesn't need to be spent.
lister / February 4, 2014 at 11:37 am
> City staff will investigate the idea and report back before July.

Really? Six months?! Here, let me save everyone some time: No.

I think Sir John A. MacDonald has enough recognition already.

No one is going to call it that anyway if it changes. Hello Skydome and O'Keefe/Humingbird Centre...
Mark / February 4, 2014 at 11:45 am
Minnan-Wong is an idiot! Why would you change the name of a place that is known to everyone in Toronto?? It's like some city councillor in NY wanting to change the name of Grand Central Station! No! No!
j-rock / February 4, 2014 at 11:51 am
This is a solution in need of a problem. There are plenty of real problems they actually need to be focusing on at City Hall.
VadimM / February 4, 2014 at 11:52 am
Union is a great name. With all due respect to Sir MacDonald, naming the station in his name would make it sound very close to the fast-food chain. Union Station sounds stately and very appropriate for such city as Toronto.
M / February 4, 2014 at 11:53 am
Is there really nothing else worth talking about in this city?
Ratazana / February 4, 2014 at 11:54 am
I think the right leaning councillor has a problem with the word 'Union'...
Todd Toronto / February 4, 2014 at 11:59 am
I'm not in favour of the change, and it's probably an apples and oranges comparison, but when I was a kid, I was not in favour of the change from Toronto International to Pearson either. Again, it's a dumb idea, but if it happens (and it won't) people will get used to it.

Besides, MacDonald and G.E. Cartier already have their own highway.
dcg / February 4, 2014 at 12:02 pm
Sir John A was not a Torontonian. His riding was in Kingston. Therefore not relevant to the city.
Neal / February 4, 2014 at 12:13 pm
"Sir John A. McDonald Station" sounds like some high school. It's not stately enough. It'd be like calling Grand Central Terminal in New York City "Abraham Lincoln Station." Trite.
iSkyscraper / February 4, 2014 at 12:21 pm
DMZ is a far smarter politician than the child-mayor, but I don't know where he's going here. Burnishing his conservative credentials via linking himself to Sir John A.?

I guess there is some precedent. Pearson itself was successfully renamed, after all, and Mirabel was converted to Trudeau not long ago. (Do Montrealers call it Trudeau now or still Dorval?) In New York a new Penn Station is under construction, to be called Moynihan Station after the politician who championed it. It will probably not catch on any more than the RFK Bridge (fka Triboro Bridge), the Ed Koch Bridge (fka Queensboro Bridge) or, for that matter, Avenue of the Americas (fka 6th Ave). It's one thing to name new things, or to swap out corporate arena sponsors, but places and things with a long history are pointless to rename.

Union Station is a great and proud name, and while there are indeed other Union stations on the continent, no one is confusing it with Denver or LA or Chicago or DC. It's simply Toronto-Union.

The one plus you would get to a renaming would be the political fun of the pending airport train line -- McDonald-Pearson sounds like a nice parliamentary coalition. But seriously, no, leave good old Union alone.
X / February 4, 2014 at 12:29 pm
Absolutely not. Toronto is famous for ripping up its history. Can't we just leave Union's perfectly decent and recognizable name alone?

With that said, I'm almost glad that DMW is wasting his time with penny-ante non-starters like this, because his politics suuuck.

Jason Kucherawy replying to a comment from Stuart Watt / February 4, 2014 at 12:34 pm
The name "Union" actually refers to the fact two railroad companies united to build it. That's why there are other stations in North America called "Union" - they were joint ventures.
Steven / February 4, 2014 at 12:55 pm
Leave it alone.

