Lack of transparency around Calgary Flames arena: Canadian Taxpayers Federation
With Calgarians incurring half the projected $550 million in costs for the new Flames arena, many are puzzled by the move in light of recent cuts to essential services. Cuts that run $60 million deep.
Yes, incurring $275 million in costs for $400.3 million in revenue is ill-advised, given said revenue will take a whopping 35 years to generate.
Taking inflation into account may leave Calgarians with a $47 million net cost after the fact.
With many of Canada’s teams relying on private funding to build their respective arenas, it seems that city council missed the ball on negotiations.
Corporate welfare is not the solution; it just leaves us wanting more bang for our buck.
The Post Millennial reached out for an exclusive interview with the Alberta Regional Director to the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, Franco Terrazzano, who spoke to Calgary’s problematic arena deal.
CTF is a nonpartisan advocacy group that champions fiscal accountability for its nearly 220,000 members.
TPM: Set to be finalized for Tuesday, why does the CTF reject the current arena deal?
Franco: Well, besides the nearly $300 million given to the wealthy owners of a professional hockey team, I mean, the main issue here besides the dollar amount going to the business is just the lack of public consultation.
Calgary councillors should be ashamed of themselves for trying to ram through a deal with the Flames behind closed doors before taking off for their summer holidays. I mean, the transparency and concentration on this project have been a complete failure.
Now, they have less than a week for the public to provide input for councillors to analyze that feedback. We’re talking about a massive corporate welfare project that will cost the city nearly $300 million. Why are some city councillors in such a rush to push through this deal?
TPM: In the CTF’s most recent press release, you note Mayor Nenshi’s hypocrisies on past and current arena negotiations with the Flames’ ownership. What does the sudden change of heart say to Calgarians, reeling from the economic burdens of high taxes and unemployment?
Franco: In 2017, Mayor Nenshi said that 99.9% of the Calgarians he spoke with were against giving tax dollars to the Flames. Councillor Jeff Davison, he filled out our candidate survey and said he doesn’t support public funds for the professional arena.
Now, they’re leading the charge for the pro-arena deal. So what has changed? I mean, if anything, you would think the circumstances in Calgary would make it less desirable to give taxpayer money to the Flames.
Last month, we had hundreds of Calgarians rallying at City Hall demanding a fix to the property tax debacle. Many were calling for lower spending. Then a few days ago, the city council made cuts to funding for fire, police and transit.
If anything, you would think that circumstances have changed, which would make giving tax dollars to the flames even worse deal. At the end of the day, if councillors believe this is a good deal for Calgarians they shouldn’t be afraid to have proper public consultations.
TPM: With municipal property taxes remaining the same under the deal, does the timing of the agreement exacerbate the CTF’s sentiments further, given the recent $60-million budget cuts?
Franco: With any corporate welfare project, the benefits never turn out as good as the sales pitch. It’s always a real risk for taxpayers. The most frustrating part about this project is that there’s no reason why private business, the owners of the Flames, can’t build their facility with their own money and without tax dollars.
Taxpayers could have their cake and eat it too, in the sense that they could get a new arena without having to fork over any public dollars. This has happened on numerous occasions throughout Canada, where the NHL teams build their arenas privately without relying on taxpayer handouts.
We’ve seen it in Toronto, we’ve seen that in Vancouver, Ottawa, and Montreal. There’s no reason why city councillors have to fork over hundreds of millions of dollars to the Flames to get a new arena. Then you mentioned some of the revenue numbers and the cost numbers, and there are a lot of question marks surrounding the details.
For example, the city documents don’t show whether ticket sale projections are realistic. We don’t get to see those assumptions. Nor is it clear whether property tax revenues in the area will displace income from other areas.
There are other serious question marks, including how are we going to pay for cost overruns? What’s the value of the land subsidy for the Flames? Time is running out for consultations, with many questions left unanswered.
TPM: Some would argue that another 35-years of the Flames generate profits elsewhere, with fans choosing to watch games outside their homes and spend money, rather than stay at home. Furthermore, is there merit to this arena deal outside of the emotional attachment many have for the team?
Franco: Whenever a salesman is trying to sell their corporate welfare pitch, they always claim these substantial benefits, but for taxpayers, the benefits never tend to be as good as the sales pitch.
These corporate welfare projects always come with significant risk for taxpayers. But again, here’s the real frustrating part. Taxpayers can have their cake and eat it too, but they don’t need to use tax dollars to get a new arena built.
TPM: For many progressive voters, as well as small businesses, suburban voters who feel the city is not prioritizing correctly, what is your message to them?
