Province House needs significant upgrades after restoration, says legislature clerk
'One way or the other there will be a requirement for a provincial investment'
The clerk of the P.E.I. legislative assembly wants to make sure Province House will have what it takes to function as the home of a modern day legislature once renovations on the historic building are complete.
Province House is currently closed, and the legislature is meeting in the Coles Building next door while Parks Canada repairs the exterior walls. The interior structure of the walls was destroyed by water damage, and the work is expected to take until 2021 and cost $47 million.
But Charles MacKay, clerk of the legislative assembly, says the building won't be ready for the legislature to start sitting there again even after the restoration.
"One way or the other there will be a requirement for a provincial investment in legislative facilities, and if it is Province House, I'm sure we're looking into the millions of dollars," said MacKay.
The province is in talks with Parks Canada about its needs for the legislature in the building, like better security and communications technology — things it didn't need when the building went up in 1847.
"I'm not advocating that we not go back to Province House," he said.
"We need to do our work to ensure that what we have will work for the legislative assembly. So assess what we will receive as far as facilities at Province House, and make a determination whether or not that meets the needs of the legislative assembly before the province invests heavily in Province House."
Whether the legislature moves back into Province House or not, MacKay said, a significant investment will be required on facilities.
Still lots of time for planning
In a written statement, Parks Canada said it is "pleased to collaborate with the Province of P.E.I. on the fair allocation of space for the P.E.I. Legislative Assembly and for Parks Canada to be able to present this important story for all Canadians as fully as possible."
Alan Maynard at the P.E.I. Department of Infrastructure is the province's connection with Parks Canada as the repairs move forward. Maynard said there's still lots of time to be thinking about the required infrastructure for Province House to house the legislature.
His department, he added, is not considering the possibility the legislature could move somewhere else.
"We have no thoughts at this point in time that what we have in Province House won't work for the legislative assembly," Maynard said.
'History in the making'
MacKay does see that as a possibility but acknowledges that many Islanders, including himself, would see it as a loss.
"Province House is certainly in the hearts of a lot of Prince Edward Islanders, certainly in my own heart. I've worked there a lot of years," he said.
But as important as that history is, he said, the work of legislature is something more.
"The legislative assembly is more than history. It is history in the making," said MacKay.
And that legislature, he said, will need the tools to do its work into the future.
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With files from Nancy Russell