FREDERICTON — New Brunswick has abandoned plans to host the 2021 Francophonie Games, throwing the international event into turmoil and escalating a feud with the federal government.
Premier Blaine Higgs blamed a lack of financial support from Ottawa on Wednesday, but some federal and provincial politicians say his minority Progressive Conservative government never intended to allow the Games to proceed.
Cost estimates ballooned to $130 million from the original bid of $17 million, and Higgs said the province will withdraw because Ottawa’s funding formula was inadequate.
“This was a very difficult decision. We wanted these Games to go forward,” Higgs said.
“Without additional funding from the federal government hosting an event that could cost up to $130 million is irresponsible.”
The province’s decision to pull the plug brought immediate blowback from federal officials, but Dominic LeBlanc, the federal minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and a New Brunswick MP, said he wasn’t surprised by it.
“I think they planned all along to scuttle the Games,” he said.
“We had a number of conversations that I think led me to conclude that Mr. Higgs never had any intention to come up with a serious proposal that would have allowed the Government of Canada to meet its longstanding commitment of 50 per cent.”
Higgs, who took power in November, had previously said the province would cover only its original commitment to spend $10 million on the Games.
He said his government recognizes the Games are an important sports and cultural event, and they’d be happy to host if Ottawa paid for them.
“We need to look at these as a national event with events that could happen in different provinces, with a contribution such as we’re willing to make here, but it’s got to be a different process because this is more than a province can take on,” Higgs said.
The ninth Games of La Francophonie were scheduled to be held in the summer of 2021, attracting 3,000 athletes and artists from more than 50 member states that have French as a common language.
During an event in Quispamsis, N.B., last week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Ottawa would only match provincial spending dollar-for-dollar.
On Wednesday, Trudeau called New Brunswick’s decision “unfortunate.”
“The Francophonie Games are important not just for francophone communities across this country but indeed around the world, and the athletes who were always looking forward to participating, of course, will be disappointed,” Trudeau said.
The original bid would have seen Ottawa and the province paying up to $10 million each, with the two host municipalities, Moncton and Dieppe, paying $750,000 each and the balance coming from ticket sales.
However, a federal consultant’s report pegged a reasonable cost at between $72 million and $115 million.
New Brunswick has a net debt of $13.9 billion and the Progressive Conservatives have vowed to get finances under control.
Kirsty Duncan, the federal sports minister, said they had hoped for further discussions on a funding proposal, but the province never offered one.
“Unfortunately despite productive talks at officials’ level yesterday, they have chosen not to bring forth any resolutions to be a willing and open partner, and instead have allowed their self-imposed deadline to expire for their own bid,” she said in a statement Wednesday.
“Once again, the Higgs government is leaving federal dollars on the table.”
She noted that New Brunswick is an independent member of the Francophonie and said she hopes it is taking steps to ensure the Games can occur elsewhere.
The New Brunswick Acadian Society said the announcement represents a fundamental challenge not only to New Brunswick’s place in Canada, but also Acadie’s place in the Francophonie.
Peoples Alliance Leader Kris Austin, whose party has been supporting the Tories, said he believes the government made a prudent decision.
“As much as I’m an elected official, I’m also a taxpayer, so I can’t say I’m disappointed. I pay federal taxes as well and I’d much rather see federal money going to things that are needed in New Brunswick, and I just don’t see games as one of them,” Austin said.
But Kevin Arseneau, a francophone and Green member of the provincial legislature, said the Tories did not seem to want the Games in the province.
“The message that Higgs just gave New Brunswickers is that we’re too small to do big things here,” Arseneau said.
The City of Moncton issued a statement Wednesday, saying it was unfortunate that the federal and provincial governments could not reach a deal on funding.
“As a host city, we believe the cultural, sports and economic impacts the Games could have on our region and our province are significant.”
Federal Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor, the MP for the Moncton area, said it’s a lost opportunity to showcase the region.
“The federal government is not in a position to pay 100 per cent of the Games because it just doesn’t meet our funding formula.”
New Brunswick — one of 84 member states and governments that belong to the International Organization of the Francophonie — was awarded the Games in 2015.
The website for the Games still had a countdown clock ticking away Wednesday towards the start of the games.
