POLITICS

NDP premier pounces on Liberal leader's position on funding Halifax CFL stadium

09/26/2013 09:34 EDT | Updated 11/26/2013 05:12 EST
HALIFAX - Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil's stance on public funding for a stadium in Halifax capable of holding Canadian Football League games is a contradiction, NDP Premier Darrell Dexter said Thursday.

Nova Scotia's three main political party leaders were asked during a radio debate whether they would be willing to support using taxpayers' money for a stadium in the city.

"I never arbitrarily rule out any particular project, but I want to see a business case, I want to see something that is sustainable for the long term," Dexter said, adding that he has invited Halifax Mayor Mike Savage to put forth such a proposal. "I'm happy to have a look at it."

McNeil said it's an idea that should be entertained if a private-public partnership can be made.

"I would enter into the conversation with them, sure," McNeil said during the debate hosted by News 95.7. "I think it would be irresponsible for us not to at least enter into that conversation, but it would depend at the end of the day what that project was."

Dexter said McNeil's position is inconsistent, referring to the Liberal leader's opposition to the NDP government's financial support for the private sector.

"He is saying that he would be prepared to put money into a public-private partnership that would support a CFL franchise, but he wouldn't put any money into a company that's coming here to create jobs for Nova Scotians," Dexter said, calling it a "substantial" contradiction.

"He ended in exactly the opposite place from where he started, just so everybody understands."

McNeil rejected Dexter's accusation, saying public funding for a football stadium could boost community infrastructure.

"It's no different than if you go across rural Nova Scotia, government has a responsibility to ensure that the community infrastructure is in place," McNeil said.

Progressive Conservative Leader Jamie Baillie said he would not support funding a stadium until there is a formal proposal before him and even then, only if he believes the province can afford it.

"I think Halifax deserves a world-class stadium," Baillie said. "However, there is no specific proposal and it's not right to endorse one until we know we have a proposal that's affordable, that fits within a balanced budget."

Savage has been a proponent of bringing the CFL to Halifax, and league commissioner Mark Cohon has supported exploring the idea of setting up a team in Atlantic Canada.

The province's voters cast their ballots Oct. 8.