The New Brunswick government has stopped funding the organizing committee of a scandal-plagued Francophonie Games.
Stephanie Bilodeauoh, a spokesperson for the province’s Department of Tourism, Heritage and Culture, said that the last payment to the organizing committee was made in December, 2018.
“Given the uncertainty surrounding the future of the 2021 Francophonie Games in New Brunswick, no further payments to the organizing committee are currently scheduled from the provincial government,” she wrote in an email.
Bilodeau added that the province had contributed $250,000 for the 2017-18 fiscal year while a total of $930,000 was disbursed in 2018 as of Dec. 31.
Premier Blaine Higgs told Global News on Dec. 20 that the games “likely won’t happen” after the revelation that the games costs had ballooned from an original estimate of $17 million to $130 million.
Higgs says the organizing committee has gone back to the drawing board to try and tackle the budget but isn’t producing the numbers the province wants to see.
“The numbers that we have seen have gone up, not down. I mean, they’re still in the $100 million range, I think, and even higher,” said Higgs.
“We’re not going to resolve this in a financial term that will be acceptable. I think the decision is inevitable, really.”
Tracey Suley, a spokesperson for the organizing committee, is operating with approved provincial funding for the entirety of the 2018/19 fiscal year.
“The organizing committee was aware, way before December and the concerns around the cost of the games were raised, that the last payment was scheduled for December for the entirety of the fiscal year 2018/19. No funding was cut,” Suley said in a statement.
The situation has caused friction between the new provincial government and its federal counterparts.
The province had hoped that the federal government would be willing to pick up more of the tab. But with the federal government appearing unwilling to budge from its commitment to cover half of the games, and with the province only committing $10 million, it’s unlikely the numbers will add up.
Even the economic benefits appear questionable, according to this economics professor in Montreal.
“The way that it’s always sold is the idea of promising millions of dollars or billions of dollars in economic benefits that never materialize, an understating of costs that never comes in close to budget,” explains Moshe Lander, an economics professor at Concordia University in Montreal. “If nothing else the message they send to the international community is that these games are not profitable and unless you’re prepared to put up taxpayer money and throw it down the toilet it’s not worth pursuing in the first place.”
Four members of the board of directors of the Francophonie Games resigned in December citing “undue controversy” that led them to believe they no longer had the confidence of the provincial government to continue their mandate.
With additional reporting from Morganne Campbell