© Guardian photo by Brian McInnis
Province House in Charlottetown during renovation in November 2013.
Legislators would sit in the Pope Room at the Coles Building next door
With Province House facing years of repairs and the potential for a lengthy closure, it could leave P.E.I.’s legislative assembly temporarily without a home.
But if the time comes that Province House does close while MLAs are sitting, there is a back-up plan in place.
Charles MacKay, clerk of the legislative assembly, said although he doesn’t expect it will be necessary this spring, there is an emergency plan that would see MLAs sit in the Pope Room at the Coles Building next door to Province House.
“That’s ready to swing into action if we should require it,” he said.
Province House has been closed for several weeks after a chunk of plaster fell from the ceiling in the latest of a string of issues causing problems in the historic building.
An engineer’s report that Parks Canada commissioned determined repairs could take more than three years to complete and might require the building to remain empty for an extended period of time.
Premier Robert Ghiz also recently told The Guardian he won’t be surprised if Province House closes for a couple of years because of the restoration work.
The legislative assembly would still have to sit during that time.
MLAs already use the Coles Building, which houses the legislative library, government and opposition caucus offices, and the Pope Room where committee meetings are held. Those committee meetings don’t usually see more than a dozen people in the room, including MLAs, staff and members of the public.
In Province House, the floor of the legislative assembly houses MLAs, pages, house staff and the Speaker’s chair.
There is also space behind the rail for the media while members of the public sit in the gallery overlooking the proceedings.
MacKay said the Pope Room is wired for sound and the legislative assembly would have to take over some of the space on the first floor to make sure all the necessary services can be provided.
There would also be accommodations made for the media and a public gallery, MacKay said.
“There’s no question it would be tight,” he said.
MacKay said the contingency plan was developed three or four years ago as part of the legislative assembly’s emergency preparedness efforts in case there was ever a need, such as a closure due to a natural disaster.
“We decided that we should develop a plan at that time and came up with this plan to move the legislature in fairly short order if required,” he said.
As for the possibility of the legislative assembly leaving Province House for an extended period of time to accommodate further restoration work, MacKay said there have been some discussions about it but nothing has been confirmed.
“It’s a bit far off but it’s certainly in the back of our minds, there’s no question about that.”