New Brunswick

From cradle to controversy: N.B. minister wants some of P.E.I.'s glory

Is it historical revisionism or a justifiable claim? New Brunswick's Tourism, Heritage & Culture minister says the province was where Canada "began" too.

Tourism, Heritage & Culture minister Ames says N.B. was Cradle of Confederation too

Tourism Minister John Ames spoke on the issue of Parlee Beach for the first time since news of poor water quality came out last summer. (Jacques Poitras/CBC)

New Brunswick's Minister of Tourism, Heritage and Culture, John Ames, is defending his province's right to claim some of the glory of being Canada's birthplace.

The province has annoyed its next-door neighbour, Prince Edward Island, by using the phrase "Celebrate where it all began" as it's slogan for this year's Canada 150 celebrations.

P.E.I. has long been known as the Cradle of Confederation.

"I don't disagree with P.E.I. saying they are the 'Cradle of Confederation,' but I'd like to augment that by saying that New Brunswick had a lot to do with it too," said Ames at the New Brunswick Legislative Assembly on Tuesday. "New Brunswickers should be proud and Maritimers should be proud that not only one province but two provinces had a lot to do with it."

Says idea born in N.B.

Ames pointed out that the original initiative for a convention on merging some British colonies in North America came from New Brunswick.

"Lt.-Gov. [Arthur Hamilton-Gordon] at that time, I believe it was 1863, had been tasked with trying to get a Maritime union between P.E.I., Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, and he was quite successful in developing that mindset," said Ames. "And as far as getting all the right dignitaries and representatives from Upper Canada and the Maritime provinces over to P.E.I., Fredericton was the catalyst in getting those people over there."

Province House in Charlottetown, where the Fathers of Confederation gathered in 1864. (CBC)
That's not quite how some historians, and Islanders, see it.  

Edward MacDonald, chair of the history department at the University of Prince Edward Island, said Hamilton-Gordon's Maritime union conference was foundering until politicians from Upper Canada got involved, and it became way bigger than anything Hamilton-Gordon had envisioned.

"The Canadians, having problems of their own in the central part of the continent, asked if they could attend, just as observers, because they had a bigger idea to pitch," said MacDonald.

They all ended up in Province House in Charlottetown in 1864, the first meeting that led to Canada's birth, and P.E.I.'s long-standing claim.

Currently, a bill from P.E.I. politicians is in front of both the House of Commons and the Senate, with the hopes that P.E.I. will be enshrined as Canada's birthplace once and for all during the 150th anniversary year — just P.E.I.

With files from Jacques Poitras