In the Chamber -- Grant Mitchell's Blog

Losing the bid

Posted 12/17/2010 by Grant Mitchell

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The government's rejection of Edmonton's 2017 bid is both difficult to understand and very troublesome.

First, difficult to understand. They argue that we cannot afford it, but:

1. They encouraged Canadian cities to bid for it. Edmonton has already invested a good deal of money in developing the proposal - will the government compensate us now?

2. They say that it will cost $1.0 billion dollars inflated by $300 or $400 million due to their estimate of security costs. So, it would seem Edmonton, Alberta and Canada for that matter will be denied the benefits of this project because the government could not manage security costs for the G8 and G20 meetings. Didn't they learn anything from that experience?

3. Despite repeated requests by the Edmonton organizing committee, the Conservative Minister responsible for Edmonton never met with them to give them the chance to explain costs and benefits.

4. The government says they cannot afford $1.0 billion now due to the deficit, but it is not for now. It will be spread out over 7 or 8 years, about $125 million per year.

5. And why do we have this deficit of $56 billion anyway?... The government has increased spending by $80 billion annually since they took office, they have squandered money on things like the G8/G20 meeting, Camp Mirage.

6. The Minister of Finance says he will balance the budget by 2014, three years before the event and time, you would think, to accumulate some surpluses to pay for this event.

Second, what is at stake that makes the denial of this project so troublesome:

This is a tragic lost opportunity. A lost opportunity for Canada to host the world, to bring nations together to meet, share ideas, solve problems and celebrate distinctions. A lost opportunity to showcase Alberta and Canada as a safe, sustainable energy supplier to the world.

A lost opportunity to showcase and defend the oil sands to the world.

This Expo was going to explore innovations in energy; the sustainability of our planet; and benefits to humanity through research, knowledge, culture and education.

Its exciting theme was "Energy and our Future Planet," a theme that resonates with citizens around the world. It challenges us to think about energy differently. It was going to encourage a global discussion on energy that would stimulate innovative approaches to addressing challenges, build new partnerships and create new opportunities to better meet current and future energy demands in a responsible manner.

The benefits of hosting Expo 2017 for Edmonton, Alberta and Canada were vast. First, major economic benefits were expected, with an estimated increase in GDP of $2.6 billion, the creation of over 37,000 jobs and over 5 million visitors.

It was to be a catalyst for infrastructure development and new investment that would strengthen and grow the city of Edmonton and the province of Alberta.

2017 will also be Canada's 150th anniversary of Confederation. Expo would have been a fantastic celebration of this time in our nation's history. It would have been an opportunity to enhance Canada's identity, its cultural diversity, rich Aboriginal heritage, and promote the arts and culture.

Now is no time for us to retract and pull away from the world. But that is what we have been forced to do.

Read some of the speeches by myself and my Alberta colleagues on this issue here:

My speech

Senator Tommy Bank's speech

Senator Claudette Tardif's speech

Senator Terry Mercer's speech

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