Franco: The city isn’t prioritizing correctly. On Monday, Calgary councillors appeared ready to approve a deal that would give the wealthy owners of a professional hockey team nearly $300 million.
Then you fast forward a handful of hours, and you have city councillors talking about and approving cuts. I want to make it clear that the city council did need to trim the fat, but not to essential services.
City council has increased spending by $200 million a year, which, during a downturn, has forced businesses to shut their doors. They’ve cited property tax increases as a reason for closing the doors. So city council does need to cut spending, but trying to ram through a deal that will give nearly $300 million to the Calgary Flames represents a complete lack of prioritization.
I mean, the lack of prioritization and the lack of transparency on this project is mind-blowing.
A bestselling trans author’s tweet thread about abuse goes viral, then came the allegations of her own abuse
On Nov. 10, a celebrated trans author wrote a viral tweet thread that received over 100,000 likes. The thread complained about the discrepancy between successful, beautiful women, and their often abusive and unkempt male partners.
As it turns out, she may have been projecting.
The author, who writes under the pen name “Meredith Russo,” is formerly known as Meredith Stroud and Travis Lee Stroud. Her 2016 novel If I Was Your Girl received multiple awards and near-endless commendations from literary elites. On the back of the book’s success, Stroud, 32, was invited to publish an article in The New York Times on the struggles of being a transwoman. Stroud’s subsequent book, Birthday, received awards from Refinery29, Bustle and Nylon.
However, some Twitter users brought attention to a blog post from 2016 where the author’s arrest record and past relationship history were detailed, prompting the author to use block lists to squelch criticism.
“Domestic violence is insidious and slow, like the proverbial boiling frog,” Stroud’s ex-wife, Juniper Russo, said. “It’s hard to say when it all started.”
Juniper Russo alleges she was subjected to a campaign of sexual and emotional abuse at the hands of her former partner, abuse she says was so severe that the marriage culminated in a divorce in early 2015.
“We met on OKCupid in 2011 and got married in 2013,” Russo said, claiming the physical abuse started shortly after the wedding. “We had a lot of shared interests at the time, and I was naive enough to think that shared interests are the foundation of a healthy relationship.”
Russo shared disturbing details of some of the alleged abuses she suffered during her marriage to Meredith Stroud.
“When my son was born in 2014, I had severe pre-eclampsia and injuries from giving birth. I had to have major reconstructive surgery. I was extremely weak and in severe pain,” Russo said.
“Meredith was extremely abusive to me during this time, calling me a ‘feeding station, not a parent’ because breastfeeding my son was one of the only things I could do, and because I was asking [Meredith] to help with things like diapers,” Russo also alleges.
During this same time, Juniper says Stroud would tell her to commit suicide. “[Meredith] kept mocking me when I was in pain, and told me I was so useless as a parent I should just kill myself.”
Russo says she was first forced to call the police in late 2014, “[Meredith] was having an outburst. I got scared and called 911. [Meredith] took the phone from me, and was heard trying to prevent me from calling for help.”
As a result, Stroud was booked on charges of interfering with an emergency call.
Like many victims of domestic violence, Russo says she still loved and sympathized with her abuser.
“I ended up bailing [Meredith] out, and paying for the legal defense,” she said.
Russo said she often intervened to prevent Stroud from being charged with domestic abuse, noting that the police wanted to charge Stroud in Nov. 2014.
“I was always trying to protect [Meredith] because I knew men’s jail was not kind to transwomen,” Russo said. “She was always threatening suicide if she were to get arrested.” Russo continues, “Even when things were terrible, I was worried for her safety and didn’t want her to kill herself or be beaten to death in prison.”
Russo turned over 53 pages of legal documents to support her allegations.
The divorce record, which features a restraining order against Stroud, includes messages shared between the two in which Stroud admits to abusing Russo. These messages were accepted as evidence by the divorce courts.
In one series of messages from Facebook, Stroud is calmly attempting to diffuse Russo’s desire to proceed with the divorce, offering to go on medication and check into a psychiatric facility for psychosis maintenance.
In this same conversation, Russo expresses fear of Stroud eventually killing her.
In another, dramatically different text conversation, Stroud says she hopes Russo gets “run over by a f*cking truck” and demands Russo reduce child support payments.
At the time, Stroud was recorded by the court as having an income of $8,300 gross per month, having acquired a substantial six-figure advance from Flatiron Books, the publisher of Stroud’s debut novel, If I Was Your Girl. The court would later order Stroud to pay $1,068 per month.
But Russo says Stroud has not paid child support in years, and currently owes over $20,000 in back payments. In July of 2019, Russo attempted to start a GoFundMe to raise the money needed to legally compel Stroud to pay what was owed. Other than the child support arrangements, Russo did not request alimony or any other financial compensation from the seperation.
