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The federal government will pour $51.4 million into construction of a new convention centre in downtown Halifax, a project that's been dogged by criticism for the past year.

Defence Minister Peter MacKay, Nova Scotia's representative in federal cabinet, announced the funding Monday at a gathering of the Halifax Chamber of Commerce.

The provincial and municipal governments said last year they would each contribute $56 million toward the new centre.

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Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter said Ottawa's contribution is great news for the province and will help strengthen the economy.

"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," Mr. Dexter said in a statement.

The province had initially asked for $47 million in federal assistance.

The convention centre has long been the focus of criticism by opponents who say it's a waste of taxpayers' money and will ruin the view of the city's harbour.

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation issued a statement Monday critical of Ottawa's financial commitment to the project.

"The federal government is running multi-year, multibillion-dollar deficits, yet not only did they support a money-losing convention centre, they even invested more money than they were originally asked for," said spokesman Kevin Lacey.

The provincial government says the Atlantic region is losing millions of dollars a year because of its inability to host major national and international conventions.

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Proponents have argued that construction will generate $9.5 million in provincial tax revenue and an additional $40 million during the first 10 years of operation.

The convention centre will be part of a $500-million development by Rank Inc., that will also include retail space and a hotel.

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