This is an archived version of a Field of Schemes article. Comments on this page are closed. To find the current version of the article with updated comments, click here.
July 28, 2011
Alberta opens door to funding Oilers arena
Hey, remember that bit about Albert Premier Ed Stelmach saying he wouldn't put provincial funds into a new Edmonton Oilers arena? Apparently he's found a loophole:
Stelmach said the city is free to use money from an existing program called the Municipal Sustainability Initiative, noting municipalities can use the proceeds for any public infrastructure.
However, it would be up to the city to decide whether the money should go to the proposed arena rather than roads and bridges or other projects.
"It's an existing program," Stelmach stressed. "The program was available from day one."
And Edmonton might actually not have to choose between an arena and new roads, because Stelmach said he'd consider adding more money to the fund after he has a look at its finances.
If true, this could clearly be a huge breakthrough in the Oilers arena plan, which has been stalled for months because of a $100 million funding gap. Or, if you're a glass-half-empty kind of person, it could be another $100 million in public subsidies added to the existing taxpayer tab. But I'm sure none of our readers want to be that sort of person.
This is exactly what Stelmach did about five years ago (for the same mayor) in relation to a much discussed multilevel interchange on the south end of Edmonton. Mandel had nearly $100m in "affordable housing" money gifted by the province, then whined that he should be able to use it to finish his (disastrous, overbuilt, overbudget, decade old, half finished) interchange project.
Eventually, Ed got sick of being dragged through the mud for giving the ingrates at the city of Edmonton money and said "Ok, you can divert that money if you want, but no more AH money is coming".
Right on cue, a year later, Mandel was whining (to be fair, I'm not sure he ever stopped...) about having no Affordable Housing money to help the poor. Predictably, more AH money was magically found.
Should be no surprise that Stelmach leads a very unpopular government these days...
What I don't get is if this money has been sitting in limbo all this time and all the mayors of Calgary and Edmonton had to say was "Open sesame!" then why didn't Stelmach come out months ago when this was being discussed and just point Mandell in the right direction and give him the keys to the vault?
Meanwhile our city (and probably yours too, Calgary) is falling into disrepair. Where will we ever find the money to get our infrastructure up to speed?
You hit the nail right on the head there, John. I'm by no means a staunch Conservative and really didn't like King Ralph but I'll give the man and his party due credit. Fifteen years ago they did what they said, whether you liked it or not.