Harper pays tribute to Charlottetown Conference

Published on June 20, 2014
Prime Minister Stephen Harper chats with Lindsay Oehike, a Parks Canada interpretation officer, as they tour Province House in Charlottetown Thursday.
Guardian photo by Heather Taweel

Prime Minister Stephen Harper paid tribute to the 150th anniversary of the Charlottetown Conference during a visit to P.E.I. Thursday.

Harper called this anniversary an auspicious one that marks the first meetings that led to the eventual formation of Canada.

“Even today the courage and foresight of the Fathers of Confederation is striking, but 150 years ago, given the state of colonial politics and the proximity of the world’s most powerful and hostile army, it was nothing short of remarkable,” Harper said.

“Isn’t that something worth celebrating?”

The prime minister took a tour of Province House Thursday, visiting the same room in which the Fathers of Confederation met in 1864 and came to an agreement on a national union.

Harper said it was his first time inside the building, and he took note of its beauty and historical significance.

“It’s a tremendous feeling to be right there where the Fathers of Confederation, the actual chairs they sat on around that actual table, and to really contemplate what they achieved here, the project they began here and what it has become today.”

During a speech delivered to invited guests at the Confederation Centre, Harper highlighted $10 million in funding recently announced for much-needed renovations to Province House, which still serves as P.E.I.’s provincial legislature.

The building has faced a series of structural problems, and even had to close recently after a section of plaster fell from the ceiling within the building earlier this year.

An engineer’s report prepared for Parks Canada identified extensive problems that could take years to address.

The PM also confirmed Thursday financial support for the sesquicentennial celebrations, much of which had previously been announced, including an additional $5-million to P.E.I. 2014 Inc.

This money will be used for the Celebration Zone on the Charlottetown waterfront, the Canada Day celebrations, Founders Week events in late August and a national marketing campaign to inform Canadians about the 150th anniversaries of both the Charlottetown and Quebec Conferences.

The federal news release for prime minister’s visit stated total federal support for the 150th anniversaries of the Charlottetown and Quebec conferences is more than $24 million.

But provincial officials were quick to point out this figure includes $12 million for the Province House remediation work as well as $4 million given to the Confederation Centre of the

Arts to renovate its Homburg Theatre.

The province argues these projects are not related to the 1864 anniversary celebrations.

Harper attended a few other private events in P.E.I. Thursday, including a meeting at the Charlottetown Hotel with local Progressive Conservative party members and a visit to MacKinnon’s lobster pound on the Charlottetown waterfront.