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Federal money not tied to 2008 Games

Waterfront cash to be independent of Olympic bid

By William Walker
Toronto Star Ottawa Bureau Chief

OTTAWA - A $500 million federal contribution to the revitalization of Toronto’s waterfront will go ahead even if Toronto’s 2008 Olympic bid fails, federal government sources said last night.

At 10 a.m. today at the Docks restaurant on the waterfront, Prime Minister Jean Chr�tien, Transport Minister David Collenette, Premier Mike Harris and Mayor Mel Lastman were to make a joint $1.5 billion down payment on the waterfront-Olympic plan.

Each of the three levels of government is putting up $500 million. The federal and provincial money is cash and the city’s money is a mix of cash, assets and projected spending.

Yesterday, sources at Queen’s Park said the federal government’s contribution appears conditional on the Olympic bid proceeding.

But senior federal government sources vehemently denied the suggestion of an escape clause in the deal.

Toronto’s Olympic bid faces a January deadline to submit its plans and government financial backing to the International Olympic Committee.

Provincial sources suggested there is a clause in the funding deal stipulating that the three parties must meet in the wake of the January bid and, if Toronto is out of the running, discuss the next steps.

They described it as an “out clause” which would allow Ottawa to pull back from the funding commitment.

“There is no out clause as such,” a federal government source said. “We’re committed to the waterfront and this is the first phase. Obviously, it has been driven by the Olympic timetable and if we don’t get the Olympics, we’ll have to stop and catch our breath and determine how we’ll proceed from there.”

The federal official explained that if Toronto’s Olympic bid fell out of the running, that fact “may alter the timetable or our priorities,” but the commitment would remain.

Some federal officials were miffed by the fact that someone from Queen’s Park would suggest Ottawa’s cash was conditional.

“They’re probably looking for an out themselves and so they want to cast us as the scapegoat,” one said.

The funding is intended for moving the Toronto port (possibly to east of Cherry St.), environmental cleanup, soil remediation, new roads and bridges, sewer and water systems, and a new GO station.

Toronto’s 2008 Olympic bid committee wants to use the existing port lands for a track and field stadium, an athletes’ village, and a swimming and diving centre.

The plans for the port would be one example of how the timeline of the funding and the priorities could change if the Toronto bid fails, officials admitted.

With an election expected for Nov. 27, the GTA and Ontario are key to the Liberals seeking a third majority.

The $1.5 billion is viewed as a down payment for the Toronto waterfront redevelopment, which is expected to cost a total of $12 billion.