The City of Edmonton's bid for Expo 2017 appears dead after the federal government said it wouldn't follow through with funding, infuriating the mayor.
“I've never been as mad at anything and just so disappointed in the lack of vision of a government,” Mayor Stephen Mandel said during an emotional news conference Monday afternoon.
Heritage Minister James Moore met with Mandel earlier in the day and said the project was far too expensive. The event is estimated to cost $2.3 billion and the federal government was asked to chip in $706 million.
“This decision is frankly wrong and extremely short-sighted,” Mandel said.
“As much as Alberta could see the potential, our federal partner is not there. Our own minister, Minister [Rona] Ambrose, completely failed to stand up for this city and province and in the end, her lack of support cost us this opportunity.
“I stand somewhat incredulous at this result.”
Edmonton was the only city in North America vying to host the event, but was waiting for Ottawa to commit to funding in order to prepare a bid package.
Financially risky, Moore suggests
Mandel accused the government of not funding the bid because Alberta traditionally votes Conservative, and he believes the federal Tories would rather spend money in areas where they could gain seats.
“I get it. Taking electoral success for granted here has become a habit,” Mandel said. “The federal government will tell you this decision is about money and security, but there's no evidence to indicate that here.”
The Alberta capital had committed $500,000 to the Expo bid this year, with the theme slated to be “Harmony of Energy and Our Future Planet.” The provincial government promised $10 million over the next three years.
In an interview Monday afternoon, Moore said the $706-million commitment did not include all the security costs associated with the event.
He said the government has learned “important financial lessons” from the G8 and G20 summits as well as the Vancouver Winter Olympics.
“Would Expo have been a shot in the arm? I suppose so,” Moore said.
“But you have to counterbalance that with what Edmontonians expect, which is that all levels of government would treat their tax dollars respectfully and only go down the road of supporting projects where there is minimal financial risk, and this is not one of them.”
Edmonton wanted to host the fair to celebrate Canada's 150th birthday.
The bid would also have brought Edmonton hundreds of millions in dollars of federal funding for things like LRT improvements.
Astana, Kazakhstan, and Liege, Belgium, are vying to host Expo 2017.