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New Brunswick government issues funding ultimatum for the Francophonie Games

Click to play video: 'N.B. government issues funding ultimatum for Francophonie Games' N.B. government issues funding ultimatum for Francophonie Games
WATCH: Organizers of the Francophonie Games now have 15 days to come up with a new funding model. The province is firm that its commitment to the games is capped at $10 million, saying without a new plan, the 2021 games will not happen. Morganne Campbell explains – Jan 15, 2019

The New Brunswick government has issued an ultimatum to the organizers of the scandal-plagued 2021 Francophonie Games: figure out how to fund the games with a maximum contribution of $10 million from the province by the end of the month or there will be no games.

Robert Gauvin, the Minister of Tourism, Heritage, and Culture and the only Francophone PC MLA, delivered the message at a press conference on Tuesday.

“We believe that hosting an international sporting event of this calibre would be an incredible opportunity for the province,” Gauvin said.

The games came under scrutiny by the government of Premier Blaine Higgs after it came to light that the games’ costs had ballooned from an original estimate of $17 million to $130 million.

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READ MORE: Cancellation of Francophone Games may be ‘inevitable,’ says Higgs

Other organizations funding the games include the federal Department of Science and Sport, as well as the cities of Moncton, N.B., and Dieppe, N.B.

Gauvin said that the provincial government will not provide more than $10 million and that it is hoping the costs will come in at approximately $80 million.

The federal government remains steadfast in its commitment to picking up the tab on half of the games’ costs — whatever they may be.

“We remain committed to working with them to find a solution. It was the Government of New Brunswick that put forward the bid for these games, and, per our hosting policy, we remain ready to be a partner,” wrote Minister Dominic LeBlanc in an email to Global News in December.

That leaves a large question on who will cover the remaining costs.

“As minister, it is my hope that all the partners can work together and identify funding solutions to allow the games to move forward,” said Gauvin on Tuesday.

“Unfortunately, if a solution cannot be found, the province will be unable to host the games.”

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WATCH: N.B. cuts off funding for Francophonie Games organizing committee
Click to play video: 'N.B. cuts off funding for Francophonie Games organizing committee' N.B. cuts off funding for Francophonie Games organizing committee
N.B. cuts off funding for Francophonie Games organizing committee – Jan 10, 2019

The original bid for the games would have seen the provincial and federal governments paying up to $10 million each, with the two host municipalities, Moncton and Dieppe, paying $750,000 each and balance coming from ticket sales.

However, a federal consultant’s report pegged a reasonable cost at between $72 million and $115 million.

People’s Alliance Leader Kris Austin said New Brunswick can’t afford to pay more than it has already committed because the province is already struggling to pay for health care and education.

He said the province should back out of the Games unless the federal government bails out the event.

“This is why paying even a small portion of this or any cultural and sporting event is an irresponsible, wasteful use of taxpayers’ money,” Austin said in a statement.

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Green party Leader David Coon has called for a legislature committee to find out why costs soared – and to offer a solution.

READ MORE: 4 members resign from 2021 Francophonie Games organizing committee

Tracy Suley, director of communications for the Francophone Games, said the organization “remains confident” that they’ll secure funding.

“[The Francophonie Games] remains confident that an agreement can be reached in order to deliver financially responsible games that provide a world class experience for its participants, offer economic benefit as well solidifies NB’s position on the world stage,” Suley wrote in a statement.

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.

More than 3,000 athletes and artists are expected to attend from more than 50 member states that have French as a common language – though speaking French is not a requirement for participants.

New Brunswick is one of 84 member states and governments that belong to the International Organization of the Francophonie.

The ninth Games of La Francophonie, awarded to the province in 2015, are scheduled to be held from Friday, July 23 to Sunday, Aug. 1, 2021.

The Games include eight sporting events and 12 cultural events, including singing, storytelling, traditional dance, poetry, painting, photography and sculpture.

The Games, which Canada hosted in the Ottawa-Gatineau area in 2001, are held every four years in the year following the Olympic Summer Games.

With files from The Canadian Press

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