The Province: “Turning it into office space would be an insult to all British Columbians.”

The Province continues the chorus of opposition to the proposed conversion of the Legislative Library.

A public treasure politicians shouldn’t destroy
Could our MLAs finally be coming to their senses?
 
Michael Smyth
The Province

Thursday, March 22, 2007

If the Gordon Campbell government wants to shut down the legislative library and turn it into office space, they’ll have to go it alone.

Yesterday — after a week of twiddling their thumbs on the issue — the NDP Opposition said it wants no part of any plan to ransack B.C.’s history.

“I think it’s been made very, very clear that people feel strongly about the library and we’re saying it should stay right where it is,” NDP house leader Mike Farnworth told me.

“We will oppose any effort to convert the library into office space.”

This is a very different position from the one Farnworth took on the issue last week, when it was announced that the library was closing for seismic upgrades and might re-open as office space for Liberal and NDP MLAs.

Back then, Farnworth pointed out that space is already at a premium in the legislative buildings and six new MLAs are expected to be added in a riding redistribution.

“We’re going to have to look at how we use the space,” he said.

Farnworth is a key member of a committee of Liberal and NDP MLAs that will decide the fate of the 144-year-old library that holds more than one million books, documents and other records at the legislature.

His comments of last week seemed to indicate the New Democrats and the Liberals had cooked up a secret scheme to take over the library space for their own use.

Does that sound vaguely familiar? Last year, the very same committee secretly agreed to give all the politicians salary hikes ranging from 15 per cent to 31 per cent, plus a new, gold-plated pension plan.

The booty haul fell apart after NDP Leader Carole James backed out of the deal in the face of public anger.

Looks like she’s learned her lesson.

But now that the NDP has decided to stand up for the library — finally — the Liberals could still go ahead and annex it anyway.

Liberal MLA Bill Barisoff, the current Speaker of the legislature, said yesterday the office-conversion option is still on the table, though he was sounding less bullish on the idea. He said the Liberal-NDP committee is looking at several other options to deal with space pressures.

Could it be that everyone is finally coming to their senses on this issue?

“It’s clear to us that it would be stupid to convert the library into offices and I hope the government realizes that it would be stupid, too,” Farnworth said.

Amen. The stately and historic legislative library is a public treasure that holds 144 years of our history and some of the province’s most rare and important documents.

Turning it into office space would be an insult to all British Columbians.

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