© Photo special to The Guardian by Brian Simpson
Province House in the snow photographed by provincial photographer Brian Simpson.
If there’s one issue P.E.I. politicians agree on, regardless of party affiliation, it’s fixing up Province House.
MLAs began debating a motion last week calling on Parks Canada and the federal government to deliver on its commitment to preserve the historic structure.
The motion was moved by Premier Robert Ghiz and seconded by Opposition Leader Steven Myers.
Ghiz had promised it was going to be the first item up for business when the spring sitting of the legislature convened on Wednesday and it was.
“We’re able to call on the federal government in a non-confrontational way to point out the importance of Province House, not only to Prince Edward Island but to Canada,’’ Ghiz said following question period in the house on Thursday.
It is the building where the Fathers of Confederation first met at the Charlottetown Conference 150 years ago, meetings that led to Confederation.
In a move Ghiz called brilliant, former premier Alex Campbell signed a 99-year agreement with the federal government in 1974 that handed Ottawa the responsibility of maintaining the building.
“We know that the building needs upwards of $40 million in work. We know that it’s going to close down for a few years so we’d rather see this work start sooner rather than later and it’s work that the federal government is going to do.’’
Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal Minister Robert Vessey and Myers recently met with federal ministers in Ottawa who agreed that every effort must be made to restore Province House to its original condition.
Parks Canada commissioned a study last year by Taylor Hazell Architects that found several areas demanding immediate repairs and renovation.
“They understand what has to be done here so we’ll allow them to do their work and get the proper budgets in place and then we’ll see it happen.’’
Still, it is odd to be talking about shutting the building down the very year the city and province are celebrating its role in Confederation.
“In 25 years time, nobody will even remember it,’’ Ghiz said, referring to the three- to five-year shutdown.
Debate ended for the day on April 2 when members ran out of time.
Government House Leader Sonny Gallant says the motion will come back to the floor of the legislature in the near future.