Government

The First Use of “Internet” in the Legislative Assembly

My first job on Prince Edward Island, 20 years ago, was at the PEI Crafts Council. Two years later I began working with the Province of PEI on creating a provincial government website, and in the spring of the following year, in April 1996, Premier Catherine Callbeck rose in the house to speak about this project; I believe this to be the first use of the word “Internet” in the official records of the Legislative Assembly:

Premier: Madam Speaker, last year the Province of Prince Edward Island established a horne page that we call the “Internet Information Centre.” Our intent was to use the Internet to promote Prince Edward Island as a place to do business and as a place to visit. We also plan to use the Internet to provide government information to the Internet community. We’re extremely pleased, Madam Speaker, with the results of the Internet Information Centre to date. Our home page has received several awards, including the top five percent on the Internet and mentioned at the top 100 list from PC magazine. This is quite an accomplishment, considering that there are more than six million sites on the Internet. In addition, our site has been mentioned in several Internet books and computer magazines. The site was also featured in a recent book regarding Canadian Internet sites. According to reviews, we have an excellent Internet home page. Now Madam Speaker, thousands of people from around the world visit our site every month. The best measure of our Internet Information Centre is electronic mail that we receive from those people who use our site.

One American user said and I quote, Madam Speaker:

I am extremely impressed with all of the work that Prince Edward Island does to attract visitors to their Island. I visit every year and truly believe that PEl is in fact the most beautiful place on earth. I know that I will retire and move to the Island some day. I have never met anyone unkind on Prince Edward Island I’ve never been to any other place in the U.S.” and he’s got in brackets (my home), “where a community is so down to earth. Thank you for being the way you are. Regarding the Internet Information Centre, I am simply amazed. I have not been able to locate any other service on the Internet where the government has done such a great job to promote their products.”

And that’s the end of the quote.

Our site, Madam Speaker, contains a broad variety of information including our electronic visitors guide that permits searching for accommodation. We also have information about doing business on Prince Edward Island. The site is a greeting card centre and information on the PEl Legislature. Last month for the first time we put both the Throne Speech and the Budget Speech on the Internet Access was provided at the same time as they were being delivered in the Legislative Assembly. This means that an Internet user anywhere in the world could read the speeches at the same time as they were being delivered. Given the success of the last year’s efforts, we also provided immediate Internet access to the Throne and Budget Speeches this year. I’m pleased to tell the members of this House that there has been considerable interest in both speeches.

To date more than 450 people have looked at the Budget Speech on the Internet. This represents 1,250 hits. More than 200 have taken a copy from the Internet for use in their computer. Madam Speaker, some of the persons assessing the Budget Speech are off-Island users. Provincial and federal government officials across Canada, as well as financial institutions have utilized the Internet to read or to take a copy of our Budget Speech. Some of those accessing the Budget Speech were also from the United States. More than 400 people have accessed the Throne Speech on the Internet.

This year we have put the Hansard on the Internet, which enables Internet users to read about our Session. Last year former Islanders sent E-mail to tell us that they loved to read about the Session in the Legislature as they kept in touch, because they could keep in touch with what was going on back home. The fact that the speeches are available electronically has reduced the demand for printed copy of the speeches. We have reduced the number of paper copies this year for the Budget Speech.

Also, Madam Speaker, for the Christmas of 1995, we introduced an Internet Christmas greeting card. From the time we began the service in early December to early January, more than 48,000 Christmas cards were sent Anyone with an Internet account could send an electronic Christmas card to another Internet user. The card included the option to select a scenic view of PEl and verses. People from around the world used our greeting card centre - people from Taiwan, from Australia, from England, used the service to send Christmas cards. Based on this success, we introduced a greeting card service which allows Internet users to send birthday cards, as well as any other cards - Valentine, Easter. Since we introduced that, we’ve had more than 10,000 card (Indistinct). We’ve received electronic mail from many users thanking us for the service and telling us what a great means of promoting Prince Edward Island.

Madam Speaker, we can take pride in the fact that we are using leading edge technology to promote Prince Edward Island to provide information to the public. We plan to continue to use the Internet to promote PEl to provide information to Islanders and other Internet users. Thank you, Madam Speaker.

I came across this statement via the newly-lauched PEI Legslative Documents Online project, a rich and well-crafted collaboration of the Legislative Assembly, Hansard office, the government services library and the provincial archives, led by my colleagues at Robertson Library at the University of PEI.

