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.