Mar. 13, 2013 - Issue #908: In Your Face
Budget quiet on arena
Last week's provincial budget had the opposition parties and various stakeholder organizations up in arms well before Minister of Finance Doug Horner stood up to deliver his speech. My favourite part was when the Canadian Taxpayers Federation spokesperson threatened to tunnel under the legislature when he learned of Horner's (later reversed) decision to bar him from the budget embargo festivities, but that's fodder for another column.
Like many other Edmontonians, I was eager to see if the province came through with funding for the downtown arena. Sure, the province has been saying for months—no, actually years—that they wouldn't. And, yeah, the optics would be so tremendously bad if the province found the money for an arena while slashing post-secondary funding and freezing almost everything else that even the Premier's crack communications team could see it coming (what with Daryl Katz and his business still under investigation by Alberta's Chief Electoral Officer for a reported $430 000 donation to the
Progressive Conservatives in the dying days of last year's election campaign and all).
But despite all evidence to the contrary, Mayor Mandel kept insisting right up until the budget was delivered that the money would be there. Hell, he kept insisting that the money would be there even after the money clearly wasn't there. He even got a number of councillors to take to the media circuit to nod their heads and agree with him. There will be shovels in the ground in August, they say. One might be inclined to make reference here to a certain emperor with no clothes on.
In the meantime, the city has spent well over $100 million on this project without any idea of how they are going to pay for it. The motion they passed back in the spring of 2011 was not to proceed until all funding was in place. Now we're told it doesn't matter. Apparently a wing-and-a-prayer is all you need.
An application for a Community Revitalization Levy has been submitted to the province which, if approved, will divert many millions of dollars from the provincial education budget in order to finance the arena. We'll see how well that goes over with those angry parents who were just informed their children are going to be bussed because their brand-new schools are already over capacity. I'm guessing not well.
The mayor has indicated he will announce on April 2 whether or not he will be seeking another term. Mandel has successfully managed to stick-handle this issue to avoid having the matter put before voters for years now. That's not going to be the case in October's election. As one local wag said on Twitter, "If there's shovels in the ground by August, the only thing this council will be digging is their own graves." V
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