Funding announcements over ‘unless there’s something extraordinary’

Daniel MacEachern
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Premier Kathy Dunderdale (left) makes three different funding announcements worth $63 million Wednesday afternoon. The money will be used to refurbish the Colonial Building, expand the St. John’s Convention Centre and redevelop a former industrial lot in Paradise. — Photo by Keith Gosse/The Telegram

Like a fireworks display, the end of the province’s lengthy string of funding promises arrived Wednesday with a splashy and — with an estimated $63 million for three projects — expensive finale.

Three levels of government were on hand, funding committed, for Wednesday afternoon’s announcement at the St. John’s Convention Centre, which will be getting the lion’s share of that money — $43.2 million —  for a five-year expansion to double its current useable space. The cost is to be split equally among the federal and provincial governments and the city of St. John’s. Premier Kathy Dunderdale also announced $8.6 million from the province (to be matched by the federal government) to complete the restoration and modernization of the historic Colonial Building, which used to house the provincial legislature and archives. That funding will be added to $4.4 million previously committed by the province and $625,000 from the federal government.

“I have a great deal of personal support for the restoration of the Colonial Building,” said Dunderdale. “I really do mean it when I say it’s a historic gem in this province. So much that has shaped us, so much that is important to us, so much that we still debate took place in that arena, and I think that we should treasure it and take very good care of it. And if we can’t do that at this point in our history, I don’t know when we could do it.”


The building will be reopened to the public by 2014 as an interpretation centre on the province’s political history and will house not-for-profit heritage organizations, as well as potentially hosting special sittings of the provincial legislature.

Finally, $3 million will go towards redeveloping a former industrial site in Paradise into a community park, with the cost shared among the town of Paradise and the federal and provincial governments. The park will contain a gazebo, outdoor stage, canteen, splash pad, dog park and trail network. “The town of Paradise has seen significant growth in the last number of years, and with this growth comes the need to increase infrastructure and opportunities in the community,” said Dunderdale.

Peter Penashue, Labrador MP and federal minister of intergovernmental affairs, said infrastructure helps define the places people live.

“Maintaining, improving, managing this public infrastructure is critical to ensure that our communities remain strong and competitive,” he said.

St. John’s Mayor Dennis O’Keefe said the city aims to double the amount of economic benefit — which he said was currently valued at $35 million — St. John’s sees from the convention industry with the centre’s expansion, which he said would benefit the entire province through tourism spinoffs. He said as things stand, the centre can host conventions of about 700 people.

“What this will do now is enable us to go out to the convention market, compete with other centres in Atlantic Canada for conventions that are at the next level, up around 12 to 13-, 1,400 people,” he said. The $43.2 million is more than double the $20.5 million cost to build Mile One stadium (which would amount to just over $25 million in today’s dollars).

While each level of government is a committed to one-third of the cost of the expansion, O’Keefe said details of cost overruns would have to be worked out.

“If there are cost overruns, and there may very well be, then that would be something that we would have to look at again with the province and the federal government, but the current arrangement is that they are responsible for one-third (each). We are one-third, and beyond that I guess we’ll have to see what happens.”

Dale Jarvis, St. John’s folklorist and historian, called the eventual reopening of the Colonial building a “great thing.”

“It’s a building that is really significant in terms of not only the political history, but I think it has an emotional significance to a lot of Newfoundlanders,” he said. “I think it’s a building whose story hasn’t been as well understood as it could be, and that’s one of the things that I’m intrigued about and interested about the redevelopment of the building.”

After the news conference, Dunderdale said the day’s announcements — which included $50.6 million for new recreational facilities in Conception Bay South, Paradise, Harbour Grace and Marystown — marked the end of funding promises, with a caveat.

“Unless there’s something extraordinary that takes place,” she said. “I’m sensitive to the fact that the writ will be dropped in the next month, and I want to play fair. I hope everybody comments on that, because that is likely a first in the political history of elections here in Newfoundland and Labrador.”

The premier also dismissed criticism that the funding announcements — the province’s share of the $63 million is $24.1 million — amounted to buying votes in an election year.

“I don’t know how you could do that, given all of this money was announced in April. This is our budget. This is not new money we’re spending,” she said. “This is normal practice. You bring down a budget and then you spend the ensuing months telling people what the details of that budget are. There’s nothing going on here now that hasn’t gone on every year since we’ve brought down a budget, no matter who formed the government. This is normal, standard practice. If I were spending outside of the budget, then I could understand that kind of a criticism. But telling people how their money is going to be spent, how that offends people given that the money was announced in April, I’m at a loss to understand.”

