Moncton-Dieppe-Riverview Conservative MP Robert Goguen announced on Thursday that Ottawa has come through with funding that could go towards a proposed downtown event centre but it's unclear whether the City of Moncton will use the cash for that project.

MP Robert Goguen

Moncton MP Robert Goguen says $4.9 million annual gas tax funding could be used for any infrastructure project including the downtown event centre.

Moncton will receive $4.9 million every year for the next 10 years in a federal gas tax rebate.

"Initially they asked us for $24 million for the metro centre and if you do the math, it's beyond that so we're not going to dictate their priorities," Goguen said.

Goguen says the money is intended for infrastructure projects but otherwise how it is spent is up to Mayor George LeBlanc and his council. 

"Where is the money best used? They're close to the ground – their call."

LeBlanc says in the past money from the federal gas tax rebate has gone to pay for roads, water and sewer lines and transit buses and he's not convinced there will be anything left for the downtown event centre.

"I'm not sure whether we can squeeze some of this money towards the downtown centre but I would certainly be willing to give it the old college try," LeBlanc said.

City still needs funding

LeBlanc says the city needs $24 million from both the federal and provincial governments.

Mayor George LeBlanc

Moncton Mayor George LeBlanc says the City still needs $24 million each from the federal and provincial governments for the proposed downtown event centre to go ahead.

"I cannot see this project proceeding without appropriate funding from the federal and provincial governments so obviously we have to work hard with the federal government to find other alternatives for funding opportunities for the downtown centre," said LeBlanc.

Goguen says he will help with the effort although he is not aware of any other available federal funding programs.

Downtown Moncton Inc. has committed $2.5 million towards the project.

In October Moncton's city manager, Jacques Dubé, said finding money for the $112 million project had been challenging but he was still hopeful the federal government would come through.

"There's going to have to be a clever, ingenious way to allow the federal government to come into the project to allow the city to move ahead."

Dubé suggested the federal government might pay a larger share of capital projects such as sewer installation or community centre projects, which would allow Moncton to put the money it would have otherwise spent on those projects toward the downtown centre.

"We're going to have to play what I call a bit of a shell game with the federal government to allow them to fund items that the city would be budgeting in other areas of the city, for example, in order to free up cash for the downtown centre."

The latest hurdle for the city in realizing the downtown event centre is that the owner of the old Highfield Square property no longer wants to sell the land.

The city is planning to pursue expropriation of the land but some councillors worry that will lead to a higher price tag.