Nova Scotia

MacKay not sold on Halifax projects

Defence Minister Peter MacKay says the federal government needs time to weigh the merits of a new convention centre in Halifax, and more details before it can support a new 20,000-seat stadium.

Defence minister takes wait-and-see approach to convention centre, stadium

Defence Minister Peter MacKay says the federal government needs time to weigh the merits of a new convention centre in Halifax, and more details before it can support a new 20,000-seat stadium.

Defence Minister Peter MacKay said Halifax missed an earlier chance at a stadium when it stopped chasing the 2014 Commonwealth Games. ((David Smith/Canadian Press))

"I want to see all the information before I make any determination as to whether we'll support the project," MacKay said, speaking of the convention centre. "There appears to be growing division of opinion on whether this is a project that would merit federal support." 

MacKay, who represents Central Nova and is the province's sole voice at the cabinet table in Ottawa, did not elaborate.

The federal government is being asked to put $47 million toward the convention centre, and MacKay noted the federal cabinet does not meet again until Jan. 19.

That delay could cause a problem: Convention centre developer Joe Ramia will only guarantee his convention centre cost estimates until mid-January. Those estimates form the basis of provincial and municipal funding commitments of $56 million each.

Halifax Mayor Peter Kelly said he doesn't think a variance of a few days would make a difference. 

"If we're very close into the time frame, I don't see any reason why there wouldn't be some co-operation to allow for a slight adjustment of time, if that's where it has to go," Kelly said.  

The provincial Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal is handling negotiations with the developer, but the department said it would be inappropriate to comment now on the deadline issue.

Halifax stadium plan needs details: MacKay

MacKay said he supports the construction of a 20,000-seat stadium in Halifax but the federal government needs to see details first. 

"If there is a concrete proposal coming forward from the mayor, from the province, again, I will be happy to see that detailed information, and then make an assessment," MacKay said.

The Halifax Regional Municipality committed earlier this month to joining a national bid to host FIFA's 2015 Women's World Cup in multiple cities.

To take part, the city needs a stadium that can hold 20,000 people.

MacKay said he personally would like to see a stadium, but added that Halifax already missed a chance for new sports facilities when it chose to abandon its bid for the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

In 2007, the municipality's council held an emergency meeting to pull out of the bidding process, saying the $1.7-billion cost of putting on the Games was too high.

"We had in excess of half a billion dollars available through the federal government for sports infrastructure, specifically for the city of Halifax," MacKay said.

High cost cited

However, Kelly says the decision to dodge the Commonwealth Games was sound, citing the 2010 Games in India that reportedly cost more than $3 billion.

"When you look at what happened in New Delhi, clearly the cost shot through the roof and our responsibility was to the taxpayers, and we hold true to that point," he said. 

Kelly says for the stadium to move forward it needs co-operation and funding from the federal government, local universities and the private sector.

He says he's had interest from corporations, but he won't say which ones.

Municipal staff will have a report on the subject ready in January, Kelly said.

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