OTTAWA -- A $5.6-million skating rink constructed on the east lawn of Parliament Hill will remain open to the public until the end of February -- not just for three weeks as initially planned.
Just one day after announcing that the rink would only be operable from Dec. 7 to Dec. 31, Heritage Minister Melanie Joly has announced that it will now remain open until the end of February.
The elaborate rink -- which includes viewing stands and a cooling system to maintain the ice surface -- is part of the concluding festivities for Canada's 150th birthday.
Its budget includes the cost of bringing 32 peewee house league hockey teams from across the country to the capital for a tournament after Christmas.
On Wednesday, Joly said the rink would close on New Year's Eve because that will mark the end of the sesquicentennial celebrations.
She isn't explaining now why she so abruptly changed her mind.
"This will allow ever more families to lace up their skates for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," Joly said in a tweet Thursday announcing the extension of the rink.
Joly later said she had to get the agreement of the Speakers of the House of Commons and Senate to keep the rink open longer.
She said the government still intends to eventually dismantle the rink and re-install it in a nearby community "in need," although the unidentified community will presumably no longer get the rink in time for use this winter.
Joly repeatedly refused to explain her about-face, but appeared to suggest it had something to do with wanting the rink to be open throughout the 40th anniversary of Winterlude, Ottawa's annual winter festival.
She also refused to say whether the extended opening of the rink will entail additional costs.
Bardish Chagger, small business and tourism minister, suggested that extending the rink's use was aimed at bolstering tourism in the national capital.
"Tourism, we know, is an economic driver," she said.
"So we listened and we committed to listening and engaging with Canadians. There was obviously a desire to have it open longer so people from across the country could come and have this experience."