Calgary passes flawed arena deal to the dismay of taxpayers
Calgary city council voted to approve the new arena deal with the Flames 11-4 on Tuesday afternoon. The approval was done after a week of consultations which showed an even split among Calgarians on the project. According to Think HQ, the yes and no side both had 47% support.
This deal requires Calgary taxpayers to flip half the bill for the new arena to the tune of $275 million over a building period from 2021-2024. The decision comes right after Calgary had to cut the city budget by $60 million in order to ease the pressure on home and business owners struggling to pay property taxes.
As reported last week, there was little doubt that the deal would go through. It was politically understandable that it would be difficult to hold back an issue that had a lot of emotional force behind it. However, economically speaking the deal is a disaster as it simply puts taxpayers under the same budget burden that caused so many businesses to close in the recent past.
It was easy to tell the council wanted very little to do with this deal as the time limit for public consultation was just around a week.
Councillor Jeremy Farkas had said that “City Council gives more time to comment on putting a stove in a basement than they will this $550 million project and its associated risks and benefits.” Farkas’ comments points to political pressure driving the project rather than any good-faith arguments or reasoning.
Farkas later stated that “If the deal is as great as we are being told, it will be just as great after taking a closer look. And surely any deal committing hundreds of millions of taxpayer funds requires open and transparent review.”
Proponents of the arena had been referencing the city’s figures on the economic returns a new arena would bring, but at this point, the city’s own CFO and other economists have already shown why those numbers are unrealistic or misleading.
On top of the idealism assuming the project will make loads of cash Calgary city council also seems to be under the impression that a flood will simply not happen, despite the area having significant chances of flooding and the city is on the hook for the entirety of the insurance.
Winnipeg, Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, and Ottawa have all built new arenas without requiring much taxpayer spending, so why is Calgary now feeling that it’s necessary to indulge in corporate welfare? Despite what the Flames may say about leaving the city, Calgarians shouldn’t be bullied into unaffordable spending because of threats that are likely hollow.
This should all be kept in mind. The problem with bad infrastructure projects is that we typically still get something we like by the end, so city councillors never have to learn their lesson.
I fully admit when we finish the new arena, probably late and over budget, I will still think it’s a great facility and appreciate it for Flames games or other events, but I won’t be letting that re-write history and make me forget the massive failures of the project too.
This reaction is what happened with the Peace Bridge. It was supposed to cost $17.8 million to build and ended up costing $25 million at its unveiling. Despite this, I can’t find many people who have any ill-feelings towards the thing, and I think it is what may happen with the new arena.
Time tends to make people forget the complex issues and budget concerns of many construction projects, as the finished product often only gets associated with its positives. Simple because the Peace Bridge is cool to walk across makes the absurd over-spending become a non-issue to the general public.
If we are to hold city council more responsible for its actions, Calgary taxpayers need to both be able to acknowledge the positives of the facility, as well as the negatives that it brought along with it. It would be quite sad if the increased taxes for the new arena were to close down more small business just to be forgotten due to the glamour of the product we got in return.
I agree with how Farkas in saying that the timing of the project just isn’t right. Even if I don’t think it should be necessary for Calgary taxpayers to cover half the bill, if we waited a couple more years maybe we would be in a far more comfortable position to deal with the extra costs. This is not a no to the new arena it is simply asking for better timing.
Calgarians understand this as nobody feeling the pain of the higher property taxes is running out to buy a more expensive home, so why is the city buying a more expensive arena?
Seems like just another example of poor economic leadership to Calgarians who are all trying to tighten up their own spending.
I won’t be forgetting about this rich living by the city council when the new arena is finished in 2024. It may look nice and provide a better arena experience than the Scotiabank Saddledome, but we should all remember the sacrifices regular Calgarians had to make to fund the project and how many councillors don’t seem to care.
A new bill tabled by Jason Kenney and the UCP government proposes protestors that block rail lines and highways in Alberta face fines of up to $25,000, according to the Edmonton Journal.
With the introduction of Bill 1, the Critical Infrastructure Defence Act, police and prosecutors would have the ability to enforce more provincial penalties.
“Apparently those disincentives haven’t been strong enough for some people,” said Jason Kenney. “Albertans and Canadians respect our constitutionally protected freedoms of expression, of assembly, and to protest but blocking railways, roadways, and commuter trains and critical infrastructure is simply and plainly illegal.”
Kenney again suggested that Sunday’s withdrawal of the Teck Frontier mine was partly caused by protestors against the construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline in northern BC.
“If this carries on it will have devastating impacts on our economy here in Alberta and in the rest of the country. Albertans will not tolerate this kind of lawless mockery of our democratic principles and this attack on our nations and our province’s prosperity,” he said.
Bill 1 adds to the legislation introduced by the UCP in the fall which heightens maximum trespassing penalties.
If the Bill passes it would introduce larger fines as well as prison terms reaching up to six months. Bill 1 would also introduce fines that could be added on to initial fines each day that protests continue.
Some of the “essential infrastructure” that the bill would apply to includes oil and gas sites, water utilities and dams and telephone lines.
Justice minister Doug Schweitzer said, “Each day that (this) goes on, it would be a new offence, so the fines would compound over time … We want to send a clear signal that this will not be tolerated.”
Initial fines would begin at $1,000 and reach up to $25,000 by just the second day of a blockade. Corporations that aid or direct blockades could see fines as large as $200,000.
Schweitzer noted that the onsite police would have to power to decide whether or not the law would be applied to these protests.
The bill was criticized by NDP leader, Rachel Notley who said that the bill could potentially be used to shut down other types of protests that the government disagrees with such as teacher’s protests.
