After weeks of sorting through ballooning costs anticipated for the 2021 Francophonie Games, New Brunswick’s Progressive Conservative government has decided to cancel its plan to host the international event.
“We understand this is a very difficult decision for the individuals who wanted the games to move forward,” Premier Blaine Higgs said.
Higgs announced the fate of the 2021 Francophonie Games at a news conference in Fredericton on Wednesday morning, describing the costs of the sports event a “very steep climb.”
“None of these decisions were easy.”
Higgs said the high cost of the Games makes it impossible when the provincial government is making tough spending decisions. The premier said his government will name a representative to begin the cancellation process.
He said there will be associated costs with cancelling the event. So far, the province has spent $2.65 million on the event.
Deputy Premier Robert Gauvin previously set a Jan. 30 deadline for the federal government and the province to “develop funding options” to save the troubled event.
It appeared, however, an impasse had been reached with neither side budging from their initial funding commitments to cover the soaring price tag.
But on the day before the deadline, there were signs the Games had not been lost.
Changing tones and costs
As of late, the outlook for the Games has been grim.
The cost of hosting the Games ballooned last year to $130 million from the $17-million figure used in the original 2016 bid. A revised estimate put the potential cost at $80 million.
Premier Blaine Higgs repeatedly said the province would not pay more than its initial $10-million commitment and called on Ottawa to cover the balance. Federal cabinet ministers and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau maintained Ottawa would not shift from its policy to match provincial investment dollar for dollar.
“There has to be a model that works financially,” Higgs said.
Last week, Higgs suggested the fate of the Games was essentially sealed.
“Given what [Trudeau] said … given what I’m saying, it seems like the outcome is obvious,” Higgs told reporters last Thursday.
But hours before the province’s deadline, Radio-Canada reported the organizing committee for the Moncton-Dieppe Games submitted a new potential cost estimate of $62 million.
Also Tuesday, Federal Sports Minister Kirsty Duncan struck an upbeat tone on the state of talks with the province. In a statement, Duncan said provincial officials had “finally come to the table to work collaboratively with us to find solutions that reduce the cost of hosting the games and include in-kind contributions.”
Dieppe Mayor Yvon Lapierre also announced the city would increase its contribution, if the money would be directed to legacy projects for the municipality.
New Brunswick was selected to host the ninth edition of the Francophonie Games in 2016. The games are organized by La Francophonie, an international organization of 58 governments with connections to the French language.