The International Organization of the Francophonie issued a statement saying it regrets New Brunswick’s decision two years before the event.
It said members of the orientation committee would meet in Paris to discuss the situation on Feb. 14-15.
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.
Kevin Bissett, The Canadian Press
“Arguably the best Canadian Derby field ever assembled”
The 90th’s running of the Canadian Derby takes place on Sunday at Century Mile next to the Edmonton International Airport. Doors open at 11 am and the first race is set to begin at around 1:30. Here is a story supplied by Horse Racing Alberta – written by Curtis Stock
Earlier this year Final Jeopardy was considered strong enough to be on the Derby Trail. Only that was the Kentucky Derby Trail. Now, Final Jeopardy is back on the Derby Trail. Only this time it’s Sunday’s $250,000 Canadian Derby Trail at Century Mile and then the $250,000 B.C. Derby in Vancouver.
In what is arguably the best Canadian Derby field ever assembled with a classy group of 12 entered, Final Jeopardy would still – despite all the talent on each side of him – appear to be the much the best. After all, Final Jeopardy, now owned by Peter and James Redekop of B.C., is a horse that ran second to Code of Honor in his last appearance in the Grade 3 Dwyer Stakes at Belmont, New York.
If you aren’t familiar with Code of Honor you should be. Code of Honor just happens to be one of the top three-year-olds in North America. He was placed second in the Kentucky Derby; he won the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth in Florida and he ran third in the Grade 1 Florida Derby. Furthermore, Code of Honor is one of the main threats in next week’s Travers Stakes.
Talking about the Dwyer which Final Jeopardy lost by just over three lengths, Final Jeopardy’s jockey Irad Ortiz told Blood Horse magazine “He ran so good. I don’t have any excuse, we just got beat by a better horse. We were second-best today. He never gave up. It’s just that the winner is a good horse, too. He gave me everything he had.”
“He should be favoured,” said Dr. Bryan Anderson, racing manager for the Redekops. And he is with the morning line on Final Jeopardy set at 8-to-5.
Another Vancouver horse, Explode, who won the last local prep for the Canadian Derby, is the second favourite at 4-1. Miltontown, one of two horses that trainer Robertino Diodoro has sent to Alberta is next at 6-1 while Journey Man, who has won his last two starts at Arlington Park in Chicago, is the fourth choice at 8-1.
But the story line is still all Final Jeopardy, who as well as running second in the Dwyer in his last start, July 6, also finished fourth in the Peter Pan. He was also good enough to be entered in the Wood Memorial, one of the Kentucky Derby’s main prep races. Final Jeopardy ran sixth in the Wood but he had excuses getting squeezed at the start of the race.
“He looks like a monster,” said Diodoro, who has won three of the last six Canadian Derbies which would have been four of the last six until a judicial review by Madam Justice J.M. Ross disqualified 2017 Derby winner Chief Know It All on Tuesday afternoon. “On paper Final Jeopardy looks to be five to six lengths the best horse,” said one of Miltontown’s owners, Clayton Wiest, who also co-owned Chief Know It All and last year’s winner Sky Promise. “If you ran the race 10 times, maybe Final Jeopardy wins it nine times,” said Wiest, hoping that the tenth time is going to go Miltontown’s way.
How exactly does a horse like Final Jeopardy wind up in Edmonton? “We heard the horse was for sale,” said Anderson. “The previous owners, Gary and Mary West, have too many horses. They buy 50-60 babies a year at auction and they are almost only looking for Grade 1 and Grade 2 winners. “Our main veterinarian happened to be in the area; he looked at him and liked what he saw. Then trainer Phil Hall went down and looked at him and he liked what he saw too.” A sales price was not disclosed but sources indicate it was around $450,000.
Another reason why Final Jeopardy is in Edmonton is the $250,000 Derby purse which is up $50,000 from last year and $100,000 from two years ago. “I’m sure the purse had quite a bit to do with it,” said Hall. “And the Derby distance – a mile and a quarter – should help too. Jason Servis, who was Final Jeopardy’s previous trainer said a mile and a quarter wouldn’t be a problem.
“He’s a Cadillac,” said Final Jeopardy’s exercise and work rider Brad Cuthbertson, son of the great W. Canadian jockey Alan. “He’s a very nice horse. He’s big. He’s strong. He’s got a nice move to him. He just looks the part of a good horse. Horses like him have confidence; they know they’re the best.”