I propose renaming councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong to something else instead. He's just grandstanding at city hall because he has nothing else better to do than just embracing political correctness to try to make himself look or sound good. Qualities the little man doesn't have.
Josh / February 4, 2014 at 12:57 pm
Simon / February 4, 2014 at 01:02 pm
Good lord no. Union Station is a landmark. This I don't get: why would a "world-class city" go around naming things after people? Places in "world-class cities" have their own name recognition. Some marker of what they are and when they're from. They don't need to be named after anything, because they just are. I can see exceptions, like Victoria station in London, but that's different, because Queen Victoria was both a world-changing figure who people will be talking about for millenia and was the reigning monarch at a time when the majority of London's railway infrastructure was built, including the grand terminal station named after her. She was the head of state of the most powerful empire in the world. Sir John A. MacDonald? Hell no. No-one outside of Canada has even heard of him. Let Ottawa or Saskatoon or some other quiet town keep its nowhere-sounding place names. It's the kind of thing you'd see on a suburban boulevard. Union Station has its own name recognition.
Bobo / February 4, 2014 at 01:16 pm
Silly idea for a number of reasons. Why not name a park after Sir John A?
CH / February 4, 2014 at 01:16 pm
Does Minnan-Wong have nothing else better to do?

Union is a perfectly fine name and it's engrained into people's minds. There are other ways to commemorate our first prime minister.
Dan replying to a comment from Steven / February 4, 2014 at 01:18 pm
Excellent idea. I move to rename him "Denzel Washington". It's easier and more fun to say, and has more brand recognition.
Michael / February 4, 2014 at 01:18 pm
On no level is it a good idea.
Mimico Resident / February 4, 2014 at 01:31 pm
Minan-Wong is a fool! This is one of the stupidest ideas I've heard in a long time. I wouldn't take him seriously. When mr. ford gets re-elected you will see how fast he will kiss mr. Ford's a*s to be in his inner circle again.
Al / February 4, 2014 at 01:34 pm
You write about his role in the Canadian Pacific Railway without mentioning that he took bribes to get it built. He was Canada's most corrupt Prime Minister. He gets way too much credit.
Hazel / February 4, 2014 at 01:39 pm
Let's name a DRINK to John A. Hear hear!
LemieuxPatrice / February 4, 2014 at 01:41 pm
He should get a statue in front of Union, this city needs more Euro-style statues. But don't rename the bloody station!
Sergio / February 4, 2014 at 01:56 pm
Just grandstanding and "Pay Attention to ME" by Minnan-Wong. No doubt he dreams of using this as a way to push his way in and cut the ribbon. The change may be useful to Mr Minnan-Wong, but not to the rest of us.
ana raposo / February 4, 2014 at 01:59 pm
I just think it doesnt matter its a joke how many stupid poor ass people need to use public transitt go get a job and get a car. I live close to dufferin st and can get anywhere fast with my VEICLE haha!
Leave well enough alone! / February 4, 2014 at 02:01 pm
Please see the "SkyDome" as well as "The Beach" for examples of silly name changes that never completely caught on. They can rename it anything they want, but it will continue to be Union Station regardless.
Jacob / February 4, 2014 at 02:09 pm
Bad idea.

Union Station is simple to remember, it represents the number of transit systems (TTC/GO/VIA/UP) that connect there, and there's plenty of travel literature that give directions to that simple to remember name.
satire? replying to a comment from ana raposo / February 4, 2014 at 02:27 pm
congrats on being the saddest person alive windbag
YK / February 4, 2014 at 02:41 pm
A rebranding is good now-and-again. After travelling plenty through Canada and the USA, I've seen at least a dozen stations named "Union". Perhaps a new name would stand out a bit more.

But don't worry, construction won't be finished for another 10 years
RobFord'sChinFat / February 4, 2014 at 02:51 pm
Minnan-Wong needs to stop wasting council's time with these unnecessary suggestions.
Rob R. / February 4, 2014 at 03:19 pm
Can we rename Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong instead?
gabe / February 4, 2014 at 03:30 pm
Can Minnan-Wong focus on things that will actually improve life in the city NOT on things that dont really matter...
Fordfest 2k14 / February 4, 2014 at 03:34 pm
If this actually happens it will start with union then it will go from Kipling to Kennedy.
W. K. Lis replying to a comment from Spike / February 4, 2014 at 04:22 pm
Put the new high-speed train lines where the 401 is today. Build a new station to serve it connecting with the subway, and name it Sir John A. MacDonald Station.

