The new Royal Alberta Museum in downtown Edmonton was put on hold indefinitely Wednesday after the province announced that Ottawa has pulled $92 million in funding.
"We're surprised and disappointed with this news but obviously it's not appropriate for me to move forward through the contracting phase," Infrastructure Minister Jeff Johnson said in a hastily-called news conference Wednesday evening.
"And the Nov. 16 deadline for signing contracts will not be able to be met under these circumstances."
Johnson said the government remains committed to the $340 million project. He plans to discuss the matter with his caucus colleagues but he couldn't say when work would resume.
"Of course, when a major partner steps back from the table, it changes the picture substantially, so we're going to have to keep working with the feds on that," he said.
It isn't clear where the $92 million figure comes from. The federal government's commitment was said to have been $30 million when the new museum was announced in April by former Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach.
The Conservative MP for Edmonton-Mill Woods-Beaumont, Mike Lake, said on Twitter that the commitment from the federal government is $30 million. "That commitment still stands," he tweeted.
'Incredible blow' to Edmontonians: mayor
The museum was to be moved from its current location near Government House in Glenora to a site at 103A Avenue and 99th Street in downtown Edmonton. Construction was to start this year, with completion scheduled for 2015.
The announcement came four years after the province scrapped a plan to redevelop the existing museum, partly because it was determined it was too impractical to build an addition at the current site.
A competition last summer led to the province awarding the design-build contract to Ledcor last month.
Mayor Stephen Mandel expressed anger and disappointment about the delay, just hours after Edmonton city council approved a deal on the new downtown arena located a couple of blocks away from the site of the new museum.
"This is really an incredible blow to the citizens of Edmonton," Mandel said.
Mandel said he doesn't believe it is fair to ask the provincial government to chip in the rest of the money. He believes the province wouldn't have committed its portion of the funding if the federal government wasn't involved as well.
Mandel said he would have more to say Thursday "when I'm more under ... better control." He also wants to talk to people within city government about what to do next.