Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Cuddly but Costly: Nenshi Seeks Federal Funding for Calgary Zoo Panda Exhibit

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Cuddly but Costly: Nenshi Seeks Federal Funding for Calgary Zoo Panda Exhibit

Article excerpt

Nenshi asks Ottawa to pitch in for pandas


CALGARY - It's from one self-declared lover of baby panda snuggles to another.

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi has written to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asking for Ottawa's help in defraying the considerable cost of housing the critters at Calgary's zoo in two years.

"As a fellow lover of cute cuddly panda cubs, and having observed with envy your recent opportunity to hold Jia Panpan and Jia Yueyue in Toronto during their naming ceremony, I trust you can understand my own desire to embrace these pandas with open arms here in Calgary," Nenshi wrote to Trudeau in a May 27 letter.

The word "envy" is underlined twice, followed by two typed exclamation points, and circled in purple ink with another handwritten exclamation point thrown in for good measure.

"I am writing today to request a federal government contribution towards investments required in Calgary to host both the panda family and the large number of new visitors the zoo expects. The decision for Calgary to host the pandas was supported and encouraged by the previous federal government in 2012, but no funds were provided," the mayor writes.

Trudeau's June 21 response thanks Nenshi for his "enthusiastic" letter and opens by telling the mayor that holding the pandas was a "once in a lifetime event" for the prime minister that "made me the envy of many, including my own children."

But Trudeau rebuffed the funding request and suggested that the Calgary Zoo explore programs offered by the federal Western Economic Diversification agency. Trudeau said he forwarded Nenshi's letter to Navdeep Bains, the minister in charge of that organization.

"The city of Calgary's generosity of spirit, as most recently evidenced by welcoming Syrian refugees and those displaced from the Fort McMurray fires, leaves little doubt the giant pandas will be made to feel at home," Trudeau writes.

Both letters were provided to The Canadian Press by Nenshi's office, which declined to be interviewed.

Two giant pandas, Da Mao and Er Shun, were loaned to Canadian zoos for 10 years as part of a 2012 deal with China. Since 2013, the pair has been at the Toronto Zoo, where the cubs were born and later famously photographed in the arms of Trudeau. …

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