Mitton pledges to fight Conservative plan to sell historic Memramcook Institute

The provincial government wants to sell the Memramcook Institute which has been unoccupied since 2016 and has undergone $17 million in renovations

Local Green Party candidate Megan Mitton says the Higgs government’s apparent plan to sell the historic Memramcook Institute shows the same insensitivity to rural areas that it demonstrated when it supported cuts to Sackville Memorial Hospital and tried to privatize the operation of Murray Beach Provincial Park.

“We see this again and again, whether it’s our rural hospitals threatened with closures this spring, provincial parks, or highly important cultural and historical symbols — simply put, enough is enough!” Mitton says in a news release, adding, “I can promise you one thing: I will fight this!”

Megan Mitton in Green Party photo outside Memramcook Institute

Later, during a telephone interview, she criticized the Higgs government’s failure to consult with local people before moving ahead with plans to sell the Memramcook Institute, site of Collège Saint-Joseph, the first Acadian university.

“It’s another example of governments, and we’ve seen this with both Conservative and Liberal governments, making decisions without the people who live in those communities,” said Mitton who is running for re-election in the riding of Memramcook-Tantramar.

“In Memramcook, there are people who have formed committees, who have been working hard to find a plan, have wanted to work with the provincial government and here the government’s moving unilaterally and without any consultation,” she added.

Election issue

Memramcook Mayor Michel Gaudet says the potential sale of the Memramcook Institute, without any consultation, is going to be a big issue in the provincial election campaign.

“I’ve contacted them (the government) on four different occasions in the last couple of weeks, with no phone calls returned,” he said in a telephone interview.

“Premier Higgs was in Memramcook on Wednesday and nobody even called me to be there,” Gaudet says, “so that proves how much they care about the riding.”

The provincial government has owned the Memramcook Institute since 1967 after the college and seminary there closed.

In 2014, a previous Conservative government sought unsuccessfully to sell the complex, which includes several buildings, after the corporation that ran the institute declared bankruptcy.

Then, in 2017, the Liberals pledged $25 million over three years to renovate the institute.

Memramcook Mayor Michel Gaudet

Mayor Gaudet says the province spent $17 million restoring the exterior of the main building and putting a new heating system in it before the Conservatives halted the project in 2018 as part of their overall reductions in capital spending.

“What’s concerning is that there’s $17 million in the building now and if they sell it, I would be very, very, very, surprised if they would get even $17 million to cover the renovations,” he adds.

Instead, he argues the government should use the institute for provincial offices instead of renting space elsewhere.

“Here’s a building that they have 100,000 square feet all completed in Memramcook which is 15 minutes from Sackville, 15 minutes from Dieppe, 20-25 minutes from Shediac,” Gaudet says.

“Here’s a building that they can go and potentially put offices for a fraction of what they’re paying in rent; it’s very fiscally irresponsible in my opinion that they are doing that.”

On Wednesday, Radio-Canada — the French-language arm of the CBC — reported that several buyers had expressed interest in the institute.

Radio Canada also quoted from an e-mail it had received from the provincial department of transportation and infrastructure saying that officials could give no further details as discussions are underway with various parties.

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8 Responses to Mitton pledges to fight Conservative plan to sell historic Memramcook Institute

  1. Kelly Alder says:

    Guess if it’s not worth the cost of Reno’s maybe time to get rid of yet another unnecessary burden on taxpayers.

  2. Wendy Alder says:

    Great idea to use it as provincial government offices IF the cost of the facility to run it is less than the current cost of renting. Also IF said rented offices aren’t say 10 year contracts that you can’t get out of. I say sell it and get something out if it! Bigger issues to fight for in my opinion.

  3. Harold says:

    This is a white elephant that has already had too much Provincial (our) money put into it. If it’s of cultural importance, the original owner should take it back. Support people, not buildings.

  4. john says:

    Sell it and sell it fast. Maybe if she had taken her responsibilities seriously and voted on matters in the legislative that were of importance to those in her riding I would think she really cared about the people of Memramcook and not just her continued pay cheque

    • brucewark says:

      Thanks for your comment John. Since we are in the midst of an election campaign and that fairness is essential, I’d just like to say that all of us need to be even more careful than usual to back up our comments. For example, why do you say that Megan Mitton didn’t take her responsibilities seriously? Are there specific examples of that? And, are there examples of Mitton not voting on matters that were important in Memramcook-Tantramar? It’s easy to make general statements. Backing them up with specific examples would be fairer to the candidates and would also make any criticisms more effective.

      • brian lane says:

        We could start with another explanation from the candidate why the entire Green Party abstained from the vote on vaccinations. I do think it was a setup by the PC with no intention of it being passed however when I have an MLA I expect that person to vote yes or no an issue

      • Shawn Mesheau says:

        Hi Bruce, in reading many of your articles and comments by readers I find that I have seen some comments that are opinions and do not necessarily have details to support the position. Is that something you will be looking for going forward when people are commenting? If that is the case then would it not be prudent that anyone commenting should be using their actual full name?
        Take Care

  5. Jim Throop says:

    My Father in-law graduated from that university and Romeo LeBlanc also at the same time. I am a lover of historical sites and my family has lived in this area since the expulsion of the Acadians 1755. In fact my ancestor Sergent John Throop was shot and killed at Fortress Louisburg. It would be a slap in the face to our French and our English communities to sell such an historical site. I personally have proven that these historical homes and buildings can be repurposed and turned back into proud buildings they once where, I believe if you went to Italy or anywhere in the world you would see a
    Mac Lap Top in a 400 year old building, but for some reason there is a mind set to tear down existing historical buildings or sell to who know who loosing all protection of our Government. Sorry for the bit of the rant but history is important! What ever Party takes power and show how they mean business drop the double property tax (only province in Canada that has this) then we will see real progress with renovations and construction putting our people back to work.

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