N.B. 'unable to host' 2021 Francophonie Games without major cash injection
FREDERICTON -- The New Brunswick government has issued an ultimatum to the partners behind the 2021 Francophonie Games: come up with a new funding plan by the end of the month or forget about hosting the international sporting and cultural event.
Last month, the new Tory government announced the Games could prove too expensive for the province, as cost estimates ballooned to $130 million from the original bid of $17 million.
Five members of the organizing committee resigned when the numbers were released to the public.
Premier Blaine Higgs has said the province will stick with its original commitment to spend $10 million on the Games, and he insisted his government won't spend another penny.
On Tuesday, New Brunswick's minister responsible for La Francophonie, Robert Gauvin, maintained that tight-fisted stance.
"We believe that hosting an international sporting event of this calibre would be an incredible opportunity for the province," Gauvin said in a statement. "However, we are concerned about the increased cost to host the Games."
If a plan to get more cash can't be drafted by Jan. 30, then "the province will be unable to host the Games," he said.
As a possible solution, he hinted the federal government should be approached for more money, saying Ottawa's formula for supporting major sporting events was inadequate.
The original bid would have seen the provincial and federal governments paying up to $10 million each, with the two host municipalities, Moncton and Dieppe, paying $750,000 each and balance coming from ticket sales.
However a federal consultant's report pegged a reasonable cost at between $72 million and $115 million.
People's Alliance Leader Kris Austin said New Brunswick can't afford to pay more than it has already committed because the province is already struggling to pay for health care and education.
He said the province should back out of the Games unless the federal government bails out the event.
"This is why paying even a small portion of this or any cultural and sporting event is an irresponsible, wasteful use of taxpayers' money," Austin said in a statement.
Green party Leader David Coon has called for a legislature committee to find out why costs soared -- and to offer a solution.
More than 3,000 athletes and artists are expected to attend from more than 50 member states that have French as a common language -- though speaking French is not a requirement for participants.
New Brunswick is one of 84 member states and governments that belong to the International Organization of the Francophonie.
The ninth Games of La Francophonie, awarded to the province in 2015, are scheduled to be held from Friday, July 23 to Sunday, Aug. 1, 2021.
The Games include eight sporting events and 12 cultural events, including singing, storytelling, traditional dance, poetry, painting, photography and sculpture.
The Games, which Canada hosted in the Ottawa-Gatineau area in 2001, are held every four years in the year following the Olympic Summer Games.