The Ontario governmentcould pay for the maintenance of a rundownCanadian war memorial down the street from Buckingham Palace if Ottawa doesn't step up with the $25,000 a year funding, Premier Dalton McGuinty said Wednesday.
The Canada Memorial granite monument in London has fallen into disrepair amid arguments over maintenance responsibilities after the fall of private benefactor Conrad Black.
McGuinty said the federal government is playing an "after-you-Alphonse shtick" in not paying for the repairs and, as a result, the province would be willing to take on the financialobligations.
"It's the responsibility of the federal government," he said. "If they can't do it, I'm confident the people of Ontario would pay. It's only $25,000 a year to maintain a prominently located memorial in London, within view of Buckingham Palace, and we should pick up that tab."
Themonument was inaugurated by the Queen 13 years ago to honour the Canadians who fought and died alongside British troops in the two world wars.
The monument was a privately funded project, spearheaded by media baron Conrad Black. Black and the Daily Telegraph newspaper paid for the maintenance costs until 2004 when the former head of the Hollinger newspaper empire was accused of siphoning millions of dollars from the company. In July, he was convicted of obstruction of justice and three counts of fraud.
He had created a fund tomaintain the memorial, but the money dried up during his legal battles.
As a result,the maintenance costs, which include cleaning and water pump repairs, have gone unpaid for the past three years. The monument's plaques are smudged and dirty, the water pump no longer creates cascading waterfalls over the bronze maple leaves, and children and dogs use the site as a play area.
There has been no indication from the federal government that it will take over the costs. The Department of Veterans Affairs has a program that pays up to half the cost of restoring private monuments, but not maintenance fees.
According to the department, there are thousands of private memorials to Canadian war dead around the world, with 6,000 in Canada alone.