Twitter: TelegramDaniel

Organizations: Convention Centre

Geographic location: Paradise, John, Atlantic Canada Conception Bay South Marystown Newfoundland and Labrador

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Recent comments

  • DON
    September 01, 2011 - 15:07

    A lot of Government backed development is useless, wasteful, pork barrel spending designed to buy votes. Much of the Government expenditures are politically motivated and add nothing permanent to the economy of Newfoundland and Labrador. Buying peoples votes with their own money is nothing new but this Government is taking it to the extreme. We know that the PC's smell blood and think they can eradicate both the Liberal and NDP opposition. The PC's want to make a clean sweep in the next election and become a true majority Government. If that happens, the people of Newfoundland will have elected another dictatorship to office and must live with the consequences. Hopefully, the people are not so stupid as to allow that to happen.

  • Harvey
    September 01, 2011 - 13:40

    Announcements and more announcements !!! Only people who are as stupid as the politicians themselves would believe that this is not vote buying with my and your money.This government has got to go...we can't afford them for another four years.

  • Eli
    September 01, 2011 - 12:52

    BILL raises a most valid point. Why the hell didn't anybody in the media question Premier Plunderdale when she said; "none of this is new money, it was passed in the budget". Why hasn't something been done about it 'till now?

  • Mindy
    September 01, 2011 - 12:45

    Regardless of the reasons behind the development is development. If it is given to these communities then take it and say great, thanks!! The money is spent for the benifit of the children of the communities and they are the future. If the children were hung out on the nearest corner there would be something else to complain about." DEVELPOPMENT" TAKE IT AND EXCEPT IT!!.

    • Eli
      September 01, 2011 - 14:58

      I agree to a point MINDY but I don't like being bought with my own money. And if you don't think this is vote buying open another beer.

  • Cyril Rogers
    September 01, 2011 - 10:14

    Over time, political parties take on the attributes of corruption as they insulate themselves from reality. They attempt to portray an aura of permanance, bolstered by their cronies who dismiss all forms of criticism and the legitimacies of other political parties. In this province, if are NDP you are a big spender; if you are Liberal, you are guilty of the past sins of the party. Nothing is right about your opponents and nothing the governing party does can possibly be wrong. We are at that stage with this government and, if for no other reason, it is time to vote for a change. There is an air of corruption and a sense of entitlement with the PC's right now and all of the giddy displays they show with each new announcement only demonstrates how much they are taking us for fools. These projects are not the priorities of most of us who don't reside on the Avalon and there are many needs that could be addressed with that kind of money. I don't resent these projects, in and of themselves, but we all know that it's all about the upcoming election. I don't care what past administrations have done, when politicians start throwing money around like drunken sailors, their shelf life is past due. Why should we be foolish enough to stand for that?

  • Bill
    September 01, 2011 - 09:32

    If the arenas for CBS and Paradise had been budgeted for in the April budget why was MHA Brazil on Open Line last week saying they were working hard to find a solution to the lack of ice time. Clearly the premier is not being truthful in saying this money was approved in the last budget.

  • Jack
    September 01, 2011 - 08:08

    Dunderdale says her NINETEEN announcements yesterday were announced in this years budget - simply NOT true. And who does she think she is saying she will be the first person in politics to play fair? She is the most arrogant politician I have ever seen, and thinks she is above everyone else.

  • Graham
    September 01, 2011 - 07:50

    In an oil rich HAVE PROVINCE can someone tell me why we have the highest prices in Easters Canada on gasoline and tell me why the Provincial Government has not removed the HST on Gasoline sales. We are not only being gpuged by big oil we are also being gouged by big Tom our finance minister, but he does it in sucha gentle mild mannered way we dont seem to mind it very much anyway. Write letters to the editor and e-mail your MHA with 3 simple words STOP THE TAX

  • Paradise Kid
    September 01, 2011 - 07:24

    "The town of Paradise has seen significant growth in the last number of years, and with this growth comes the need to increase infrastructure and opportunities in the community,” said Dunderdale Build a stadium, build a swimming pool, fire station...... These are the things we need. Is a dog park and a canteen goign to benifit the kids of Paradise??? If you want to put infastructure in paradise then build things that the kids/town will benifit from!!! Complete waste of money in my opinion!!!

    • Rec budget
      September 01, 2011 - 09:41 Over $50 Million Investment Will Build Four Recreational Facilities A significant investment of $50.6 million has been made by the Provincial Government for new recreational facilities in Conception Bay South, Paradise, Harbour Grace and Marystown.