Edmonton leaders licking wounds, assessing damage of Expo decision
Even planned expansions of U of A campus, LRT will slow down
November 24, 2010
EDMONTON — While local leaders tallied up the damage Tuesday from the federal government’s failure to support Edmonton’s Expo 2017 bid, Public Works Minister Rona Ambrose defended the move as necessary cost control.
Organizers asked Ottawa to put about $700 million into the $2.3-billion event, but Ambrose said this contribution could have ballooned to $1 billion if there was a security threat to the site or the oilsands.
“Even at a low-risk threat, securing this 90-day event would have cost $100 million, and that didn’t include the RCMP and city police,” she said.
“The infrastructure funding would have been great for Edmonton. I’m not going to deny that. The operational cost would have been taken on by the city and the province, but we would be responsible for security.”
Premier Ed Stelmach was also disappointed, telling reporters the federal government invited a bid from a province seen as being in the best position to support such an event.
“It’s the 150th anniversary of Canada. What a prime opportunity to showcase the new West, the oilsands, which I believe will be driving the economy in this country for years and years.”
But Ambrose said the government saw this year how security costs can spiral upwards at international events such as the G-8/G-20 summits and the Vancouver Winter Olympics.
However, bid committee sponsorship chair Ruth Kelly said the government never tried to negotiate a lower contribution to the fair despite repeated requests for talks.
She called the security concerns “a huge red herring.”
Police, military and other safety experts from all three levels of government toured the site during a two-day meeting earlier this month and agreed the committee’s $91-million security budget was reasonable, bid officials said.
Ottawa was asked to provide just $11 million of that expense.
The city and the province spent about $3.5 million developing and promoting the bid, Kelly said.
The main venue for the three-month fair was to be at the University of Alberta’s new South Campus, leaving behind classrooms and office space to give the crowded main campus breathing room.
Expo would have left South Campus with $800-million worth of buildings, which the U of A was to convert into academic research space through a $500-million renovation, vice-president of facilities and operations Don Hickey said.
They’ll now have to try to secure provincial funding for the amount, he said.
As well, city plans to complete LRT lines to the west end, Mill Woods and NAIT within six years to have them ready for the world’s fair will probably be delayed by one or two years, transportation general manager Bob Boutilier said.
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On one hand, we've had an expensive year, with the 2010 games and the G8/G20 (feds pitching in $878 and $858 million respectively, for security). But we're talking Expo 2017.
Surely we'll be out of recession by the time the money needs to be set aside? Seems kinda cruel to invite the city/province to waste $3.5 million of their own money for a bid that was never going to happen. Guess that's what happens to blue provinces, lol.