So the Edmonton city council indeed met last week, and indeed decided to throw a few million dollars a year extra at a new Oilers arena. It did not, however, actually figure out how to pay for all of the shortfall in arena funding, instead — wait for it — asking yet again for the province of Alberta to fill in the rest of the gap:
In the recent budget, the province increased the amount it grants Edmonton annually through the Municipal Sustainability Initiative, which helps pay for municipal infrastructure projects, by $3 million.
City administrators recommended the city put the increase toward the arena over the next 20 years, which would raise $45 million of the $100 million arena shortfall.
Councillors approved the plan in an 8-5 vote, while making the deal contingent upon receiving clarification from the province with respect to the remaining $55 million…
Coun. Kim Krushell said the vote can be seen as a challenge to the province.
“Where are you in this equation? We’ve met you again halfway because we stepped up on the $45 million with the MSI and we’re waiting for the balance,” she said. “That’s the message that’s been sent out.”
Okay, to recap: Alberta premier Alison Redford said when she was elected in 2011 that she wasn’t going to give Edmonton any arena money. Then she said it again. And again. And again. And again. She did, however, point out that Edmonton was welcome to use its MSI money if it didn’t have anything better to do with it.
The Edmonton council has said, okay, fine, we’ll spend our latest allocation of MSI money, which should raise enough to pay for $45 million worth of arena debt. But we still have another $55 million of arena debt unpaid for. (This on top of the $294 million in arena debt and land costs it’s already agreed to, but we don’t talk about that anymore.) Where’s our money for that, huh, Premier Redford?
The Alberta government’s answer was prompt in coming. Care to guess what it was?
Municipal Affairs Minister Doug Griffiths repeated the government’s long-standing position that Edmonton can use its Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI) funding for the project, but there will be no additional money.
“We are going to continue to support municipalities through MSI, and that is the perfect place that allows municipalities to make the decisions they need to make,” he said Thursday.
So all Edmonton needs is $55 million in blood from a stone, and this Oilers arena thing is totally happening. Except that it really needs $69 million in blood from a stone, since the funding gap was last reported at $114 million, not $100 million. But I guess we don’t talk about that anymore, either.