New Brunswick

Sticker shock: Moncton councillors balk at Francophonie Games price

Two Moncton councillors say there’s no appetite to increase the city’s funding commitment to co-host the Francophonie Games in 2021, while another is leaving the door open.

How to pay estimated $130M cost an open question

Several Moncton councillors balked at the jump in cost of holding the Francophonie Games in 2021 to $130 million and say the city shouldn't consider any increase in its funding commitment. (Shane Magee/CBC)

Two Moncton city councillors say there's no appetite to increase the city's funding commitment to co-host the Francophonie Games in 2021, while another one is leaving the door open.

Isabelle LeBlanc, Moncton's director of communications, said there's been no request for the city to increase its funding at this point.

Whether to increase its contribution would be a council decision. Councillors say they expect to discuss the Games at a private meeting on Monday.

It was more expensive than anticipated … but this is a chance for us to work together.- Robert Gauvin, deputy premier

"I don't think that our bid offer that the City of Moncton has budgeted for, the $750,000, should be increased," Coun. Shawn Crossman said Friday. "I don't think there's any reason for us to increase that."

Who will pay the higher price to host the event is an open question now that the estimated cost has exploded from about $17 million to $130 million.

Radio-Canada reported Friday that Premier Blaine Higgs told the federal government New Brunswick will only pay up to $10 million of the cost of the Games. The federal government has indicated it won't pay more than half the cost of the Games.

The federal and provincial governments had previously agreed to split the cost equally, with Moncton and Dieppe contributing $750,000 each.

That would potentially leave the province's share at $63 million dollars, more than double the amount the province is paying to build a new middle school in Moncton.

The games are expected to draw 4,000 athletes and artists to the Moncton area in 2021. (Hussein Malla/Associated Press)

The Games, expected to draw athletes and artists from around the world, will be held in Dieppe and Moncton in 2021. The International Organisation of La Francophonie holds the Games, which are open to participants who do not speak French.

New Brunswick's Deputy Premier Robert Gauvin said Thursday various funding partners would have to come up with a plan.

"It was more expensive than anticipated … but this is a chance for us to work together with the federal, municipalities, people from business communities to show that New Brunswick can shine," Gauvin said.

Dieppe Mayor Yvon Lapierre said the city would "absolutely not" be open to increasing its funding commitment.

Paulette Thériault, a Moncton councillor, says whether the city should increase its funding depends on the approach taken by other levels of government. (CBC)

Coun. Bryan Butler also said he "certainly wouldn't be" willing to increase how much Moncton contributes.

Coun. Paulette Thériault said such a decision should wait until the shock of the massive increase has worn off. She left the door open to considering a funding increase.

"It depends, we'll have to see what other levels of government are doing," Thériault said.

The Games organizing committee bid for the event without drafting a complete business plan.

The increase of more than 600 per cent was revealed when that plan was completed and sent to funding partners like the city and provincial government earlier this year.

Isabelle LeBlanc, Moncton's director of communications, says city staff were told of the increased cost of hosting the Games in April. (CBC)

While Dieppe's mayor said this week he only learned of the new cost on Wednesday night, city staff in both cities have known since April when they received the business plan.

"We got a copy of the business plan at the end of April and that's when we learned that the scope of the financial ask was broader than what was really submitted as part of the bid package," LeBlanc said. "However, we also knew that the federal and provincial governments needed to go through their negotiations process."

LeBlanc and Annie Duguay, Dieppe's director of communications, say the information wasn't shared with elected officials because the cities weren't asked to increase their contribution, so there was nothing for council to review and approve.

Several Moncton councillors expressed frustration they learned about the cost difference in media reports.

"I think council should've had a meeting on that," Crossman said.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Shane Magee

Reporter

Shane Magee is a Moncton-based reporter for CBC.

With files from Gabrielle Fahmy and Radio-Canada

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