The P.E.I. government has been presented with a plan to move the Prince Edward Island Court of Appeal into the Coles Building, next to Province House, as a legacy project marking the 150th anniversary of the Charlottetown conference.

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Chief Justice David Jenkins prepared the proposal with Charlie MacKay, clerk of the legislature. (CBC)

2014 would mark the sesquicentennial of the meeting that started the discussions that led to the formation of Canada, and many believe there should be a legacy of those celebrations, much as the Confederation Centre was built to mark the centennial in 1964.

Chief Justice David Jenkins and Charlie Mackay, clerk of the legislature, have already presented their proposal for the Coles Building to the legislative management committee and Premier Robert Ghiz. The most expensive part of the plan would be building new space for MLAs and their support staff, who currently have office space in the Coles Building.

"We need to do something, in our generation, where we contribute and leave a legacy," said Jenkins.

"Province House was built over 150 years ago, Confederation Centre was built 50 years ago. This is an opportunity to leave a legacy," Jenkins said.

The plan move MLAs to a proposed office complex that would be built on the site of an existing parking lot across Richmond Street from the legislature.  To go forward with this plan, the province would need to buy the land, owned by the Catholic Church. Then the Coles Building would be renovated to house the provincial Appeal Court. More space for the Island's archives would also be created there.

The Coles Building is the historic home of the Supreme Court. Construction began on what was then known as the Law Courts in 1874. The Supreme Court was housed there until 1976, when a fire severely damaged the building. The court was moved to a new building on the Charlottetown waterfront.

"A lot of our heritage people in the province are pushing this project. It is worthwhile, for sure, but it's one of the projects that will be under consideration," said Ghiz.

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The proposal will be something for the 2014 committee to consider, says Premier Robert Ghiz. (CBC)

Jenkins said money from the 2014 celebrations, along with help from Ottawa, could be used to fund the project.

But Opposition leader Olive Crane believes the endeavor is too expensive. She estimates the cost at $7 million to $9 million.

"There's certainly historic merit in a project such as this, but the bottom line, simply, is  the province has no money," said Crane.

"We are really in a position that we cannot invest in a project like this, at this time."

At this point, said Ghiz, the Coles Building proposal is just an option, one the 2014 committee will look at.

There's no yeses, there's no noes yet," said Ghiz.

"It all depends on what's going to happen with dollars and what the best projects will be into the future."

Ottawa has not made a commitment or said how much they're prepared to put into the 2014 festivities, or whether it is will to fund a legacy project.

A draft of the strategic business plan for celebrations of the 150th anniversary of the Charlottetown Conference leaked in May shows a budget well beyond what many believe governments can afford.

The business plans laid out a proposal for a year of festivals and parties that would cost $75 million, with $30 million coming from the province, $7.5 million from Charlottetown, and most of the rest from Ottawa.

Corrections

  • In a previous version of this story we reported the proposal was to move the Supreme Court, not the P.E.I. Court of Appeal. The corrected version of this story says that the proposal is to move the Court of Appeal, not the Supreme Court.
    Aug 03, 2012 11:40 AM AT