The City of Flin Flon received a boost in its bid to replace the Aqua Centre. Heather Stefanson, in town on the campaign trail, announced another $10 million in provincial funding was on the way for the project Sept. 8.
The announcement was made during an address to city councillors and assembled media at City Hall, then confirmed later in the day by Stefanson's provincial party.
"I'm just going to be quick with it - I know when I was here last year, we were talking about the pool. I'd like to announce today that, as a campaign announcement because we're not a government right now, we'd like to commit $10 million toward the pool," said Stefanson. The Premier arrived in Flin Flon in the middle of a two-day northern Manitoba tour.
"I heard loud and clear from you last time and I love this community - this community is going to boom. This community is going to be a huge part of Manitoba and the opportunities for here are endless right now. I'm so excited."
The City of Flin Flon has already received $2.9 million in grant funding from the provincial government to cover costs for the project, as well as $3.4 million from the federal government in the form of an Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program (ICIP) grant, as received in 2021. It is unknown whether the promise from Stefanson would include $10 million in new funding, or if the promise included the $2.9 million in previously announced funds.
The City anticipated the total cost for the pool to be around $14.6 million, with a contingency plan in place to cover if costs went as high as $17 million. Construction is slated to begin in earnest next year, with City officials planning to hold a ceremonial shovel-in-ground ceremony later this fall.
Mayor George Fontaine thanked Stefanson for the promise, saying the building of a pool would add to what the City had to offer for recreation, physical health and children's safety.
"I don't know what to say about that," said Fontaine.
"This is exciting. The pool is such a central focus of what we see as the future of our community. We need to have those social structures, between our arts and culture, we need to have that physical exercise side and the safety that comes from having a pool like that for our kids. Any positive news that goes toward that is just like... wow."
The City of Flin Flon had applied to the province's Arts, Culture and Sport in Community (ACSC) fund for $5 million for the pool project earlier this year. The City's application was not included in the list of projects funded under the grant when it was released in July.
Fontaine also said the investment would be a sign that Flin Flon's economic fortunes, which had been seen as going downward following the closure of most of Hudbay's local operations last year, are changing, alluding to the promise, the purchase of the Flin Flon Hotel by Wyndham Ramada and other projects he declined to specify.
"We're hoping. We've had other conversations outside of what we're talking about today which I won't mention, and we may be having more partnerships. It's looking positive," he said.
"The future of this town is changing - people were nervous about it and some people were afraid, but the people in this room are extremely confident. We're going to let the world know it's going to be different."
Where the money for the Aqua Centre will come from within the provincial coffers is not yet known. No source for where the money would come from was mentioned by Stefanson, who said that information about where campaign trail funding announcements would fit within the budget would come out during the campaign.
"Everything that we announced during the campaign will be costed out. At the end of every week, we'll release the details of that and where it will come from," said Stefanson. When asked if other commitments for Flin Flon and the region, such as health care, infrastructure or education spending would be on the way, Stefanson deflected.
"Stay tuned to the rest of the campaign, but I can tell you the fact we're here at the start of the campaign shows how much the north means to us," she said.
It is unknown whether or not the funding hinges on Stefanson and the ruling Progressive Conservative (PC) Party being reelected in this fall's provincial election. A statement from the Manitoba NDP obtained by The Reminder Sept. 8 said that the NDP "will have more to say about our plans for the north and Flin Flon as the campaign progresses," adding that the opposition believed Stefanson and the PCs have made promises on the campaign trail they don't intend to keep.
"After ignoring the needs of northern Manitoba for years and failing to follow through on the Thompson pool, Heather Stefanson is now making the same empty promise to residents of Flin Flon. Northerners know Heather Stefanson doesn’t care about the north. The Manitoba NDP has always advocated for more support for northern communities and families," reads the statement.