A new survey says it’s not if public money should be used for a new hockey arena, but how.
A group of eight Calgary councillors discussed new data from Mainstreet Research Thursday, with 60 per cent of respondents saying they would support public funding going toward an arena, as long as it didn’t affect their taxes, by using lands or savings.
Councillor Shane Keating expanded on the findings.
“The taxpayer has be confident that they’re not giving away funds for nothing,” Keating said.
The survey did not ask about the specific proposals city council has been mulling over, including the CalgaryNEXT proposal by the Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation or the Plan B option of a facility on the city’s Stampede Grounds.
CalgaryNEXT’s original price tag for a new arena and field house was tagged at $890 million, but the city later tabbed the project at $1.8 billion, with $1.3 billion having to be footed by taxpayers.
Administration has called the CalgaryNEXT project in the West Village not feasible, as council currently explores looking into the ‘Plan B’ option.
The survey included questions about various payment options for any arena idea, including the use of loans, grants and business shares.
“There’s an appetite for public funds to be committed, but it also says to us that we have to be able to negotiate it and prove that that fund was a wise investment on behalf of the taxpayer,” Keating said.
Speaking at a different event later in the day, Mayor Naheed Nenshi said he would’ve liked a simple question included.
“Who wants public funding that you’re not going to get any money back on?” he questioned. “But it very clearly said a lot of reasonable Calgarians are saying, yeah put money in as long as you get it out.
“A slim majority of Calgarians would give public money if you got it back with interest, if you shared in the revenues and if it had no impact on your taxes and that’s what I’ve been saying for months.”
When asked by reporters why that question wasn’t in the survey, Keating said there was no appetite for it to be included, because the focus was about how money could be used.
Councillor Andre Chabot, who will run against Nenshi in the next election for mayor, said what his response would be.
“I’m not supportive of that concept at all,” Chabot said. “Personally when asked whether or not I would be happy with including a question of that nature on this report, I said no.
“Let’s look at alternatives, but if we’re talking about an outright grant from the City of Calgary towards this project, I’m not supportive of that.”
While the survey didn’t address the specific proposals, Councillor Diane Colley-Urquhart said in the coming weeks, there will be a deal on the table.
“The public will know what deal is,” she said. “There will be the hard numbers, if we can reach an agreement with city administration and CSEC, that deal will be open for discussion.”
Colley-Urquhart said that deal may even lead to another survey.
Other survey findings:
50 per cent say Calgary needs a new arena, 32 per cent do not, 17 per cent are undecided
41 per cent approve of construction with an undefined measure that could include loans or grants, 33 per cent disapprove and 27 per cent are undecided
50 per cent support a loan for the arena if it’s paid back with interest, 26 per cent disapprove and 24 per cent are undecided
40 per cent support any kind of financial assistance, 33 per cent disapprove and 27 per cent are undecided
Full details of the report can be found here: http://www.mainstreetresearch.ca/arena-survey/