Harper must have dropped writ

Marlow Weldon

I have yet to miss any work this fall, and yet somehow, I missed the dropping of the writ.

I was completely unaware a federal election had been called; that is, until I read last week Prime Minister Stephen Harper suggesting that he was open to the idea of giving millions of dollars in funding for a new arena in Quebec City, all in the hopes of attracting the NHL back to Quebec’s capital.

Just in case you’re panicking at the idea of heading yet again to the polls, I will tell you that the writ has not been dropped, and there won’t be a federal election anytime soon.

But it sure felt like one was in the offing with all the electioneering that was going on in la belle province last week.

To make it seem even more like a campaign was underway, several Quebec-based Tory MP’s wore vintage Nordique’s jerseys on the same day Harper mused about handing over taxpayer dollars to a sports facility that would more than likely only play host to professional sporting events.

When I first heard Harper’s comments, I couldn’t figure out if he was speaking as Stephen “the hockey fan” or as the prime minister of Canada.

Harper’s love of hockey is no secret; while promising to get tough on crime and rid our country of the money pit otherwise known as the long gun registry, the Conservative leader also manages to sneak in some time to work on his book, which is an in-depth look at the history of hockey.

But is arena construction really an issue that deserves not only Ottawa’s attention, but a promise of money as well?

The thorny issue of who should pay for professional sports facilities is one that Albertans are no strangers to.

Just look 90 minutes to the north, where Rexall Pharmacy magnate and Edmonton Oilers owner Daryl Katz is currently embroiled in a public relations battle over his bid to build a new arena in our capital’s downtown, with taxpayers footing a large portion of the bill.

When the issue of a new building in Edmonton first came up, I’ll admit, I was one that had absolutely no issue with the idea of some of my tax dollars going into a project that I firmly believe will not only revitalize Edmonton’s downtown, but keep it vibrant for decades to come.

One of the biggest problems municipalities deal with these days is urban sprawl, and what better way to combat the problem than to do what is commonly known as “in-fill.”

That’s an idea where land, long ago set aside for things like parks, schools, etc, is transformed into plots that mix residential and commercial development.

Not only does it address urban sprawl, but it also helps to generate more revenue from older neighborhoods that don’t put as much into the property tax fund (because of a lack of businesses) as they take out in the form of services, infrastructure, etc.

In simpler terms, if you live in a newer neighbourhood (one that probably includes a commercial component, like a strip mall or “town centre”) some of your property tax dollars are going to help prop up older areas that simply refuse to allow in any sort of redevelopment.

I guess the bottom line for me is that, while I have no issue with local dollars paying for local projects (like Edmontonians paying for a new rink in Edmonton), I think federal funding for these types of facilities would set a dangerous precedent.

Is Ottawa prepared to fund a new arena in every major market in Canada?

Imagine the price tag that would be attached to that campaign platform!


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