After the divorce, Russo says Stroud denigrated her in public, telling fans and followers on social media that Russo was “a TERF who had abused and left” Stroud due to her transition from male to female.
“Many trans people are the victims of violence and discrimination, so [Meredith’s] target audience found that totally relatable and credible. They had no reason to doubt her,” Russo said, noting that both she and her current wife are members of the LGBT community. Russo identifies as non-binary, while her current wife is a transwoman.
“I’ve been harassed quite a bit by Meredith’s social network. I lost a lot of friends and have been largely ostracized from our local LGBT community.” Russo says, “I’ll often be online and someone I don’t know will suddenly jump into a thread to announce I’m the TERF who ruined Meredith Russo’s life.”
Stroud continues to publicly call Russo an abuser, and claims she’s attempting to “destroy” [Stroud’s] career and finances.
The Post Millennial has reached out to Stroud as well as Flatiron-MacMillan Publishing and Stroud’s publishing agent Sarah Barley for comment. While the publishing house and agent did not respond by the time of publication, Stroud denied all allegations while calling The Post Millennial a slew of denigrating names.
When asked about her own admissions of abuse in the court document, Stroud again asserted “Either way, my response to the allegations is that I have not ever sexually or physically abused any of my sexual or romantic partners.”
Stroud claimed, at first, that she was “barred” from speaking about her relationship to her ex-wife by law. When questioned about why she had persistently made social media posts about that very subject, Stroud declined to answer before blocking the account used to contact her.
“Meredith thrives on lies and conflict, and she’s a writer, so she knows how to come up with a good story.” Russo says, “I knew when I left her that I’d become the subject of one of these stories.”
Included in the divorce and restraining order filings was an article Stroud wrote with the intention of submitting it to an LGBT magazine. The article, written as an introspective reflection on the couple’s relationship, states in detail the abuse Stroud subjected Russo to.
And despite Stroud’s public attempts to downplay the arrest, Stroud’s written account supports Russo’s claims that it was she who is responsible for jail bailout and the charges being dropped.
The document also backs Russo’s assertion that she continued to support and care for her spouse even after the repeated physical and sexual assaults, a far cry from Stroud’s claims on social media that Russo had been the abuser, and callously made Stroud homeless.
Due to Stroud’s continued public assertions that Russo is to blame, as well as the harassment from Stroud’s fans she’s received in the past as a result, Russo says she continues to fear retaliation.
Russo notes that some of the posts Stroud has made include threats of violence. From a now-deleted alternative Twitter account, Stroud posted how she wanted Russo’s friends to be “brutally killed” in the style of a violent horror movie.
“My main hope, in discussing all of this, is that the defamation against myself and my family will stop.” Russo comments, “I’ve worked so hard to rebuild my life in the five years since I left Meredith, and I’m emotionally exhausted by the fact that I’m still being defamed on a daily basis as a ‘TERF’ and abuser, and that it’s affected my family so profoundly.”
Despite everything, Juniper Russo says she does not wish ill upon her former spouse, and supports Stroud’s work in the literary world.
“I still have to believe that there’s some good inside of [Meredith] and that she’s leaving some kind of positive mark on the world. If her books have saved one single teenager from suicide, I’d consider that to outweigh the pain and trauma I’ve had to endure at her hands.” Russo continues on to note that deeply flawed people can sometimes make good art.
“It’s important to be aware that someone who creates inspiring work is not necessarily a good person, and I think it’s dangerous for anyone to look up to Meredith as a role model, or to take anything she says at face value.”
Russo concluded. “Her work, including how she presents herself and speaks of those around her, is fictional. I’d caution anyone against mistaking any of it for reality.”
High school teachers in Ontario have voted overwhelmingly in favour of a strike, according to CTV News.
After a vote in Toronto, 95 percent of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) voted in favour, thus providing an “overwhelming” mandate to carry out strike action.
Alongside teachers, the union also represents education workers who also voted strongly in favour of a strike.
The OSSTF now has to send a five-day notice stating when the strike will begin. After this, they will be in a legal position to stage a strike.
Elementary school teachers and Catholic school board teachers are also expected to threaten strike action.
Well known Christian fast-food organization Chick-fil-A has decided to halt funding to two organizations that critics call ‘anti-LGBT,’ and advocates call ‘pro-traditional family.’
