After seven years of planning and several million dollars of public investment, the federal government has scrapped a project to build a national portrait gallery, Heritage Minister James Moore said late Friday.

The abrupt abandonment of the plan to build the gallery is the result of unstable economic times, said the minister.

"In this time of global economic instability, it is important that the federal government continue to manage its own affairs prudently and pragmatically," he said in a press release.

Moore, who was appointed to the Heritage Ministry last month, also blamed the cancellation on a dearth of feasible submissions made by developers.

"A number of developers submitted proposals to house the public programming and exhibitions of the Portrait Gallery of Canada," he said.

"Unfortunately, none of these proposals met the government's requirements, and we are therefore terminating the selection process."

The cancellation comes a day after Moore, 32, told The Canadian Press that he hoped to "build bridges" with the arts community in his new posting.

Relations with Canada's arts groups were strained after the Harper government announced $45 million in culture cuts earlier this year.

In 2001, the Liberal government announced it would open the Portrait Gallery of Canada by 2005, however, the project has hit several snags.

Initially, the gallery - which was to feature 20,000 paintings and prints along with millions of photos and other items - was to open in the former American embassy, which sits across from Parliament in Ottawa.

In fact, the government has already spent more than $10 million in repairing that building in preparation for the gallery.

The entire projected cost was initially $22 million, but that number later swelled to $45 million, and the opening was pushed back to 2007.

Meanwhile, the Conservative government reviewed the project after it came into power in 2006.

A year ago, the Conservatives announced that several major Canadian cities should bid for the gallery - a move which was slammed by critics who wanted the gallery in Ottawa.

After last May's deadline for submissions, three cities were in the running: Edmonton, Calgary and Ottawa.

Alberta's government had even promised to pump $40 million in provincial cash into a bid.

The government, meanwhile, stated that the portrait collection, which is stored in special facility in Gatineau, Que., "will continue to be available for viewing by Canadians through travelling exhibitions and other public programs."