Abbotsford Mission MLA Randy Hawes admits he inadvertently set off political pundits when he told the Abbotsford Mission Times last Tuesday that $185,000 for new dehumidifiers for Mission's Leisure Centre came from leftover BC Place re-roofing funds.
Hawes had also said that when the project came in $30 million below the last estimated cost, Victoria decided to disperse those dollars to recreation projects to rural B.C. communities.
The story ran in the Times Thursday, but Hawes sent an e-mail Thursday evening with a clarification.
"It appears I have set off a bit of a firestorm when I said the $30 million grant fund was from the underbudget amount on BC Place. In fact the money was announced at UBCM last September and is not from the BC Place funding. . . Mea culpa," he wrote.
In a phone call from his home Friday morning, Hawes again admitted his blunder.
"I got (Vancouver Sun columnist) Vaughn Palmer and others all worked up," Hawes said.
"I really believed when I said the $30 million - I really thought I heard from someone in a meeting that the money came from BC Place. I don't know why I said that, that's not the case."
Hawes, the former mayor of Mission and currently the minister of state for mining, said he didn't intend to cause confusion or embarrass the government.
"Some people are afraid to say they screwed up, but I'm not," said Hawes.
He made his initial statements at a photo op at the Mission Leisure Centre last Tuesday, accompanied by MLA Marc Dalton (Maple Ridge-Mission), Mission mayor Ted Adlem and Coun. Nelson Tilbury.
Hawes' erroneous comments caught the attention of critics who have been trying to ascertain the costs of the roof renovation at BC Place, which has now been pegged at $563-million.
"For them to claim this is surplus money from a project millions of dollars over budget is a real stretch," NDP tourism critic Spencer Chandra Herbert said this week, on the website of political blogger Bob Mackin, a strong critic of the BC Place renovation project.
However, while the community funding is from provincial government operating funds and not a BC Place surplus, Hawes reiterated Friday that the stadium will come in under budget.
"I talked with (Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Innovation) Pat Bell yesterday. We're under budget, but we don't know how much."
It may be several months until the final figures are in as "there's some things that still have to be resolved," Hawes said, referring to the two lawsuits involving BC Place.
He wanted to reassure Mission it will get the funds to replace the aging dehumidifiers in its two ice rinks and curling sheet.
The $185,000 grant comes from a $30-million community recreation fund from the Ministry of Community, Sport, and Cultural Development.
Premier Christy Clark announced the fund at the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in September 2011.
Each community will have to pony up some money, as the province will fund up to 80 per cent of the costs for the eligible recreation infrastructure projects.
The total value of approved projects is more than $70 million, which will create an estimated 458 direct jobs and 251 indirect jobs, according to a government document, released Wednesday afternoon.