© Photo special to The Guardian by Brian Simpson
Province House in the snow photographed by provincial photographer Brian Simpson.
Parties pass unanimous motion for Ottawa to fulfil its commitments to Province House
A debate last week proves our MLAs can agree on some key issues and partisanship can take a backseat when the situation demands it. The looming crisis over the structural integrity of Province House is a case in point. MLAs passed a unanimous motion 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. The premier believes the entire cost should be borne by Ottawa and strictly speaking, that is the federal obligation. Mr. Myers thinks the province should help out where it can, and that also has some merit because the province does own the building and the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly has the final responsibility for the structure.
During 1973, Parks Canada and the province hammered out a proposal for joint management and restoration of Province House in recognition of its important role in Canadian history. Both parties agreed to a 99-year period of joint management which was subsequently updated in May 2005. The building, opened in 1847 and built at a cost of £10,000, was showing its age.
That 1974 deal was highly controversial at the time because it ceded some control to Parks Canada. In a sense, the province became strangers in its own land but it was in a financial bind and it was going to costs millions in restoration costs. Parks Canada did pay for a $3.5-million restoration from 1979 to 1983, which involved part of the building being restored to the 1864 period.
That work dealt mainly with historical restoration of rooms inside. But it’s been the crumbling of the exterior and foundation that has finally come to a crisis point. An additional $2 million was spent over the past two years on windows, roof and some sections of foundation and walls. Falling plaster from the roof in January resulted in another two-month closure and unspecified costs to get the building ready for the opening of the legislature last Wednesday.
The stopgap measures and failure to address key problems since 1983 have all come to a head. Now we hear from the debate last week that full and necessary renovations could close the building for three to five years and cost upwards of $40 million. The building will remain open this sesquicentennial year but after that the province is pushing Ottawa to immediately carry out full repairs on its dime.
The loss of the building, where our claim as the Cradle of Confederation is based, will be a major loss for tourism and a disappointment to visitors. But it’s necessary.
A crucial error in judgment
The firing of Dimitri Soudas as executive director of the Conservative Party of Canada, after he interfered with the nomination campaign of his fiancée, draws a fleeting similarity with a calamitous event over 75 years ago. Mr. Soudas said he made serious errors in judgment but only to help the woman he loved. King Edward VIII was hoping he could marry the woman he loved, American divorcee Wallis Simpson, but opposition from government, country and Commonwealth forced the king to abdicate. Where the king had a choice to quit, Mr. Soudas had none.
Mr. Soudas must have thought himself bulletproof because he had the personal support of Prime Minister Stephen Harper. It was the PM who was instrumental in having him appointed to the party position so he could take the Conservatives into the next election. On the upside, it’s best his departure happened now and not closer to next fall’s election where such errors in judgment might have been fatal to the party’s re-election chances.