11 August 2006

Federally-funded rugby centre doesn't fit program specs

A new $6.3 million recreation complex attached to a privately owned rugby club doesn't seem to fit the criteria for the federal-provincial program from which most of the funding will come.

Loyola Hearn, Newfoundland and Labrador's federal cabinet representative announced $4.0 million will be spent on the project by Ottawa and St. John's out of the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Municipal Rural Infrastructure Fund.

Established in 2005, the municipal infrastructure fund was intended to support development of infrastructure in rural parts of Canada, with an emphasis in Newfoundland and Labrador on so-called "green" projects.

Touted as a provincial recreation centre, the new complex will include additions to an existing privately-owned rugby club facility in the heart of the province's largest city and within easy commuting distance of several publicly owned or publicly-accessible sports facilities.

The national programs main website shows just how unusual it is to see funding for an urban sports complex under the rural fund, particularly one closely associated with a private sports venture.

The majority of projects already announced in other parts of Canada cover water and sewer installation and upgrading, fire service improvements, and road and bridge work. In March, the Governments of Canada and New Brunswick announced two ice skating complexes costing a total of $30 million for Fredericton, the province's capital city, based an application by the city council. That appears to be the only project of its type.

The provincial government isn't listed as one of the eligible applicants on the Newfoundland and Labrador program website. According to the information there, eligible applicants include:
Local governments including towns, regions, or local service districts; Inuit Community Councils; and non-governmental organizations whose application is supported by a resolution from a local government.
Read the actual agreement though and you see that the provincial government can apply and own the infrastructure, even though the provincial government sits on the joint management committee that approves applications.

Today's announcement contained no details of the management arrangement for the new complex even though it will include privately-owned space. Nor has it been revealed which organization applied for the federal and provincial funding.