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Ottawa nixes Toronto’s bid for 2025 World Expo

Heritage Minister James Moore makes an announcement at the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Gatineau, Que., Tuesday, Oct.16, 2012.

Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Toronto's quest for the 2025 World Expo is over now that Ottawa has confirmed it will not support the city's bid.

In a letter sent to Mayor Rob Ford and circulated to city councillors, Heritage Minister James Moore said his government has decided to end Canada's membership in the body that oversees the World's Fair to save money.

"Our government is committed to reviewing all spending across Government with the aim of reducing the deficit and returning to balanced budgets. As part of this commitment, the International Expositions Program was cancelled at the end of March 2012," Mr. Moore wrote in a letter to Mr. Ford earlier this month.

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"Therefore, Canada will … not be supporting future Canadian Expo bids at this time."

The letter points out that Canada is not taking part in the Expos in South Korea this year or Italy in 2015. The federal government declined to back Edmonton's bid for the 2017 edition of the international showcase, it adds.

At the urging of Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam, Toronto city council voted in June to start the ball rolling on an Expo bid by requesting a staff report that is expected next year.

But Toronto cannot chase the international event on its own – it would need Ottawa's blessing and money.

Ms. Wong-Tam is hoping the government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper will reconsider, especially given Mr. Ford's chummy relationship with some of the Conservative government's top ministers, particularly Finance Minister Jim Flaherty.

"I think it's rather unfortunate," Ms. Wong-Tam said. "I do hope … they would reconsider considering the fact that the mayor himself had written a letter in support asking for them not to close the door on Toronto."

In July, Mr. Ford sent identical copies of a letter to Mr. Moore, Mr. Flaherty and Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird beseeching them to renew Canada's membership in the Bureau International des Expositions, a move that would "simply allow us to keep all options open."

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"Retaining our membership in the BIE does not commit Canada to any major expense or endeavour, and the actual membership fee itself is quite modest," says Mr. Ford's letter, dated July 10.

Membership in the Bureau International des Expositions costs $25,000 per year. A formal bid would cost in the range of $3-million to $4-million, an amount Ms. Wong-Tam said would be well worth spending if it brought Toronto the international prestige and infrastructure legacy that followed the Expos in Vancouver in 1986 and Montreal in 1967.

"It wasn't a huge financial commitment," she said. "The federal government is slamming the door on the city of Toronto before we even begin exploring the merits of the exposition bid."

She said Mr. Ford should "stand up for Toronto," and push the Conservative government to reverse the decision.

It seems unlikely that Ottawa would yield. "This decision was arrived at after careful review," Sébastien Gariépy, Mr. Moore's press secretary, said in an e-mail Tuesday. "It is final."

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Kelly Grant is a health reporter with The Globe and Mail. More

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