EDMONTON — The federal government will not support Edmonton’s bid to host the world fair in 2017, prompting a stinging rebuke from the mayor, who charged the Tories are taking his city’s electoral support for granted.
Federal Heritage Minister James Moore rejected the funding request in a letter to Mayor Stephen Mandel made public Monday.
Moore noted that the $706 million the city wanted from Ottawa didn’t take the full cost of security into account and the true price tag to the federal government could easily have eclipsed $1 billion.
“That is a financial risk we are not prepared to take at this time,” Moore wrote. “Particularly given our government’s most recent budget, where we committed to ’aggressively review all spending to ensure value for money’ with a goal of eliminating the federal deficit by 2015.”
Estimates had pegged the total cost of Expo 2017 at $2.3 billion.
Alberta was supporting Edmonton’s bid. Last week Premier Ed Stelmach said it is in the best interests of Canada to hold the fair in Edmonton and called on Ottawa to give an answer either way so that the city was not left hanging.
The province and the city had agreed that the bid plan would probably fizzle without federal support.
Mandel was incredulous Monday and took aim at Public Works Minister Rona Ambrose, the member of the federal cabinet from Edmonton.
“This decision is frankly wrong and extremely shortsighted,” the mayor said in a statement posted on the city’s Expo 2017 website. “What today communicates is not a failing of a team or of this city or province but simply that this government has no interest in being a federal partner in our ambitions — it is absolutely clear than when it comes to Edmonton’s growth and ambition Ottawa is simply not interested and our own minister has failed us completely here.”
Mandel noted the only immediate federal commitment needed was $10 million to help with costs of the bid. He also pointed out that it was Ottawa who encouraged the bid in the first place. The expo would have fallen in the year Canada turns 150.
“This is a government that has far too easily ignored the needs and aspirations of this province, indicating instead that we are not the political priority,” the mayor’s statement read. “I get it — taking electoral success for granted here has become a habit.”
The Canadian Taxpayers Federation praised Ottawa’s decision.
“Citizens of Edmonton and the province of Alberta should be thanking the federal government showing leadership and saying no to a three-month party when governments at all levels are running deficits,” said Alberta director Scott Hennig.
“The federal government is running up debt at a rate of $124 million per day, to say yes to helping fund a $2-$3 billion party would have been reckless.”
The Tories won all but one of Alberta’s 28 seats in the last election. The lone non-Conservative is NDP Linda Duncan, who holds an Edmonton riding.
“Having encouraged cities to put in bids, it is completely unfair that they would not follow up with federal support,” Duncan said in a statement.