Government knew of rising Francophonie Games costs in October 2017

A document shared by the Department of Tourism showing details of a provisional budget for the 2021 Francophonie Games raises more questions about how long government knew about the rising costs of the games, and what was done.

Committee sent budget of $45M after government became ‘concerned with potential for rising costs'

The Francophonie Games are the largest sporting and cultural event in the French-speaking world but Moncton-Dieppe's ability to host them may be in jeopardy. (AFP/Issouf Sanogo)

A document shared by the Department of Tourism showing details of a provisional budget for the 2021 Francophonie Games raises more questions about how long government knew about the rising costs of the games, and what was done.

Former Treasury Board chair Roger Melanson told reporters Tuesday the organizing committee submitted a version of its budget in February at $45 million.

But an email shows the budget was submitted in October 2017, about a year and a half after the $17.5 million Moncton-Dieppe bid for the games was chosen.

"It didn't come to the Treasury Board, so I didn't see that," Melanson said Thursday. "As soon as it came to the Treasury Board, we did not accept that number."

The budget was requested four months earlier by government officials. 

"In Oct. 2017, government employees overseeing the Jeux de la Francophonie 2021 file became concerned with potential for escalating costs to organize and host the event," said Stephanie Bilodeau, a spokesperson for the Tourism Department.

"Therefore, they requested that the organizing committee provide an estimate on what they thought the costs would be."

In response, the committee's executive director, Eric Larocque, sent an email under the subject line "hypothetical budget."

The one-page spreadsheet that was attached showed communications and marketing costs jumped from $400,000 in the original 2015 bid to $6 million.

Roger Melanson, the former Treasury Board chair, says he found out about the rising costs of the games in February. (CBC)

The largest share of the $45 million budget — $11.7 million — was being allocated to human resources.

Operations were tabled at $11.6 million, there was $6.4 million for competitions, $6.4 for programming, $1.1 million for leg, $924,710 for international relations, intergovernmental relations and strategic planning, and $491,252 for an international project.

No money was budgeted for infrastructure.

According to the document, the government of New Brunswick was to contribute $14.2 million, about a third of the budget and already more than the $10 million the province originally pledged.

Ottawa's share was calculated at $15.7 million, and $13.5 million was to be self-generated revenue from the national committee of the Francophonie Games.

What did government do?

Melanson said he wasn't aware the games budget was shared in October. 

He said that after seeing the $45 million budget, a working group of deputy ministers was created to address the issue of rising costs.

But somehow, when the full business plan was submitted in March 2018, the budget had not decreased.

It had, in fact, tripled to $130 million.

Melanson wasn't positive the deputy ministers were in contact with the games organizing committee.

"I'm guessing yes," he said Wednesday.  

Asked how, if the two committees were in contact and discussing things, the $130 million came as a surprise, Melanson said, "It came as a surprise because the numbers kept rising."

The costs for the Francophonie Games have increased more than sevenfold since the province submitted its original bid back and 2015 to host them in Moncton-Dieppe.

The proposed budget for the 2021 Francophonie Games is Moncton and Dieppe is coming under increased scrutiny. What should be done with the international event? PC cabinet minister Robert Gauvin, Liberal MLA Roger Melanson, Green Party Leader David Coon and People's Alliance MLA Rick DeSaulnier join the weekly CBC political panel. 49:57

About the Author

Gabrielle Fahmy

Reporter

Gabrielle Fahmy is a reporter based in Moncton. She's been a journalist with the CBC since 2014.