CALGARY – Reaction to the newly-approved arena deal flooded in moments after Calgary city council voted 11-4 to approve the tentative deal revealed last week.
Mayor Naheed Nenshi says the deal–in which the city will pitch in half of the $550-million price tag–is a good one for Calgary and the Chamber of Commerce can’t help but agree.
Sandip Lalli, president and CEO of the chamber, says the deal will create jobs and bring along a wake economic and social benefits to the city.
“It will significantly contribute to the revitalization of Calgary’s Victoria Park area and put our city back on the map as a destination for world-class entertainment, events, and tournaments,” reads a statement from Lalli, adding that giving the deal the green light shows council’s commitment to improving Calgary’s business climate.
She also says council needs to continue to push the project forward.
“For Calgary to be globally competitive, both capital projects and operational spending decisions need to be visionary and robust. Vibrant communities and vibrant business go hand in hand.”
Meantime, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation is slamming the city for pushing through a deal after seemingly-hasty consultations with the public.
“We finally know how to get things done at city hall,” Franco Terrazzano, Alberta Director for the CTF, said in a release.
“Turns out all you have to do is become a wealthy owner of a professional hockey team and city council will bend over backwards to meet your demands. Could you imagine if the Flames’ owners made a stink about soaring small business taxes and shops closing their doors? Would council have fumbled that file for years?”
Terrazzano also maintains that transparency with this project has been a “complete failure“, adding people living in Dallas, New York, and Arizona were able to vote on projects before tax dollars were dedicated to build professional arenas.
“Calgarians shouldn’t be forced to fork over hundreds of millions of dollars to the wealthy owners of a professional hockey team, especially when other Canadian teams built their own arenas,” said Terrazzano. “We all want to support the Flames but with tickets, not taxes.”
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He also says there have been longer consultation periods for lesser projects.
The Calgary and District Labour Council sides with the CTF, claiming the city is subsidizing arena suites while $60 million in budget cuts loom.
“In my mind, it’s a question of values and this council has chosen to prioritize box seats and concerts for the few at the expense of affordable housing and firefighter response times,” said Alexander Shevalier, President of the Calgary and District Labour Council.
Shevalier also takes issue with the city promising “robust public engagement”.
“That did not happen. They said Calgarians sent over 5,200 pieces of correspondence but they had little time to read and digest the feedback,” he said. “I think we have watched corporate welfare for the Flames at the expense of the rest of the City.”