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OPINION: Reconsideration required

Province House National Historic Site in Charlottetown is the usual home of P.E.I.’s Legislative Assembly. The building is closed for major renovations.
(The Guardian File Photo)
Province House National Historic Site in Charlottetown is the usual home of P.E.I.’s Legislative Assembly. The building is closed for major renovations. (The Guardian File Photo) - The Guardian

The decision to move government operations back to Province House a lack of forethought

BY STERLING STRATTON

GUEST OPINION

Two years ago, a building proposal was presented to the public that attempted to persuade the P.E.I. government to avoid squeezing the Legislative Assembly back into a renovated Province House. Unfortunately, the proposal did not gain action by the Government. It’s time for reconsideration.

For years the Assembly and members’ offices have become overcrowded and detached. This created inefficiencies such as too little room in which to work, difficulty maintaining lines of communication and postponing the introduction of a modern means of electronic communications.

The decision to move government operations back to Province House is, in reality, a lack of forethought. Other public proposals such as Founders’ Hall, the new Charlottetown civic complex, and the white elephant Event Grounds also suffered from a lack of forethought.

Moving the Legislative Assembly back to Province House will eventually create a similar negative reputation and become a major historic blunder, with no easy escape.

Then what is the solution? Simply, it is time to modernize the Legislative Assembly and the associated offices without waiting for the renovations to Province House to be completed. If Holland College and the University of Prince Edward Island can find the funds for the construction of their magnificent architectural improvements, then so should the Legislative Assembly be able to develop a state-of-the-art new home.

Improvements would include the following at an honourable location at the Experimental Farm to include both the assembly and offices.

It would include modern electronic devices for members/staff; adequate spacing and comfortable furniture; private members room near the assembly; a series of meeting rooms of various sizes; modern quarters for the speaker and staff; functional quarters for the clerk and staff; an updated legislative library; ample spaces for the press; an enlarged public gallery; modern conveniences in members’ offices; underground parking for members; outdoor parking with numerous spaces; and additional landscaping to compliment the Royal Forest and Premiers’ Woods.

The key prerequisite is solving the difficult question of land ownership (Experimental Farm). Unattended for years, it needs to be settled.

Freeing up the legislative space in Province House leads to other advantages.

First, Province House would contain two companion historical exhibits: 1.) A new provincial exhibit emphasizing the history of immigration beginning with the First Nations people to later arrivals, and; 2.) A federal exhibit emphasizing Canadian confederation (as planned by the Government of Canada).

Second, the provincial library could be transferred to the Coles Building to work in tandem with the current archives.

Third, moving the library opens up space for the Confederation Centre’s theatre and arts departments.

- Sterling Stratton of Charlottetown is a retired superintendent of schools; and artist of historic sites

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