Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Interesting idea, but no...

They apparently must be spiking the water in St. John's with an assortment of interesting chemicals since I left if these two can agree on the same thing. That being the government should renovate the Colonial Building and turn it back into the province's legislature and not a historical attraction that probably no one will visit.

The province certainly is taking its time in announcing what they're planning on doing with the three major spaces vacated by the opening of The Rooms. I (along with other reporters) have been asking for years what was going to happen to the Colonial Building, the Arts and Culture Centre, and the old Museum space on Duckworth Street.

The previous Liberal government dragged their feet on it. So did the current Tory one. It was always being "studied." There are elements of the arts community that would love to see more rehearsal space or possibly another small theatre in the vacated art gallery area. And, of course, there's a group that wants to see a library downtown and views the old museum has the perfect place for it.

They are fine ideas, including Hollett's idea for the Colonial Building if we lived in the land of infinite money. Which we do not. Well, you guys don't, anyway. I'm up north where money becomes something weird.

When I read the Colonial Building idea pitched by Hollett last night, I thought it was a great idea. Then I slept on it. And came to the conclusion that, no, not really. Fun idea, but an awfully expensive one.

I don't have dollar figures for what it would cost, but it certainly involve major renovations to the Colonial Building (Granted, ones that have to be done anyway), then moving all the MHAs to the new legislature and then major renovations to the Confederation Building to fill the void left by the departure of the HOA and all the government members. And least we forget, the government already spent a small fortune on the HOA within the past five years when they wired it for television broadcasts.

So what would be the cost for that? At least $5 million I should think. Probably closer to $10 million. I'm pulling numbers out of my ass here, so God only knows what the cost would be. Perhaps more.

But here's one number I'm not pulling out of my ass - the number of times the House of Assembly sat in 2004: 60. According to Hansard, that's how many times the government could be bothered to open the House for business. Keep in mind that's not how many times each member actually went or did some real work. That's how many times the doors were open.

It's also not a particularly low number in our province's recent history. Grimes was just as bad for it. So was Tobin. Can't recall what Wells was like, but I'm sure Ed can tell me. I recall doing a research on a story a few years ago comparing how many times our HOA sits compared to other provinces. We were among the lowest in Canada if memory serves. It's also not likely to change anytime soon since, again if I recall properly, our current premier has expressed frustration about what a waste of time the HOA is as no real work gets done and he could spend his time better, doing more important things.

So I like the idea of renovating the Colonial Building and turning it back into the legislature...if only I didn't know how little it would be used anyway, how much it was going to cost, and all the other things that money could be better spent on.

Oh, and while we're spending magic money, I love the idea of a downtown library. Granted, the province can't find the money to give enough books to the already existing libraries in the province. Also the one in the Arts and Culture Centre is in such physically bad shape that it has to close during really hot summer days because it's against the law to make employees work in such unhealthy heat.

So yeah, not seeing that downtown library happening when the rest in the province have a few issues to take care of first.

As for the new rehearsal space in the ACC...sure, why not. Shouldn't cost that much.


Ed Hollett said...


Two things -

First, when Wells was elected, the House had been closed for upwards of eighteen months and MHAs were still paid in a lump at the start of each session. Guys were left without an income for that time. Bad scene. The place was run by special warrant without proper public disclosure.

Wells and company implemented two things: bi-weekly paycheques for MHAs, like everyone else, and regular sittings of the House in the spring and the fall.

Tobin cut back on the sitting days, Griumes cut a little more and Williams has, with the exception of the last session, cut back yet again. He has publicly msued about not calling it at all if he could.

As for the Building, all I suggested was that we scrap the plans for an incredibly expensive interpretation program and instead just relocate the House and its immediate offices (Library, Hansard etc to the Colonial Building).

Leave the offices for MHAs etc where they are.

Total cost $3-5 million, including redevelopment of the H of A space into offices. That's well within the annual capital budget of the government considering that, contrary to your assertion, we are actually flush with cash. Da byes have so much they are having trouble funneling it somewhere.

In govt terms, that is piss all AND it has the benefit of cleaning up a bunch of physical problems with access as well separating the leg from the administration of government such that Works dept or the Premier actually controls the House not the members. (Witness last spring's fiasco)

You make some good points. I just don't think the existing proposal is at all suitable, nor do I think my idea is that impractical.

As for Liam, I suggest he should go to the doctor as I am doing this afternoon. Something must be wrong if we agree on anything.

Maybe it is a sign of the Apocalypso

WJM said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
WJM said...

Year, number of sitting days, outside dates of sittings, notes

1998: 61 (March 13 – December 15)
1999: 52 (March 16 – December 14)
2000: 34 (March 13 – December 14)

2001: 48 (March 12 – December 13)
2002: 53 (March 11 – December 19) (3 days of Voisey’s Bay session in June)
2003: 24 (March 19 – November 15) (election year, 1 day of special sitting in November for swearing-in)

2004: 59 (March 18 – December 16)
2005: 33 (so far)

[Typo corrected]

towniebastard said...

It really is sad, especially when you look at some of the other provincial legislatures that will sit for more than 100 days a year.

I know the arguments - that you can get plenty of work done as an MHA outside the House, that you have a lot of responsibilities to constituents (well, rural ones do. Town MHAs, with the exception of Jack Harris and the cabinet ministers, sit with their hands under their ass most of the time), but it really is annoying the House doesn't sit more often.

This is where a government is suppose to be held accountable by the Opposition. I don't know how good a job they can do in just 60 days.

Of course, it doesn't help that the Liberals are currently a pretty sad sack opposition. I'm not sure if they would be any more effective if they had 200 days to work with.

NL-ExPatriate said...

Donate your used books to the library and they will send you a receipt for the cover price of the book as a donation.

Tax man is the man to kill.