New Brunswick

Nice try, says P.E.I. to N.B. over controversial new slogan

P.E.I. politicians defend the Island's right to claim the province is 'where it all began,' despite New Brunswick's boast in a slogan.

New Brunswick's Canada 150 slogan claims province is 'where it all began'

Charlottetown was the site of the first conference held to establish the terms of Confederation, which Island politicians says makes the province 'where it all began.' (George P. Roberts/Library and Archives Canada)

Prince Edward Island is pushing back against New Brunswick's claims to being the place where Confederation began.

The New Brunswick government announced last November that its slogan for Canada 150 celebrations this year is "Celebrate Where It All Began."

The claim comes, in part, from the efforts of Arthur Hamilton-Gordon, the lieutenant-governor of New Brunswick in the 1860s, who came up with the idea of a meeting to explore a union.

While Island MP Wayne Easter is willing to share some credit for the party planning, he isn't backing down on which province can claim to be the true birthplace of Confederation.

Malpeque MP Wayne Easter has a private member's bill in Parliament seeking official recognition of P.E.I. as the birthplace of Confederation.
"I think there's no question many hands played a part in terms of the gene of a conference coming together," Easter told CBC New Brunswick's Vanessa Vander Valk on Shift. "But there's no question in my mind it is, 'Where was Confederation really born?'

"And it was born in Charlottetown, P.E.I."

Bill before Parliament

Easter has been pushing the issue in Parliament, with a private member's bill seeking official recognition of P.E.I. as the birthplace.

"I think it's important that it is in legislation actually, so it is stated within the Parliament of Canada," Easter said. "It puts it in a more solid foundation, so that history can't be reinvented, as sometimes happens, as time goes on."

Certainly, the Island's Guardian newspaper is accusing New Brunswick of some historical revisionism.

In its "Cheers and Jeers" section, the newspaper lambasted the province for "trying to claim parts, if not all, the credit for the birthplace of Confederation."

Senator Diane Griffin has put forward a bill in the Senate that matches Wayne Easter's bill in Parliament.
Now P.E.I. Senator Diane Griffin has taken up the cause as well, introducing a duplicate bill to Easter's in the Senate last Wednesday.

It's not just pride at stake, she said.

"In terms of our tourism industry, it means a huge deal," Griffin explained. "A lot of people come to Prince Edward Island to see the birthplace of Confederation, they want to tour Province House."

N.B.'s claim

UPEI historian Edward MacDonald concedes New Brunswick's Hamilton-Gordon first conceived of the idea of a meeting and proposed one, but it was a far cry from what eventually happened.

His meeting was only going to be about Maritime union, with just a small group.

Former lieutenant-governor of New Brunswick Arthur Hamilton-Gordon first suggested a merger meeting, but it was just for Maritime union. (Library and Archives Canada)
"The governors of the colonies in the Maritimes, and also the leaders of the government, so six people would meet," said MacDonald. "He started trying to organize things, and quickly events got beyond his arm's reach of control."

That led to the huge conference in 1864, when the Fathers of Confederation laid out the groundwork for the nation.

"You know there's that saying, big things come in small packages? Well, in this time, great things started in small places," said Easter.

Easter and Griffin think Canada's 150th birthday would be a great time to have Charlottetown's position as the birthplace of Confederation enshrined in the law of the land.

Despite the Charlottetown Conference in 1864, Prince Edward Island initially was content not to join Confederation when New Brunswick and others did in 1867. It wasn't until 1873 that the Island became the seventh province.

From the Shift interviews by Vanessa Vander Valk