Alberta Politics

provincial politicians being gamed into katz downtown arena funding debate.

The game of funding billionaire Daryl Katz‘s contentious downtown Edmonton arena proposal entered the provincial political arena this week with candidates in the Progressive Conservative leadership contest and an opposition politician dancing around this delicate issue. Supporters of the Katz downtown arena, including Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel, are stalking the provincial leadership candidates for commitments to hand over provincial tax dollars to fill an extra $100 million gap to construct the project on top of the $125 million from taxes on surrounding development and other municipal funds.

In front of a crowd of more than 350 supporters in Vermilion last week, the PC leadership candidates balked at the idea of using provincial funding to support the construction of the privately-operated downtown arena.

A day later, conservative crusader Ted Morton astonishingly floated the bizarre idea that the capital region hold a referendum to add one per cent to Goods and Services Tax (a “penny tax”) for two years in order to pay for the Katz downtown arena. This proposal is problematic at its most basic (including the fact that the GST is a federal tax).

Progressive Conservative leadership candidate Ted Morton in Vermillion on July 21, 2011.
Ted Morton wants to raise the GST to help a billionaire?

After being incorrectly reported as supporting a tax increase to fund the arena, Alison Redford issued a statement setting the record straight that she opposes any provincial direct funding or a dedicated tax. Former Deputy Premier Doug Horner ruled out direct funding from the provincial government.

In Vermilion, Gary Mar reaffirmed his previous position that the Katz downtown arena will not receive any provincial funding if he becomes Premier.

Never too far away to deliver a soundbite, Wildrose leader Danielle Smith issued a hastily written media release during a stop in Peace River calling for a lottery to fill the $100 million gap.

Premier Ed Stelmach suggested that Mayor Mandel look to existing funds in the already allocated funds from the Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI) to fill the gap. Using MSI funds to find $100 million for the Katz downtown arena could mean diverting already promised towards the construction and maintenance of public infrastructure such as roads, public transit, and community halls.

While the City of Edmonton will technically “own” the new downtown arena, Mr. Katz, the billionaire owner of the Edmonton Oilers, will collect the revenue generated at the arena.

Meanwhile, Mr. Katz remains conspicuously missing from this public funding debate (perhaps he is hanging out with his millionaire friend Gary Bettman).

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9 replies on “provincial politicians being gamed into katz downtown arena funding debate.”

One of the sports talk radio guys in Toronto thinks the City of Edmonton needs to get a second quote on the price tag. $450 million seems a bit steep.

Another thought: with maybe a half dozen or more NHL franchises said to be floundering and soon to be in dire need of cash infusions, I wonder how long before a significant chunk of Oiler revenue is going to start flowing south in regular monthly installments.

Ted Morton’s idea has been misrepresented – all Ted said was that if Edmontonians wanted to pay for the arena they could hold a referendum on raising a penny tax to pay for it. Surely Ted wouldn’t support it himself.

Danielle Smith’s idea of a lottery is a half-baked Wildrose scheme like the rest of their policies. What’s next Danielle? Maybe you and your husband could bake some shortcake for a bake sale to raise the funds? No wonder the Wildrose is at 16% in the polls.

I REALLY don’t appreciate Mayor Mandel approaching the province for funding as if the matter has already been decided WITHIN the City of Edmonton. It hasn’t. There is NO DEAL with Katz, yet, and Council has yet to approve a deal.

The Arena proposal is NOT “fait accompli”, and while it may be prudent to secure funding from various sources prior to a formal deal being inked, Mandel shouldn’t assume a) that a deal WILL be done and b) that Edmontonians, as a whole, support this initiative and c) that Conservative candidates who DON’T support this initiative will “feel the wrath” of conservative voters…it’s quite likely, even probable, that conservative voters will SUPPORT Conservative candidates that kibosh provincial financing, because, you know, that would be the CONSERVATIVE thing to do!

What I think it comes down to is Mandel is misrepresenting Edmonton and Edmontonians. He doesn’t have a mandate to push for this arena plan, and lacked the cojones to make it an election issue last fall…probably because he knew it wouldn’t win.

The bitch of it is that in almost every other area, I think Mandel’s done a good job. Is this a case of a lame-duck politician trying to secure a “legacy”? If so, it’s misplaced…

Even proposing to use tax payer money for this venture is totally wrong! We are not in a position to build arenas during economic recession. Perhaps the money collected by taxes should be used to create permanent jobs or build the city’s infrastructure. If Mr. Katz is going to be collecting all the revenue generated then perhaps he should front the entire bill. If he is a true entrepreneur then he will find a way to somehow make this venture feasible or perhaps conclude it is a risky venture.

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