For years now, Chick-fil-A, the Georgia-based chicken restaurant has faced backlash from LGBT groups for their hefty donations to The Salvation Army and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
Recently, in Toronto, the opening of the city’s first Chick-fil-A was greeted with large groups of both LGBT and animal rights protestors, making for some viral moments as activists staged ‘die-ins,’ attempted to stop people from entering the restaurant, and yelled customers’ faces with megaphones.
Chick-fil-A told ABC News that they would instead be focusing on donations to groups that prevent homelessness, hunger, and education, starting next year.
“Beginning in 2020 the Chick-fil-A Foundation will introduce a more focused giving approach, donating to a smaller number of organizations working exclusively in the areas of hunger, homelessness and education,” Chick-fil-A said in a statement Monday.
“We have also proactively disclosed our 2018 tax filing and a preview of 2019 gifts to date on chick-fil-afoundation.org,” the statement continued. “The intent of charitable giving from the Chick-fil-A Foundation is to nourish the potential in every child.”
COO of Chick-fil-A Tim Tassopoulos stated that “no organization will be excluded from future consideration, faith-based or non-faith-based.
Tim Tassopoulos, the president and COO of Chick-fil-A, added that “no organization will be excluded from future consideration, faith-based or non-faith-based.”
“Our goal is to donate to the most effective organizations in the areas of education, homelessness and hunger,” Tassopoulos added.
Chick-fil-A has long been known as a faithful staple in the fast-food industry, having been described as a restaurant that “sells chicken with a side of Christianity” by the Atlantic in 2014.
The restaurant was founded by the late S. Truett Cathy, who opened the first chicken-sandwich stand in an Atlanta mall in 1967. Cathy, a man of faith, made a conscious effort to incorporate Christianity into his business, even putting Bible quotes on the styrofoam sweet-tea cups, and ensuring that stores remained closed on Sabbath, keeping this rule intact long after many other businesses moved away from similar Blue law policies.
In 2012, Cathy was quoted saying that he believes in the “biblical definition of the marriage,” that marriage should only be between a man and a woman. This statement from Cathy, who was 86 at the time, prompted major national attention and controversy.
Cathy’s statement led to a domino effect of demonstrations and counter-demonstrations, starting when a New York woman planned an LGBT kissing event at one of the restaurants. This then led to former U.S. presidential candidate and Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee holding a “Chick-fil-A appreciation day.”
This is all exasperated by Cathy’s frequent funding to the Salvation Army, which LGBT groups have long accused of being anti-LGBT, thanks largely to comments made by one Australian Salvation Army leader who said that gays “should be put to death.”
To this controversy, the Salvation Army has responded, stating:
“It is important to note that the Army around the world immediately rejected those comments and made public statements against them. We stand by the rejection of those comments still. We sincerely apologize to the LGBTQ community and to our clients, employees, donors and volunteers for the offence caused by this misrepresentation of the Army’s views.”
In addition, the Salvation Army also has also pointed out that they do not discriminate against anyone in need, regardless if they are LGBT.
“For more than 130 years, The Salvation Army has had the privilege of serving vulnerable people in over 400 communities across Canada. Last year, we helped over 1.8 million people. We assisted people from the LGBTQ community and will continue to do so. And we employ individuals from the LGBTQ community as well.”
The other group Chick-fil-A frequently donated to, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, was subject to extreme backlash after comments regarding their support of the Bible’s definition of traditional marriage, stating:
“God instituted marriage between one man and one woman as the foundation of the family and the basic structure of human society. For this reason, we believe that marriage is exclusively the union of one man and one woman.”
A Chick-fil-A spokesperson told Reuters that “We made multi-year commitments to both organizations and we fulfilled those obligations in 2018.”
The spokesperson later refused to comment to Reuters on whether the protests influenced the decision to change donations.
Former Prime Minister Kim Campbell has called Wexit “nuts” and that it was created to sow “unnecessary division.”
Speaking to Global News, Campbell stated that “adult” conversations were necessary with policies like equalization, and yet the dialogue has been anything but mature.
“We’re a complex country and we are always going to have issues that need solving,” she added. When Campbell was prompted on Wexit she gave out an incensed screech: “It’s nuts! I’m sorry, it’s a dead-end, so Alberta’s going to separate and that’s going to make it easier to get access to open water? That is a slogan designed to make people angry.”
Campbell’s comments come after the surging support in western separatism deriving from Justin Trudeau’s re-election. Since then, a notable online presence has grown in support of the Wexit movement, and the premiers of western provinces have cautioned Trudeau of the stark consequences of western alienation.
Campbell finished by saying that the Wexit movement “was not how grown-up people address problems … I see this and I think grow up!”
A Twitter search of Campbell’s tweets on Quebec show no similar criticism of the separatist movement in that province.