Sounds just as impossible.
notachanceinhell / February 4, 2014 at 04:49 pm
I don't think so.
David C / February 4, 2014 at 05:21 pm
Yes, stupid idea from a stupid Councillor. Despite this comment above (" "Union" is symbolic of the unity of confederation through transit. ") the station (like other "Union Stations") was named because it was used by several railway companies. It still is.
stopitman / February 4, 2014 at 05:30 pm
Renaming Union? That's a joke. Name the something else after Macdonald - Union has it's name for a purpose (being forced by the city to build 1 station rather than several) and that's part of the historical aspect of it.

Macdonald was important to Canada, that's true, but he's not a monumental person like Washington was (this is who DM-W compared Macdonald to).
Mr. Union / February 4, 2014 at 05:55 pm
John A. was a great man, but Union is also a great name. It rolls off the tongue so easily: "I'll be at Union in 5 minutes", etc. It's a lot better than having to say, "I'll be at John A. MacDonald in 5 minutes."

Renovate Union? Yes.
Change its name? No.

I really wish they would hurry up and just finish all the work at Union. It's a real disaster at the moment.
justaguy / February 4, 2014 at 06:52 pm
Please. Leave. Union. Alone.
Dudeabides / February 4, 2014 at 07:16 pm
It's just such an odd thing to want to arbitrarily change the name. Like, where is this idea coming from? Does anyone really want them to change it? Does anyone really care about John A. MacDonald? It's just coming out of nowhere.
W. K. Lis / February 4, 2014 at 07:32 pm
John A. MacDonald was the MP for Kingston. Shouldn't the train station in Kingston be named after him?

Then again, the Kingston station, currently in use, is not very grand.
Miller / February 4, 2014 at 07:50 pm
Was just listening to 680 news on the way home. Norm kelly is also on board for changing the name of union station. If rob ford was on board there would already be 150+ comments of hate!
Boss replying to a comment from Mr. Union / February 4, 2014 at 08:30 pm
"John was a great man"

2 examples

1. In 1885, John A. Macdonald told the House of Commons that, if the Chinese were not excluded from Canada, “the Aryan character of the future of British America should be destroyed …” This was the precise moment in the histories of Canada and the British Dominions when Macdonald personally introduced race as a defining legal principle of the state.

2.This is what Sir John A. MacDonald, had to say about the Indian situation in the United States and Canada in the Canadian House of Parliament, July 6, 1885.

"We have been pampering and coaxing the Indians; that we must take a new course, we must vindicate the position of the white man, we must teach the Indians what law is..." "...along the whole frontier of the United States there has been war; millions have been expended there; their best and their bravest have fallen. I personally know General Custer, and admired the gallant soldier, the American hero; yet he went, and he fell with his band, and not a man was left to tell the tale -- they were all swept away..."
Wilfrid Laurier / February 4, 2014 at 09:29 pm
Shame on you Aaron! There's only room for ONE on the mighty $5 bill!
joe / February 5, 2014 at 09:46 am
When councillors start coming up with these bizarre utterances (not worthy of being called an idea), you know there are too many councillors and too little work. Unless such idle utterances are ignored in the same vein as passing gas or a burp, some "senior.... professional" highly paid employee now has to spend 40 hours researching why this is such a stupid notion by an idle individual. Then a debate... then .. .Maybe some other councillor should mention there be a law against stupidity and wasting public servant's time. That would be better money spent on research!
joe replying to a comment from don / February 5, 2014 at 09:48 am
YESSS! That comment is a bullseye!
Spike replying to a comment from W. K. Lis / February 6, 2014 at 01:15 pm
Why is it impossible? The lines and the station doesn't necessarily have to be where the 401 is, and as I said, both can be underground. Canada needs to think big.

(And we already have a made-in-Canada train, too; the JetTrain, which can run without electricity.)
Willym / February 20, 2014 at 01:36 pm
As I have not been a resident of Toronto for more 35 years I have nor right or intention on expressing an opinion on the name change one way or the other. What disturbs me is the comparison he made between Sir John A and the First President of the United States. First I question the parallels; other than being first at something I can’t really see the similarities. Also I question why he as a Canadian politician felt it was necessary to draw the comparison? Does he feel that Canadians are so unaware of their own history that it is only comprehensible when compared to the history of our neighbour to the South?

I've written the Councillor to ask him those questions. It will be interesting to see what sort of reply - if any - I get.
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