Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi is doubling down on a city statement about the recently released hockey arena proposal by the Calgary Flames.
“I wouldn’t say dishonesty, I would perhaps say that there are some errors of omission,” he said Friday.
On Thursday, the Flames published their offer of a split between $275 million from the Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation and $225 by a Community Revitalization Levy, a provincial loan which is then repaid by the city through property taxes from new developments.
The city then published a lengthy question-and-answer statement, questioning not only the team’s funding plan, but also the idea of using the CRL.
Nenshi reiterated that statement.
“It was a bit surprising to see this big ad in the newspaper, because what was in that ad was not actually what the last deal on the table with the city was,” he said.
The city says CSEC was proposing $100 million of its own cash and the rest from a ticket surcharge and another unknown source.
Nenshi said one of the conditions from the Flames was that the city would also have to front the $150 million surcharge money and he also questioned the argument that ticket tax would count as a Flames contribution because it’s their revenue.
“If you use the argument that the ticket tax is the Flames revenue that they are giving up, can’t you use the exact same argument that the property tax is the city’s revenue that the Flames want them to give up?” he said.
The city also contends the CRL wouldn’t work because the area where the CRL is – the East Village and Victoria Park – has only ten years left and the money from the levy is already earmarked for other Victoria Park projects.
“Let’s be clear, that’s tax money,” he said. “The Flames proposal is based on benefiting from the property taxes paid by the other developments in the area that do not yet exist.”
“The Flames don’t want to pay any property tax, they want their neighbours who don’t exist yet to pay all that property tax and so that’s challenging.”
ARE NEGOTIATIONS REALLY OVER?
After the Flames published their proposal, CSEC President and CEO Ken King told 660 NEWS as far as he’s concerned, there’s nothing more to talk about.
“It’s really not a discussion, we’re moving on,” King said. “We are no longer doing or pursuing a deal and that’s the key message I think and I think that’s where we need to be and that’s where we are and we’re going to focus on business.”
King said the team will operate in the Saddledome as long as it’s feasible.
But Nenshi said it’s par for the course when it comes to negotiations between sports owners and municipal governments.
“I mean look, this is the script, it happens everywhere, it happened three times in Edmonton over 10 years,” Nenshi said. “This is all about dollars and cents.”
“If you actually believe that personalities matter and that this a manhood measuring contest, come on, this is about money.”
When a reporter said he was told by King that the city’s Q&A statement was a waste of time, Nenshi disagreed.
“Giving people actual facts is a waste of time? That’s a point of view,” he said.
ELECTION TIMING AND CAMPAIGN DONATIONS
Nenshi also alluded to the influence of the election during the arena saga, and specifically targeted mayoral opponent Bill Smith.
One of Nenshi’s top criticisms has been for Smith to release his donor list, referencing how when he was president of the PC Party, he accepted a donation of $500,000 from Edmonton Oilers owner Daryl Katz.
“The easy way to clear the air on that is for all my competitors to tell them, tell us who is paying the bills,” Nenshi said.
But when Nenshi was pressed on if he thinks the Flames are actually donating to Smith’s campaign, he said Smith would have to answer that himself.
“Again, he has the ability to answer the question, past practice, future behaviour and he can answer that question. If he has nothing to hide, why is he hiding?” Nenshi said.
On Monday, Smith said his campaign hadn’t made a decision.
“We haven’t even considered it, we’ll talk about that as we get closer and once we get some donations in,” he said. “We’ll decide that as we get closer to the end of the campaign.”
When asked about the issue at Tuesday’s mayoral debate, Smith said his campaign was following the rules.
Mayoral candidates are only required to disclose their donors after the election.