Halifax council OKs grant for bid for 2018 national Special Olympics

'It’s going to be a fine thing whether it’s in the HRM or Antigonish'

Council approved a grant for the Special Olympics host city bid at a meeting March 8.
Council approved a grant for the Special Olympics host city bid at a meeting March 8.   Sophie Allen-Barron

Halifax council is happy to let their northern neighbours host the 2018 Special Olympics, but want a safety net all the same.

Halifax and Antigonish are the two Nova Scotia communities being considered for the 2018 national summer games. Council voted unanimously Tuesday to approve a grant of $89,000 for the host city bid.

Many councillors expressed support for Antigonish becoming the host city, but wanted to keep the option open for Halifax to step in if necessary.

Mayor Mike Savage said there was no need to compete with Antigonish on an economic basis.

“Antigonish is not a bad place. We’re not losing this to somewhere in New York or something,” he said.

Coun. Steve Craig, who put forth the motion, said the Special Olympics are important to many people, but it’s not the location that really matters.

“It’s going to be a fine thing, whether it’s in the Halifax Regional Municipality or Antigonish.”

Special Olympics Nova Scotia originally asked the city for $300,000, citing costs needed to house and transport athletes to venues.

The special events advisory committee discussed the matter at a meeting last month. It decided the amount was too high and recommended a grant of only $100,000.

The grant suggestion was later lowered to $89,000 because of a formula based on other events Halifax has hosted, including the Skate Canada national championships in 2015.

The Special Olympics is for people with intellectual disabilities. The national competition is held every two years. Both Halifax and Antigonish have hosted the provincial competition.

The advisory committee predicts the games would bring in an increase of nearly $7.5 million in economic activity for the province.

Previous grants for special events equaled about 1.2 per cent of the economic activity they generated. Applying the benchmark percentage of 1.2 to the predicted economic activity increase is how the committee came to the suggestion of $89,000.

The grant is conditional on whether Halifax’s bid for host city is accepted, or the provincial government meets or exceeds the grant amount.

“We want to have it, but if Antigonish is willing to do it then that’s fantastic,” said Coun. Jennifer Watts.

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