EDMONTON — Prime Minister Stephen Harper says he believes the majority of people in Edmonton support his government’s decision not to help fund Expo 2017.
Harper says he’s seen surveys in the local media that suggest his government’s decision has won some favour in the city.
“I am and I think our caucus is very clear that not proceeding is the right decision and, by the way, not just for the taxpayers of Canada. This is the right decision for the taxpayers of Alberta and most importantly for the taxpayers of Edmonton,” Harper told reporters in Edmonton Monday, where he was holding a closed door economic roundtable.
“I also want to thank the people of Edmonton who, I think, from everything I am seeing in terms of public opinion surveying, are pretty clearly supporting that decision.”
The prime minister reiterated his government’s position that the cost of hosting the world’s fair, including security, would be too expensive.
The estimated cost of the Expo was pegged at $2.3 billion for the three-month event that promised to draw millions of visitors to the area from around the world. The bid was tied to Canada’s 150th birthday. The country had hosted previous expos in Vancouver in 1986 and Montreal in 1967.
Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel was furious when he learned last week of the Conservative government’s refusal to back the plan. It had the support of Alberta and Premier Ed Stelmach.
Mandel pointed out at the time that the city was encouraged to make the bid by Ottawa.
On Monday, Mandel said he wasn’t about to argue with the prime minister.
“We did polling and that polling indicated that Albertans and Edmontonians supported the Expo,” he said. “The fact of the matter is it depends what question you ask.”
Mandel said it would be one thing if Edmontonians were told they would be stuck with paying $2 billion towards the Expo.
“But … the money we were going to invest is capital we were going to invest anyway, so we lost the opportunity for $2 billion in provincial and federal money to come into the city of Edmonton.”
When asked if he was still upset at the government’s decision, Mandel said he was “past angry.”