They sure are!
$40 million extra promised for Congress Centre overhaul
By Randall Denley
Thursday, November 15, 2007
The ambitious expansion of the Ottawa Congress Centre will take a huge step forward Thursday with federal and provincial announcements that will boost the two governments' contributions to the project to $100 million. Only an increased contribution from the City of Ottawa is required to make the project a go.
The federal government will announce that it is increasing its support for the project by $20 million for a total of $50 million, a senior government source told the Citizen.
"We have been competing with Red Deer and Moncton for too long," the source said. "We're the nation's capital and the fourth largest city. We need to compete with the big boys."
Environment Minister John Baird and Transportation Minister Lawrence Cannon are to make the announcement today with other area Conservative MPs.
This evening, Premier Dalton McGuinty will say that his government is also boosting its donation by $20 million to $50 million, a Liberal spokesman said.
"The province is in," the spokesman said. "We've picked the right people to do the job and we're serious about it."
The Congress Centre board is pushing a plan for a $159-million convention centre that will entirely replace the existing 24-year-old building and enable the city to host large conventions that are beyond the building's scope.
It would feature lots of glass and a ballroom that would frame a view of Parliament Hill.
The new centre could open by April 2011, but it is contingent on the federal, provincial and city governments increasing their financial commitments. The city is expected to contribute $40 million, which is $15 million more than originally planned.
Responding to the announcement, Mayor Larry O'Brien said "I applaud the government for this initiative. They are stepping up to the plate on a very important project for Ottawa."
The mayor cited more jobs in the hospitality industry, increased hotel room demand, more visitors, and hundreds of jobs in the construction of the centre as its key advantages.
"Clearly, we should dig deep into our city's resources and increase our funding by $15 million," Mr. O'Brien said. "We need this project."
Jim Durrell, who chairs the Congress Centre board, said of the announcements, "This is exciting news. It's a huge step forward for our city."
The effort to expand the Congress Centre has gone on for years, but with a new board and an experienced project team, the plan has taken on new life. If it goes ahead, the expansion will put Ottawa on a par with cities like Calgary, Edmonton and Quebec City. It will be able to handle events with 5,000 to 6,000 delegates, enough capacity for major national political conventions.