P.E.I. politicians seek to end any debate over where Confederation began

P.E.I. seeks to confirm country's birthplace

FREDERICTON — Two of Canada’s friendliest provinces are in a polite tug of war over which can claim bragging rights as the catalyst of Confederation.

Two Prince Edward Island federal politicians — MP Wayne Easter and Senator Diane Griffin — have each introduced bills intended to have Charlottetown recognized as the birthplace of Confederation.

This comes after New Brunswick revealed its slogan for Canada 150 celebrations: “Celebrate Where It All Began.”

“It’s hugely important for tourism and of course that’s why the Confederation Bridge is named such,” Griffin said Wednesday. 

“And adjacent to Province House in Charlottetown is the Confederation Centre of the Arts, which was built at the 100 year mark after the Charlottetown conference to commemorate the Fathers of Confederation.”

New Brunswick Tourism Minister John Ames said it was his province’s then-lieutenant-governor, Arthur Hamilton Gordon, who suggested a meeting in Fredericton in 1863, but the meeting was eventually held in Charlottetown.

“I agree that Prince Edward Island is the ‘Cradle of Confederation,’ but I’d like to augment that by saying that New Brunswick had a significant role in it, too,” Ames said in a statement Wednesday.

“New Brunswickers and Maritimers should be proud that not only one, but three provinces, contributed to the original movement towards unity. As one of the founding provinces, New Brunswick has a deep history that is rooted in how Canada is shaped today,” he said.

Island MP Wayne Easter introduced a private member’s bill last year.

“The purpose of the legislation is to place in statute the recognition extended by proclamation of the government of the Right Hon. Jean Chretien, in September 1996, namely that Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, be recognized as the birthplace of Confederation,” Easter said in the House of Commons. 

But Griffin said she’s concerned Easter’s bill could die on the order paper, as did an earlier bill from another Liberal MP, Sean Casey.

She introduced her own bill in the Senate last week.

“Since a bill has to go through both houses, it was suggested that perhaps we should put it through the Senate first and then when it goes over to the House of Commons it will be dealt with expeditiously,” Griffin said in an interview.  

She laughed when told about New Brunswick’s position on the birthplace of Confederation.

“That’s pretty neat. It shows the importance of Confederation, is what it shows,” she said.

“The meeting actually occurred in Charlottetown. People came down from Canada and the other Maritime provinces, so I feel pretty justified in calling Charlottetown the birthplace of Confederation.”

She said there’s more than a century of documentation to back up the city’s claim to being the birthplace of Confederation.

Canada’s 150th birthday is being celebrated across the country this year, but there’s no indication when, or if, the House might deal with legislation to settle any debate on the birthplace of Confederation.

Kevin Bissett, The Canadian Press

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