Louisa, the proprietress of Louie the 'legers, the drinking establishment that Hat MacInnes and his friends frequented, was down in the dumps.
Hat noticed her glum expression when he first arrived. When she brought him his second Alpine, he quietly asked what was bothering her. At first she wouldn't say, but with some gentle prodding she told him she was worried about an idea her husband had when he was home from the West last week.
"He wants to buy a big old house about three blocks from here, and we don't have money for that kind of an expense," said Louie. "Bobby went out West to work because we got behind in our bills. We're still not out from under yet, and now he wants to buy a house we don't need, with money we ain't got."
"What's the appeal of the place?" asked Hat. "Why does he want to move."
"He thinks this place is too small," she said. "The old house is bigger, with nice high ceilings, and it's got a history to it. Bobby's awful keen on it. But this place is all we need. There's just the three of us. I just don't get it."
Mousie MacKay, who had been listening in, observed that Bobby wasn't the only one wanting to move into an old historic building with high ceilings.
"Judge Jenkins wants his Supreme Court crowd to move from the courthouse on Water Street up to the Coles Building on Queens Square," said Mousie, "and like you guys, Louie, there's only three of them, too."
"Don't be crazy, Mousie, there's a lot more than three judges on the Supreme Court," said Rifle Burhoe. "There's got to be seven or eight of them."
"Ah, yes, but there's only three in the appeals division," said Mousie, "and that's the crowd that wants to move."
Swifty Stewart, who drives a cab when he's not drinking shine at Louie's, jumped into the discussion, saying that from what he'd heard, the appeals court isn't overburdened with work.
"One guy I drove the other day said instead of making new offices for the appeal court, they should just let them work from home. They're there most of the time anyway," said Swifty.
Rifle wondered if Swifty knew, "that the quickest way to improve a lawyer's golf game was to make them judge; they get a lot more time to play."
"Now, now don't be so catty," said Louisa. "I'm sure they work a lot harder than we think. But, Mousie, where would they put the judges if they did decide to move them to the Coles Building? Aren't the provincial archives and the MLAs' offices already there?"
"Indeed they are," said Mousie, "and that's the interesting part. They're proposing to build a new building at the corner of Great George and Richmond Streets, right where I started my ABCs, in the old Queens Square School."
"Maybe if you'd stayed at Queens Square a little longer, you'd be among those MLAs dreaming of new offices," said Rifle.
"Yeah, well if the powers-that-be have any sense, they'll be dreaming for quite awhile," said Hat. "What on earth does an MLA need an office in Charlottetown for, unless he's from Charlottetown? If, and this isn't a given, an MLA needs an office, it's in his riding where he can meet his constituents. But most MLAs will go to the constituent's home or have them over to their house, so I'm not so sure there's a big need for any offices for our politicians."
"I have to say," Hat continued, "that the premier seemed to give the idea his blessing when he commented in The Guardian. He said the proposed office building wouldn't be in the $50-million range that a provincial museum might cost. He also said that if the office building can "prove to be worthwhile it's something that can be explored."
"I agree," said Mousie. "When I read that story I certainly had the impression that a provincial museum isn't at the top of Mr. Ghiz's agenda. If he had to choose between the two, he'd chose the office building, though I doubt there's many votes in it. At least the heritage buffs would appreciate a museum. Who'd vote for an office building?"
"In a time of budget restraint one would have thought the premier would have dismissed the idea, completely rejected it," said Hat. "It's just another example of how politically tone deaf this government has become."
Alan Holman is a freelance journalist living in Charlottetown. He can be reached at: email@example.com