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Victoria's $70 million Crystal Pool replacement not on government funding radar

An artist's rendering of a $70 million recreation centre planned to replace the aging Crystal Pool facility in Victoria's North Park neighbourhood.  City of Victoria

Victoria's $70 million Crystal Pool replacement not on government funding radar
The City of Victoria’s hopes of securing provincial and federal funding for the $70 million Crystal Pool and Wellness Centre Replacement Project remain on thin ice following lukewarm responses from several provincial and federal ministries.
While senior levels of government applaud Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps’ pursuit of a modern recreational facility for the BC Capital, ministers stopped short of committing monies to what is shaping up as one of the most expensive financial undertakings in the City of Victoria’s history.
Selina Robinson, the provincial Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, thanked the Mayor for her funding request while reiterating that project support was not forthcoming this year, but that it could materialize as part of an alternate funding stream that won't announce successful bids until 2019.
“The Crystal Pool and Wellness Centre Replacement Project will be eligible under the Community, Culture and Recreation stream,” Robinson writes, adding that “project approvals are not expected to be finalized this fiscal year.”
Robinson also questioned whether the City of Victoria’s decision not to put the Crystal Pool replacement issue before the electorate was a wise one.
"[Mayor Helps,] you have indicated that the City has no plans to initiate a referendum on external borrowing. While the City has the authority to make such a decision, large-scale projects that demonstrate both public and financial support through a referendum (or some form of public approval process) are identified as lower risk under the program assessment.”
Federal Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, Amarjeet Sohi, used the lack of the BC government's financial support for the project to sidestep a funding commitment.
“Proposed projects must first be prioritized by the province before they are submitted to Infrastructure Canada for consideration,” Sohi wrote. “I would encourage you to submit your proposal to the Province of British Columbia so that it may determine whether the project should be prioritized for funding consideration under the Investing in Canada plan.”
Kirsty Duncan, the federal Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities, encouraged the City to apply to an alternate funding source with an application deadline of May 24th.
“I am pleased to inform you of a funding opportunity that may be of interest to your organization,” Duncan said. “Until May 24, 2018, the Enabling Accessibility Fund is accepting concept applications for mid-sized projects that help improve and make Canadian facilities and venues more accessible for people with disabilities.”
As of late February the City of Victoria has received conditional approval for upwards of $6 million in Federal Gas Tax Funding towards the replacement project. That funding, however, will be rescinded if the remaining $64 million is not allocated by early 2019.
It is not clear whether the City of Victoria was able to pursue an application under the Enabling Accessibility Fund prior to its May 24th submission deadline, or whether alternate sources of funding will be enough to green-light the new Crystal Pool ahead of this fall's municipal election.
Crystal Pool has operated for nearly 50 years along Quadra Street south of Bay Street and features 50-metre lanes, two tot pools, spray toys, a water slide, cardio facilities, a weight room and classes.
Discussions on Crystal Pool's replacement began in 2007 and at an estimated $58 million. Eleven years on the budget has increaesd to $69.4 million with construction expected to start in 2020, providing funding is secured. C
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