While post positions don’t mean a lot in a mile and a quarter race on a one-mile track like Century Mile, Final Jeopardy drew post eight at Wednesday’s post draw.
From the rail out the posts are:
- Call It a Wrap. Owned by the powerful Riversedge barn and conditioned by Alberta’s leading trainer, Tim Rycroft, Call It a Wrap finished second in his last three starts including the Manitoba Derby in his most recent appearance and then twice to Alberta’s top three-year-old Sharp Dressed Beau. A contender to finish in the top 5.
- Parking Permit. Third to Sharp Dressed Beau in the Count Lathum two starts ago. A definite longsot.
- Karizanga. Missed by a nose in his most recent start at Indiana Downs. Won a starters allowance at Churchill Downs. Should challenge for the show position.
- Ranger Up. Still a maiden but finished second in straight maiden races at Monmouth Park, Kenneland and Gulfstream. In the middle mix and could surprise for a bigger piece.
- Miltontown. Claimed for $50,000 at Churchill Downs expressively for this race. Same connections won last year’s Derby with Sky Promise. Trainer Diodoro said to throw the last race out as the horse got caught too far behind a speed-biased track and had traffic problems. Hard to ignore the Diodoro factor and gets the services of jockey Rico Walcott. Has been working extremely well including a half mile work in :47 seconds flat. In the top 4.
- Explode. Has won five of his last six starts easily taking two open stakes at Hastings Park and then completing the hat trick at Century Miles when he just got up in the mud in a race where he was looking around down the stretch and appeared to jump the starting gate tractor tires. Main contender.
- Journeyman. Never worse than third in six starts including back-to-back wins at Arlington. Third choice.
- Final Jeopardy. Top choice for obvious reasons.
- Equivocal. Scored a nice allowance win at Century Mile two starts ago but showed no run last time out. A longshot.
- Senor Friday. The other Diodoro pupil. Won the Harry Jeffries in Winnipeg in his last start. Earlier this year won the Turf Paradise Derby by open lengths in Phoenix. Middle threat.
- Flatout Winner. Had excuses in the mud in his last appearance when he was bumped hard leaving the starting gate losing several lengths at the break, made a good wide move down the backstretch before being taken back to the rail where he flattened out. Moved off the rail again he started to run again. The longshot play.
- Sharp Dressed Beau. Won the Western Canada and Count Lathum stakes at Century Mile looking very impressive. Third in the mud to Explode last time out. Distance is the question and post doesn’t help. In the middle mix too.
STOCK REPORT– There are three other stakes races this weekend. All powerful races. On Saturday there is the $75,000 Northlands Distaff for aged fillies and mares and the $100,000 Century Casinos Oaks for three-year-old fillies. In the former, Good Luck to You heads a strong field of nine. In the latter, Summerland makes the trip to Edmonton. She has won eight of 10 lifetime starts including a six-for-six run. Throw out the last race where she had breathing problems. Looking to topple her is Im Evin Im Leavin, who came so close to knocking off Exploded and the boys in her last trip. Throw out the Sonoma start where he really acted up in the starting gate. Also a factor is the well-conditioned Exactly sent out by Elige Bourne.
On Sunday in addition to the Derby is the $75,000 Century Mile which attracted a very solid field of 11 including Sir Bronx, who drew the outside post. Sir Bronx was last year’s champion sprinter and aged horse and he appears to be even better this year. The morning line favourite is Gato Guapo, whom Diodoro has also brought to Century Mile. Gate Guapo rarely misses a cheque.
Post times for the first race on Saturday and Sunday is 1:45 p.m. The Derby is the 10th of the 10-race card.
Follow me on Twitter at CurtisJStock
Meet the contenders for the 90th running of the Canadian Derby this weekend at Century Mile and Casino
The 90th running of the Canadian Derby takes place this weekend at the new Century Mile and Casino, located next to the Edmonton International Airport. This video showcases the amazing horses that are running. Take a look, get familiar with the contenders, and get out to the track this Sunday for a great day of horse racing. Doors open at 11am. Click here to learn more.
Produced by Horse Racing Alberta Marketing and Mike Little (Shinelight Entertainment)
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