A timely call for long-overdue P.E.I. museum

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Rosemary Curley

More than 13 months ago, then-Premier Robert Ghiz said a provincial museum was not an immediate priority for his government but hoped it would become a legacy project when Canada celebrates its 150th birthday in 2017. The museum was high on the list for P.E.I.’s sesquicentennial in 2014 but it failed to materialize.

In mid-November, 2014, the speech from the throne suggested the province was exploring options on a possible museum project. It was a promise first made by the Liberals during the 2007 election campaign which brought them to power and repeated again in 2008. It was pushed to the background for much of the following six years until it emerged in the throne speech in November 2014. A week later Mr. Ghiz announced he was stepping down as premier and the museum idea went out the door with him.

It’s impossible to speculate that if Mr. Ghiz had remained premier, he might have championed the museum and action would now be underway to fund, design and construct this vital missing piece of our provincial infrastructure.

Time is already running out since the start of 2016 is mere hours away. Projects for 2017’s celebrations have rarely been publicly discussed nationally or provincially.

The province decided the 2014 P.E.I. celebrations were going to be spread out across the Island, with a focus on a celebration zone on the Charlottetown waterfront while various smaller events across the Island received support and improvements. Critics saw it as a wasted opportunity when upwards of $29 million in public and private sponsorship money was in play. Yet when the party ended, there was little left but the cleanup.

To be fair, there was a huge boost in tourism during 2014 which fortunately carried over into this year with another record-breaking season. The spinoffs from the past two big tourism years benefit the entire province, but where is our permanent legacy? Could not the two have successfully co-existed?

In 1964 we were endowed with the national memorial to the Fathers of Confederation — the Confederation Centre of the Arts — the heartbeat of the city for the past 50 years.

The president of Nature P.E.I., Rosemary Curley, came out publicly this week in a guest opinion to The Guardian to put forward a case for the museum. She wants the province to tap into infrastructure funds when they are doled out early in the new year. She wants action now and maybe something might actually happen in time for the 150th national anniversary of Confederation.

There has been an uneasy quiet about plans for 2017 — both nationally and provincially. There is a feeling that these infrastructure dollars being announced early in 2016 might be our best and only chance to commemorate the 150th birthday of Canada on a major scale.

Ms. Curley ripped past governments for shirking their responsibility and is calling out the province to commit part of the promised federal infrastructure dollars to building a human and natural history museum. We are the only province without one.

 Charlottetown is again extending feelers for a new sports and entertainment civic centre. Is there enough money for both projects, or even one?

The museum proposal was raised in the recent fall sitting of the legislature but received scant attention from government, opposition or media. It was left to Green Party Leader Peter Bevan-Baker to speak to the issue in a statement to the legislative assembly that now might be the time for Islanders to begin to dream about a museum project.

Ms. Curley thanked Mr. Bevan-Baker for recognizing this golden opportunity to develop a museum. She is also imploring the province to move ahead on this project now that there is an interest at the federal level in funding joint projects that serve the needs of Canadians in the area of social infrastructure.

The needs are many on P.E.I. but few people can argue against this long-overdue and long-promised provincial museum.

Organizations: P.E.I. museum, Confederation Centre, Green Party

Geographic location: Canada, Iceland, Charlottetown

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  • Dunk River Monk
    December 30, 2015 - 21:16

    This is a project that should be given a high priority. We Islanders need to showcase what we cherish in our heritage and history before it fades and is lost.