Council approves $2.3M for Expo bid
Detailed research requires province to match cash
Gordon Kent, with files from Archie McLean
The Edmonton Journal
Thursday, October 30, 2008
EDMONTON - Edmonton will try to secure Expo 2017 after city council unanimously agreed Wednesday to spend $2.3 million on a bid to become Canada's nominee for the world's fair.
While some councillors expressed concern at the cost and the project's potential impact on Edmonton's long-term plans, Mayor Stephen Mandel cautioned that if the bid succeeds, the city can't back out.
"Once we commit to this, let's not fool ourselves, we will be committed to go on to the next step."
The money, which must still be matched by the province, will pay for detailed research and a national bid against such potential rivals as Montreal, Ottawa and Hamilton, although Mandel said none of the other centres has done as much work as Edmonton.
The fair, being held during the 150th anniversary of Confederation, has an estimated $1.6-billion to $2.3-billion cost, and is expected to attract 4.7 million visitors, a report says.
It would feature pavilions from other countries, non-governmental agencies and companies, along with arts and cultural displays.
"If we continue to be cautious, if we continue to be timid, we can't complain if down the road other cities have surpassed us. I have no doubt in my mind that we can pull it off," Coun. Ben Henderson said.
"The only thing that holds us back is our own over-caution at times. I'm hoping we have the guts to look into the future and make decisions, not on this year or next year, but what the city will look like in 20, 30, 40, 50 years."
City manager Al Maurer said the three-month fair would see LRT, housing and other infrastructure built years ahead of schedule with money supplied primarily by the two senior levels of government.
It would also give Edmonton's profile a huge boost, he said.
Last summer's Expo in Zaragoza, Spain, allowed that city to develop its river valley park system and complete a high-speed train station, among other projects.
Coun. Karen Liebovici teared up as she recalled visiting Expo 67 daily when she was a teenager growing up in Montreal.
"It brought the world to the doorstep of Montreal and to my doorstep. I think it's very important -- I'm actually getting emotional, too," she said.
"Expo is not like Capital Ex. It's a showcase for international knowledge, it's a showcase for new inventions and it's a showcase for us in the city."
The deadline for putting in a proposal to be the country's applicant for the project is fall 2009, with a decision likely to be made in time for the winner to be represented in the Canadian pavilion at the 2010 Shanghai Expo.
The total cost of a bid all the way to the international level is estimated at
$22.5 million, which is intended to be shared by other levels of government and corporate sponsors.
Alberta Culture Minister Lindsay Blackett said he hasn't had in-depth discussions with city officials about the proposal.
"We know their interest and we've expressed some interest in supporting it, but we haven't talked about dollars and cents yet."
- Expo 2017 would be the largest event yet held in Edmonton.
- The city is bidding on the smaller "recognized" category of Expo, which run for up to three months, cover a maximum of 25 hectares and may attract up to 20 million visits; the larger "registered" category can be unlimited in size, last six months and draw up to 70 million people.
- While it would be an estimated $700-million cheaper to stage the event on farmland rather than underused industrial or commercial property, the site must be attractive, have nearby transit and utility services, and be good for housing, park or other uses when the fair ends.
- No decisions have been made about a location, theme or other details.
© The Edmonton Journal 2008
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CanWest Interactive, a division of CanWest MediaWorks Publications, Inc.. All rights reserved.