Twenty-five employees with P.E.I.'s Department of Education will be making the move to Summerside more than a year ahead of schedule.
The province announced plans last April to move the department from Charlottetown to Summerside by the fall of 2010. But Education Minister Gerard Greenan told CBC News on Friday that the province has secured space in the Holman Building so some employees can move in this spring.
"We have a number of employees who live in West Prince and East Prince who travel to Charlottetown," said Greenan.
"They're certainly very interested in our permanent location. So we thought we would move them up prior to, and that would free up some space in Charlottetown."
The Health Department will be taking space left vacant in the capital after the Education Department leaves, Greenan said. An announcement on a permanent location in Summerside for the 120 civil servants in Education will be made soon.
Fisheries also moving
The province is also planning to move the 30 employees in the Department of Fisheries and Rural Development to Montague. The Union of Public Sector Employees is calling on government to scrap both moves, saying they would be too costly in what should be a time of fiscal restraint. The province is facing a $50-million deficit.
But some Island business leaders say moving government jobs out of Charlottetown will be good for the local economy, and the economic downturn makes the move more timely.
APM Group is among a number of Island real estate developers who have approached government with offers of land and office space for the moves.
"Today the economy is really getting the crap beat out of it and I see a little bit weakness starting here in our Island economy," said APM president Tim Banks, a longtime Liberal supporter.
"It's probably a very good move for both Montague and Summerside because what it will do, it will reinforce to the locals that things are happening in their communities."
Greenan said he doesn't know what it will cost to move Education to Summerside, but the announcement has re-energized the city, which he represents in the legislature.