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Centre of attention:
Federal contribution moves convention facility closer to reality

Ottawa will provide $51.4 million to aid the construction of a new convention centre in Halifax, pushing the long-awaited project closer to reality.

“Our government is proud to invest in infrastructure priorities that enable communities to continue to grow and prosper,” Defence Minister Peter MacKay said last month in confirming the federal investment.

MacKay said the new multi-level, 306,500 square foot convention centre “allows for important opportunities for economic growth” that will benefit all of Nova Scotia.

The federal contribution is higher than the original $47 million requested by the provincial government. MacKay told reporters in Halifax that increasing cost estimates led the province to up the amount sought from the feds.

“This is great news for the people of Nova Scotia,” Premier Darrell Dexter said. “This convention centre will mean new jobs during construction and operation, and it will put this province on the map as a premiere destination for conventions and other tourism activities.”

The convention centre component is part of a half-billion-dollar project by developer Rank Inc. that includes a financial centre, hotel complex, retail and public space.

The province has committed $56 million toward the convention centre portion of the project. The Halifax Regional Municipality matched that amount with its own $56-million commitment.

According to the Nova Scotia government, the convention centre is expected to create more than 12,000 person years of employment and $40 million in provincial tax revenue during the first 10 years of operation alone.

But the project is not without critics. Kevin Lacey, Atlantic director with the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, said “taxpayers will be on the hook for a heavy initial outlay as well as millions more in future operating losses.”

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