“Bill 1 should have been completely focused on jobs, and as we know when it comes to protesters that this premier claims to be concerned about, the law already prohibited that kind of work and the law already allowed for them to be arrested,” Notley said.
Schweitzer told the federal government to follow their lead and take a similar approach with their legislative action.
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney announced his plan to table what will be “Bill Number One” of the next session of Alberta’s next legislation.
The bill, which Kenney called the Critical Infrastructure Defense Act, will create “new, and stiff critical penalties for anyone who riots on, or seeks to impair critical economic infrastructure in the province of Alberta.”
“We need national leadership to ensure that Canada is a country characterized by the rule of law, and we are pleased to see that action is finally being taken by police services to enforce court orders, but Alberta will do its part,” said Kenney, before announcing the bill.
Kenney’s statements came on the same day that Ontario Provincial Police moved in on blockaders on Mohawk territory after calls from the federal government to clear the railways of blockades and protestors.
Blockaders had stopped trains from running for the previous three weeks in support of anti-pipeline activists.
The announcement came during a lengthy address to media after the Alberta provincial court’s decision to strike down the Trudeau Liberals’ federal carbon tax—a fate opposite than that in Ontario and Saskatchewan.
Kenney went on to say that his government would “not back down” to hostility from the federal government, pressure from special interest groups, or regulatory uncertainty that could potentially inhibit investment in Alberta resource development.
Kenney also reached out to the federal government, requesting that Ottawa work together with Alberta in developing Alberta’s “rich” natural resources, “to generate that wealth in a responsible way.”
A 4-1 decision in the Court of Appeal of Alberta has found the Trudeau government Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act unconstitutional.
The decision made Monday found the act to be unconstitutional due to it posing intrusion on provincial jurisdiction. The appeal court decision rejects Ottawa’s arguments over there being a national crisis over greenhouse emissions.
The Alberta Court of Appeal is the first province of any’s superior court to rule against the legislation, as the decision is likely seen as a victory of the Jason Kenney-led United Conservative Party, who have led a strong campaign against the proposed tax.
In a tweet posted shortly after the decision was made, premier Kenney said that it was his government’s plan to take action, without punishing Albertans.
“We promised to take meaningful action on climate change without punishing Alberta families for driving to work and heating their homes,” said Kenney.
Judges in the majority of the decision include Chief Justice Catherine Fraser, and Justices Jack Watson, Elizabeth Hughes and Thomas Wakeling. Justice Kevin Feehan was the sole vote.
Appeal courts in both Saskatchewan and Ontario upheld the law in split decisions.
Kenney addressed media after the announcement, saying: “This is a great victory for Alberta, and a great victory for Canadian federalism. We will take this decision with us as we stand for our allies in Ontario, Saskatchewan, and Quebec at the Supreme Court of Canada next month,” said Kenney.
“The appeal court referred to the effort to impose this punishing tax on families who fill up their gas tanks and heat up their homes… They referred to it as a ‘constitutional trojan horse.’ The trojan horse ended today.”
“The question is not whether or not the world will continue to need energy, the question is where will the energy come from? and the question for us as Canadians is very simple: Will that energy come from this rights-respecting, liberal democracy with the highest environment human rights and labour standards on earth, or will we surrender the global energy markets to the worlds worst regimes, with little transparency and radically lower environmental standards with little or no respect for human rights. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, because it’s true, that the world needs more Canadian energy.”
Kenney went on to announce that his government would be moving forward with tabling “Bill 1 of the next session of Alberta’s legislature,” the Critical Infrastructure Defense Act, which Kenney says will ensure stiff penalties for those who attempt to impair critical economic infrastructure throughout Alberta.
Recent trouble in Wild Rose Country
The province has been the centre of ongoing controversy as of late, as just yesterday, The British Columbia-based Teck Frontier decided to pull out from a proposed $20 billion oil sands mine.
“Teck put forward a socially and environmentally responsible project that was industry-leading and had the potential to create significant economic benefits for Canadians,” said CEO Don Lindsay in a letter released late Sunday night.
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney reacted by saying “The withdrawal of Teck’s Frontier Mine application is more devastating news for the Canadian economy, especially for Albertans & indigenous people. This decision is clearly the result of federal regulatory uncertainty & the current lawless opposition to resource development.”
Former Director of Policy to Prime Minister Stephen Harper Rachel Curran pulled also had choice words for the decision.
“There’s no way Teck would be making this decision now unless they’d been given a heads up that a negative decision was coming from the Trudeau government.
I wonder if @realDonaldTrump will let us apply to the U.S. as economic refugees,” the tweet concluded.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government gave nearly $10,000 of taxpayer money in 2019 to an organization that has funded and organized anti-pipeline movements.
Environment Canada, which was headed by Liberal minister Catherine McKenna at the time, made two separate payments to Tides Canada—coming to a total of $9,761.
These two payments were made in January and October of 2019.
Although it is unclear how Tides Canada chose to allocate this money, the organization has a noted history of financing anti-oil campaigns in Alberta.
Tides Canada, for instance, funded the Tsleil-Wauteuth First Nation so that they could “stop and oppose the Kinder Morgan pipeline and tanker project.”
Tides Canada has also funded and organized a campaign to save the Great Bear Rainforest, which led to Trudeau’s decision to kill the Northern Gateway Pipeline.
In January, data revealed that Alberta’s economic activity was at its lowest since the 2015-16 recession. As well as this, the province lost more than 18,000 jobs in January, despite the rest of the country adding over 34,000.
Much of Alberta’s economic troubles derive from the federal government’s inanition and inaction in building pipelines. As a result of this, a deep discontent has grown amongst Albertans towards Ottawa—culminating in both a growing separatist movement (Wexit) and the new “Buffalo Declaration“.