Monday, March 14, 2011

You get an arena! You get an arena! Everybody gets an arena!

Baffling. Simply baffling:

Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff has offered guarded support for the idea of using federal funds to build a new NHL arena in Quebec City, giving the Harper government more political cover should it decide to bankroll the project.

Ignatieff suggested Wednesday his party would support federal funding for the proposed 18,000-seat arena, provided the city comes up with a “well-put-together” business plan that demonstrates the facility will have a “cultural use” and serve as a “real regional economic driver.”

“If that’s the proposition, and it’s really put together well, and we’ve got private participation and public participation from the other two levels of government, a federal government is going to be involved,” Ignatieff told reporters after the Liberals wrapped up their winter caucus meetings.

“But then you don’t do this one off; you then have to be sure that you’ve got fairness and equity across the country, because there are other regions . . . that have a good enough claim on that.”

Ignatieff added that he would like to see more details about the project. “You’ve got to be able to persuade Canadians that this is good value for money,” he said.
As I've written before, Governments should not fund professional sports stadiums. Period. If we're talking as part of hosting a national or international event with significant economic spin-offs then we can talk about limited public participation. But outright subsidization of a professional sports arena for billionaire owners to watch millionaire players from luxury boxes? Not a chance. If there is a business case, the private sector will finance it. And if there's not a business case, why should the government subsidize it?

Is there some marginal economic benefit/infrastructure benefit argument to be made? Sure. But again, if its viable the public sector shouldn't be needed. And with a structural deficit to contend with, I have education, health care and pensions at the top of my list for limited investment, not professional sports stadiums.

While they sent all kinds of conflicting signals, the Conservatives seem to have firmly settled, at least for now, on the no funding side. And it may hurt them in the Quebec City area. Maybe the Liberals are trying to set-up a contrast play, but besides being really bad policy (and lining-up on the wrong side of the contrast) if this is about politics, I'm not seeing the upside.

The Quebec City arena is primarily an issue in that city; the Liberals aren't going to start winning seats in that area. If Cons drop seats on this, it will be to the BQ. There are also arena rumblings in Alberta and Saskatchewan, neither of which are likely about to see red waves. Maybe it's a gainer in Winnipeg and Hamilton, although I think the latter's stadium plans are already set (with support thanks to hosting the Pan Am Games).

The one thing I agree with in the apparent Liberal position is that if you fund Quebec, you need to find everyone. I thought that was an argument against it, because dropping billions to litter the country with professional sports stadiums is a throughly stupid proposition.

Apparently, I thought wrong.

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Skinny Dipper said...

Throw in Ultimate Fighting Challenge events, police funerals, and sax-toy conventions, and you've got yourself a deal.

ridenrain said...

It's crass vote buying and wrong, reguardless of who does it.
This was a weeks worth of media against Harper. No where near as viral as “If you want Ottawa to participate, you have to vote Liberal” either. My guess is you post will be all we hear.
Thanks for the honesty.

Proud Canadian said...

I commend you on your position about tax payers funding professional sports arena's. You stayed on your position and haven't moved from it! Unfortunately I can't say the same for the rest of the liberal bloggers! When the gov't was thinking about it lib bloggers couldn't wait to criticize the idea! Now that Mr.Igntieff is saying exactly what Mr.Harper had been saying suddenly we hear crickets. Typical! I congratulate you again for having the same position.

WhigWag said...

and yet nary a peep out of ridenrain on this until AFTER the Cons finally, almost, said no. Thanks for your ^NOT honesty.

ridenrain said...

Poor Whig. It did make me angry but I'm glad to see that someone remembered the greater purpose instead of the shorm term gain. Many Canadians are also pleased aND comforted to see a party that holds to a direction instead of the "small town cheap" brand of politics.

I keep expecting to hear this all over the CBC but they don't seem to care much.

rockfish said...

In one sense, I completely agree. However, if these facilities are made to incorporate community-needed elements, including community fitness centres, annex arenas etc, then I see an argument where one could say 'jobs created, services provided as opposed to non-tendered F-35s, maxi-prisons and fake lakes'... I expect that the office has some polling which says there's wiggle room here, and its something Harper continues to look for.
Retail politics isn't always smart. In eastern Quebec, this is what would be called le hail marie...