Thursday, May 15, 2008

Island Games group tries to save bid

Island Games group tries to save bid
The Guardian

The Island Games Association has made another move to try to salvage its bid to host the NatWest International Island Games in 2013.
Members of the association have begun circulating a petition to local tourism operators, businesses and citizens it believes will benefit from having the games come to P.E.I.
“It would be an infusion of cash into the province,” said Island Games Association chair Alfred Groom.
“It’s a risk of $2 million, but it’s a potential return investment of $10 million if you do it right, and we have the right people to do it.”
Last week, the association announced it had withdrawn its bid to host the Island Games in 2013 after the provincial government told the volunteer board it would not continue to offer its support for the bid.
Communities and Cultural Affairs Minister Carolyn Bertram said last week government pulled its support for the bid because the association would not meet the conditions set out by the province.
Those conditions were outlined in a memorandum of understanding.
Groom said the association did not want to sign the memorandum.
Government was trying to “take over” the bid committee, Groom said.
“They wanted all our people to step off the (bid) committee and put their own people in there.”
The province expressed concern over finances when funding for Island athletes attending the games in Greece last year got confused.
The original agreement had the province assuming half the cost of their trip and the federal government footing the other $75,000.
But at the last minute, funding from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) did not come through.
To ease the province’s concern over future mixups, a feasibility study was done on how much the games were going to cost taxpayers to host. Also, Groom said he invited Provincial Treasurer Wes Sheridan to sit on the bid committee.
“When the concern came up from the province about the finances, I said ‘Let’s solve that and put the minister of finance on the committee’,” Groom said. “I met with him on several occasions and talked to him on the phone a few times, and he agreed to do that.”
But when Opposition member Jim Bagnall asked about this in the legislature last Thursday night, Sheridan denied it.
“He met with Mr. Groom and he was asked by Mr. Groom if he would sit on the board, and he said yes, he would,” Bagnall charged.
“You’re wrong, as usual,” Sheridan replied after much debate on the issue.
Despite all this, the association is making a last-ditch effort to save the bid for the games to come to P.E.I. with its petition.
The topic will be also questioned by the Opposition, as it plans to discuss a motion it tabled this week urging government to honour its initial letter of support in late December for the Island Games.
The potential revenue for Islanders, the opportunities for Island athletes and the international attention P.E.I. would receive are driving proponents to try again to get support.
If the province reinstates its support, members of the Island Games Association bid committee can go to ACOA for funding for the bid itself.
The bid would cost between $200,000 and $300,000, Groom said.
“We can’t go to ACOA and ask them to financially support the bid if the province won’t host them when they come here.”
Groom plans to give the signed petitions to government Thursday at the legislature.
“If we don’t get the support back from the province within the next couple of days, it’s going to be too late,” he said.

P.E.I. bid for International Island Games pulled

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