Marco Polo Project Saint John New Brunswick

Feds Say No to Marco Polo
SAINT JOHN SHUT OUT: As Tory MP Elsie Wayne blames Liberal politics for the loss of a Millennium Fund grant, booster Barry Ogden says the news 'hurts.'

By Brian Kemp
Times Globe staff writer

    Barry Ogden has waged a 14-year battle to have a replica of the Marco Polo sailing ship built in Saint John.
   He thought this was the year for a victory - but the struggle will continue.
   The federal government informed the group on the weekend that it would not be giving money to the Marco Polo Project through its Millennium Fund.
   That was the crushing announcement for Mr. Ogden, who is the driving force behind the project.
   "It really hurts alot," he said. "I'd like to listen to the news some day and hear, 'The Marco Polo is a go.
    Supporters of the project had been looking for money from the Millennium Bureau of Canada to help pay for the $2- million project, which would see a non-sailing replica of Saint John's most famous ship constructed on land near the city's waterfront. The masts would be as tall as the nearby City Hall building.
    Mr. Ogden said he understood that the project met the criteria established by the Millennium Fund. The group put the project forward but at one point pulled it out because there were other major Saint John projects before the feds.
   "When we reapplied, there was a lot less money," said Mr. Ogden.
   The Saint John High School teacher has not given up hope, though He has received words of encouragement from Labour minister Claudette Bradshaw, the MP for Moncton-Riverview-Dieppe.
   Mrs. Bradshaw told the group there were other avenues that could be looked at and was supportive of the Marco Polo, said Mr. Ogden.
   He said the province has also given positive feedback about the project.
   Last year, the City of Saint John had approved $600,000 for the project, on the condition that other backers came through. That support may not be there in future votes, given that the city is facing a $2.5million shortfall from the provincial grant pool this year.
   "Now we've got to do some more work," said Mr. Ogden. "We've got to keep going. We're going into our 14th year and we've never been this close.
    "I thought this time was really it."
    "You teach your students that caring and tenacity are the most important things in life, so you wouldn't be much of an example if you got up and walked away right now. "
   Mr. Ogden said the project may have been hurt because Saint John's waterfront development has not come about as fast as some people would like to see it.
   Saint John Mayor Shirley McAlary said the lack of funding for the Marco Polo is bad news for development of the city's waterfront.
   "It would have been money for the waterfront," said Ms. McAlary. "We need that first project to get started and that would be a catalyst for other things to follow."
   The Mayor said area groups sent dozens of applications to the federal government for Millennium Fund cash.
   Only four projects were approved in the city, including the Visit Canada Visitez walking trail in Rockwood Park (which received $315,000) and a gallery of extinct animal replicas at the Cherry Brook Zoo (which was given $70,833).
    "It just seemed really hard to get the applications accepted," said Ms.McAlary.
   Meanwhile, Saint John Tory MP Elsie Wayne is accusing the Liberal government of short-changing her riding.
Of the 71 projects funded in New Brunswick, four were in Saint John, six were in Moncton and eight were in Fredericton.
   "Let me tell you, for Moncton and Fredericton to get more than Saint John is straight political," Mrs. Wayne complained.
   "We never get our fair share in Saint John. We don't.
    "I look at the politics that has come into it, and I look at where some of them went, and I would say that politics played a role again."
    The Liberal MPs from Fredericton and Moncton disagree with Mrs. Wayne's analysis.
   "I certainly dismiss it," said Mrs. Bradshaw.
    "You speak to Elsie Wayne about the last batch of millennium funding that she received, that I was in her riding to announce, and you also tell Elsie Wayne that [in] the first part of the millennium funding, I did not even get one," Mrs. Bradshaw said.
   Added Fredericton MP Andy Scott, "I can't speak to where Elsie comes from on most things. "
   Comparisons by riding will always reveal small differences, he said, but in general the program treated ridings, provinces and political parties fairly.
    "It is never going to be mathematically perfect, and when it is not mathematically perfect, you always will have somebody say, 'I did not get my fair share,' " he said.
    Across the country, the government contributed $148-million to 1,832 projects to celebrate the new millennium.
   Criteria for successful projects were that they had to secure at least two-thirds of the money from other sources, that they were strictly notfor-profit, and that they were not bricks-and- mortar infrastructure projects.

With files from Times Globe staff
writer Campbell Morrison in Ottawa.