The Liberal Opposition critic for Tourism, Heritage and Culture is concerned about the Higgs government’s disregard for New Brunswick’s heritage, particularly in the areas of public art and architecture.
“Blaine Higgs does not seem to understand the value of our architectural heritage. He does not understand that if you don’t know where you come from, you don’t know where you are or where you are going.” says Isabelle Thériault. “Heritage is an important part of our identity. It reflects our evolution as a society. Some buildings are part of history because it is within their walls that history was written, and that’s something that must be respected.”
Built in 1964 to celebrate Canada’s 100th anniversary, the Centennial Building is considered, from a historical, architectural and artistic point of view, to be one of the most important buildings in Eastern Canada. A renovation plan for the building developed by the previous Liberal government was well underway when the Higgs government came to power and stopped the work, leaving the building abandoned.
An internal report from 2019 confirms that the project could have saved $2.5 million per year by relocating government departments to the leased offices in the Centennial Building. The Higgs government had to pay $11 million in project cancellation fees. The building was sold to a private developer for $4 million.
“We had a plan to breathe new life into the Centennial Building and create a courthouse to replace the outdated and dysfunctional Fredericton Courthouse. This would have ensured the conservation of the building and its artwork. Once elected, Blaine Higgs stopped the work. He let the building deteriorate and then sold it for peanuts,” explains Thériault. “The Centennial Building houses monumental works of art of inestimable value. They were created by our some of our greatest artists. These works are integrated into the building and cannot be moved. Unfortunately, we don’t even know if these works of art can be saved,” deplores the MLA for Caraquet. “The Centennial Building is a powerful symbol. It represented the future according to Louis Robichaud. Today, it represents the future according to Blaine Higgs. »
The Memramcook Institute is another example of the Higgs government’s disregard for the province’s heritage and historic buildings.
“The previous Liberal government had launched the renovation of the 19th century building to ensure that this major Acadian heritage site would be preserved for future generations,” explains Isabelle Thériault. “During the 2018 campaign, Blaine Higgs promised the mayor of Memramcook that he would continue the work. Once the election was over, he betrayed his own word, halted the renovations and put it up for sale without even consulting the Town of Memramcook.”
“I must say that I am outraged at the way this government is treating our heritage. When historians look at our times, I think they will be stunned at how collective memory has simply been erased.