Queen's Printer Stops Printing

I was at an auction at Royalty Centre in uptown Charlottetown this morning at the offset-printing outpost of Queen’s Printer. While my own purchases were modest — a coat rack and an oily rag can — there was enough equipment on offer to outfit a small offset print shop, and, with only 5 bidders on hand, the equipment went for a steal (presses worth thousands going for $100).

While this small auction — just 17 lots in total — might appear an insignificant disposal of crown assets, it actually represents much more than that, for it marks the end of more than 200 years of history during which Queen’s Printer actually printed, committing ink to paper with a printing press.

With the disposal of this equipment, Queen’s Printer — or the “Document Publishing Centre” as it’s now known in common use — is a 100% digital operation, with large and powerful digital printing machines in the basement of the Shaw Building at its disposal, but nary a printing press in sight.

Under the Queen’s Printer Act, “The Lieutenant Governor in Council may appoint a Queen’s Printer for the province, and fix the salary and prescribe the duties pertaining to the office.” There has been a Queen’s Printer — or a King’s Printer, when we’ve had a King rather than a Queen — back to the earliest days of Prince Edward Island, and it has been their role to oversee the printing of the official documents of the province, documents like the Royal Gazette and the Journal of the Legislative Assembly.

While today the holder of the position is a public servant — currently it’s Mike Fagan, whose official job title is “Manager, Document Publishing Centre, and Queen’s Printer” — in earlier times it would be a local printing company that would be appointed to the role, such as those of James Bagnall and James Douglas Hazard, about whom Eminent Islanders says:

Looking back almost 200 years to the product of King’s Printer of the day, you can see they did beautiful work, work that’s more remarkable still when you consider that it was set by hand (mechanized typesetting was not to be invented for another 66 years when this example was set): every single letter of what you see below was picked out of a type drawer by a printer, assembled into a form, and printed on a letterpress.

While it was perhaps inevitable that Queen’s Printer would stop printing with printing presses (and perhaps, in the not too distant future, they will stop printing altogether and go all-digital), it’s still sad to see the end of this tradition, especially as it came to such an ignominious end, in the suburbs, without any sense of the great and longstanding trade of putting ink to paper in the name of the Queen or King.

Coles Building Clock Fixed

I walk down Richmond Street past the Coles Building at least once a day, and for as long as I can remember the clock on the top of the building has been stuck at 7:00.

It started to bother me enough that I decided to see if I could push to have it fixed (this kind of thing seems to happen to me every decade or so, sometimes with catastrophic results).

So I wrote a letter to the Office of the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly. Which advised me to write to the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal. Who replied to me quickly that parts were on order.

This morning, en route to the office, I looked up at the clock — a reflex now — and was surprised to see that it no longer read 7:00:

NOKIA Lumia 800_001156

So I snapped a photo. And, as you can see from the timestamp of the photo, the time on the clock matches the time of the photo:

A small victory for fans of public time pieces everywhere, and once again an accurate indicator to me, on the way home, as to whether I’m late for supper or not. Thanks to Hon. Robert Vessey and his staff for making this happen.

Alfred + Government Directory

Here’s a quick solution to finding Government of Prince Edward Island telephone numbers using the excellent Alfred app for the Mac. Under Preferences | Custom Searches, enter the following:

  • Search URL: http://www.gov.pe.ca/phone/index.php3?lname={query}
  • Title: Government Telephone Number
  • Keyword: gov

You can optionally copy-and-paste the PEI wordmark into the icon field.

With that set up you just hit your Alfred hot key, and then type gov [lastname] (where [lastname] is the last name of the person you’re looking for):

Results open in your browser in the regular Government of PEI Telephone and Email Directory.

Free Education Act of 1852

From Ian Robertson’s Reform, Literacy, and the Lease: The Prince Edward Island Free Education Act of 1852, which discusses the context of the coming of free public education to the Island (emphasis mine):

The Free Education Act of 1852 addressed the financial issue directly, for teachers were to be paid in full by the colonial treasury. This provision meant an end to reliance on two other potential sources of revenue: local assessment and tuition fees. Teachers paid under the act were specifically forbidden to demand the latter, and the former was only to be used for the erection and maintenance of school buildings, which were the responsibility of the local trustees (who were chosen by the resident householders of the district). The changes meant that after 1852 poor districts and poor children would be much less likely to be disadvantaged. In two years the number of students enrolled doubled.

In the years since we have forgotten how revolutionary an idea that free public education is and, perhaps as a result, that which falls under the banner of “free” has been allowed to gradually creep backwards: parents are now called upon to pay for everything from field trips to basic school infrastructure. The 160th anniversary of the passage of the act will, I think, provide an excellent opportunity to discuss education on Prince Edward Island and how it is paid for.