Alberta Politics

Bad planning: Edmonton Arena funding and Calgary urban sprawl.

Top Priority: The Wayne Gretzky statue.
Top Priority: The Wayne Gretzky statue.

While too much media attention was focused this week on the fate of a statue of a hockey player who left Edmonton twenty-five years ago for sunny southern California (and piles of money), City Council desperately tried to draw up a Plan B (or Plan C) to fund the proposed downtown arena.

The unrealistic Plan A, a financial framework approved by City Council and billionaire Edmonton Oilers owner Daryl Katz‘s company months ago, included a large funding gap of $114 million that Mayor Stephen Mandel was adamant that the provincial government would fill.

Premier Alison Redford, Finance Minister Doug Horner, and Municipal Affair Minister Doug Griffiths have been clear that no direct funding for the arena is coming. Ever. And after Mayor Mandel’s harsh-criticisms of the province’s cuts to post-secondary education, it now seems even more unlikely that the provincial politicians would be willing to kowtow to the Mayor’s desperate demands.

Two weeks ago, a split council vote decided that the city would borrow $45 million against expected future Municipal Sustainability Initiative funding, meant for public infrastructure construction and maintenance, to put towards the arena. This still leaves a $55 million gap that the provincial government has said it is not interested in filling.

As Councillors scramble to find a solution to a problem they should have solved months ago, it is now being suggested that more funds from the proposed Community Revitalization Levy (CRL) be directed toward the arena, looting funds already promised for other downtown projects.

Sprawl Cabal Cal Wenzel
Cal Wenzel

Meanwhile in Calgary, an awkwardly long press conference was held by the Sprawl Cabal’s Cal Wenzel to respond to accusations that wealthy developers are aiming to unseat aldermen who believe urban planning is better than the current near-unrestrained urban sprawl.

Despite being caught in a leaked video plotting to use Preston Manning‘s Calgary-based Municipal Governance Project to free city council from “the dark side,” Mr. Wenzel uncomfortably tried to downplay the evidence exposed by Global Calgary this week.

As blogger David Climenhaga wrote, Mr. Wenzel “would have been better to say: ‘You’ve seen the tape. Judge for yourself what I meant. Now get lost!'”

4 replies on “Bad planning: Edmonton Arena funding and Calgary urban sprawl.”

I’m sure David Staples could come up with the mssing 100 (sorry 45) million to complete the deal for the Enbridge Northern Gateway Arena

What’s wrong with urban sprawl? Everyone talks about it as if it’s bad, but it’s just more people coming to our town.

The problem with urban sprawl is the infrastructure costs. Building more roads, power lines, sewage lines, water lines, more public transit costs, etc. Not to mention using up potentially valuable farmland.

Efforts in Edmonton to reduce urban sprawl have hit two roadblocks. One, is that there is still a huge demand for housing in the far flung areas of the city, especially those near the main routes to Acheson, Nisku and Refinery Row, but not only that, if Edmonton slowed down development in the far reaches of the city limits, then Strathcona County, Sturgeon County, St. Albert, Fort Saskatchewan and Beaumont will just make it easier to develop their peripheries.

The other roadblock is that attempts to increase density in neighbourhoods close to downtown and Old Strathcona have come up against neighbourhood protests, those that don’t want the nature of their communities to be altered.

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