Parks Canada: Renovations to historic PEI legislation taking longer than expected

CHARLOTTETOWN – The Prince Edward Island legislature was supposed to reopen some time this year after eight years of renovations and repairs, but Parks Canada now says that won’t happen.

“Parks Canada acknowledged that the project will take longer than anticipated,” the federal agency said in a statement released Monday. “Once all tendering processes are complete, Parks Canada will be in a better position to provide more information about … the estimated completion date.”

The conservation project, which started in 2015, has cost the federal government $91.8 million so far, and the bills are still coming in.

Parks Canada said bids for the third phase of the project were higher than expected, prompting a new round of tenders that have yet to be published.

The third phase calls for interior painting, heritage woodwork and new flooring, as well as a new elevator and upgrades for plumbing, electrical, ventilation and fire and safety systems. Plans also call for the installation of a “closed loop geothermal wellfield” for heating and air conditioning.

As for the total cost, that remains unknown.

Funding for the project has been announced “incrementally to ensure investments are made only after layers of the building have been removed or assessed and there is full knowledge of the building’s condition,” Parks Canada said.

An agency official said no one was available for an interview Monday.

In February 2014, a report from an engineering firm revealed that the legislature’s foundation was crumbling. The report concluded that without a comprehensive construction program, part of the building could collapse. At the time, Parks Canada confirmed the legislature was also dealing with a leaky roof, deteriorating masonry and falling plaster.

In 2015, the building was closed for repairs, and the legislative chamber was moved to the Honorable George Coles Building on Richmond Street in downtown Charlottetown.

The ongoing restoration project has encountered a number of problems over the years, including delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, supply chain issues, inflated material costs and a shortage of skilled tradespeople.

Meanwhile, Parks Canada confirmed that work on interior masonry and the building’s roof was recently completed, adding that construction would continue on lowering the building’s basement floor to make room for inclusive washroom facilities, a lunchroom and a mechanical room.

Work on the fourth and final phase of the project — including on developing a “multi-perspective visitor experience” — is ongoing.

Built between 1843-1847, the building is the only provincial legislature maintained by Parks Canada.

The building, officially known as the Province House National Historic Site, is the second oldest active legislature in Canada; Nova Scotia’s legislature was completed in 1819.

In 2014, the neoclassical building marked 150 years since the 1864 Charlottetown Conference, which saw 23 delegates from the self-governing colonies of PEI, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and the province of Canada come together to discuss creating a new country.

In early September 1864, the delegates from Canada, which would later become Ontario and Quebec, persuaded their colleagues from the Maritimes to support the idea of ​​a formal union. These discussions — and a few booze-soaked parties — led to more formal talks in Quebec and London, England, which cemented the creation of the Dominion of Canada in 1867.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 8, 2023.

—By Michael MacDonald in Halifax.


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