Let the (Convention Centre) Summer Games begin



Metro reporter Alex Boutilier’s scoop last week that costs for the new convention centre have increased sent local, provincial and federal politicians scurrying about like ants on a hot summer day, but to less positive result.

No one was able—or, more to the point, willing—to confirm what Alex’s source had told him. And no one, therefore, was prepared to tag a new, final price on the controversial convention centre project.

That costs have gone up should come as no surprise.

The developer, Joe Ramia, set his original $159 million figure for the public contribution to the downtown centre when he made his pitch to government way back when. Halifax and the provincial government were each to ante up $56 million, with the federal government chipping in $47 million.

Ramia guaranteed his price until Jan. 15, 2011.

When that date came and went with Ottawa still dithering over whether it wanted to play the convention centre funding game, Ramia extended his guarantee until Apr. 15.

Which also passed with no yea or nay from the federal government.

On April 19, Ramia told Metro his prix fixe menu was no longer fixed. “We’ve got contractors and stuff like that that are working on it,” he explained. “They have to come back and say, ‘Look, here’s the price we gave you and … here’s the price today.’”

When Alex caught up with him last week, Ramia “declined to comment.”

One would guess that, if those costs had held firm, Ramia would have been happy to say so.

The provincial government, which is believed to have the new numbers in its back pocket, wasn’t talking. “We don’t have public discussions on ongoing negotiations,” sniffed Shawn Fuller, the premier’s director of communications.

Both Ottawa and the city claimed they know nothing… about any new cost figures.

There are rumours Ottawa will announce its funding decision next week.

That there are rumours likely means the feds are saying yes. But to what? If there has been a price increase, any deal will still have to go back to the province and city council for re-approval.

Let the Convention Centre Summer Games begin.


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