Calgary Flames Arena–Have We Got A Deal For You!!!

To paraphrase Jane Jacobs, the majority of Calgary City Council regard Calgarians as “empty-headed young ladies whose main duties were to see that their nails were clean, their curves properly distributed and their behavior seemly.”

These councillors refuse to allow adequate public consultation on their decision to spend $275 million on the new Flames hockey arena while at the same time raising property taxes, wiping out small businesses and cutting $60 million in public services including police and fire.         

Only four city councillors, Evan Woolley, Jeremy Farkas, Druh Farrell and Peter Demong, didn’t rubberstamp the Flames deal, which is described by the Canadian Tax Federation as an example of “corporate welfare.”  (Ms Soapbox and the CTF agree, did Hell just freeze over?)     

Flames CEO Ken King and Mayor Nenshi

The deal’s benefits

Mayor Nenshi and most councillors say investing $275 million in public money will create $400 million in public benefit.    


Let’s review the benefits set out on page 24 of the Facilities Update document:      

  • Ticket tax revenues:  Calgary will get $155 million over 35 years through a ticket tax of 2%.  If it had negotiated the same 9.5% ticket tax deal Edmonton negotiated with the Oilers, it would have gotten $736 million in revenue.  To add insult to injury, Calgary agreed to cap its share of ticket tax revenue at $3 million for the first 5 years, this represents a loss of $1.4 million/year for five years.          
  • Local community sports payments: $75 million over 35 years.  Okay, that’s nice.  The $2 million/year will come in handy when we cut $60 million in public services.   
  • Naming rights: $2.5 million/year for 10 years.  Ditto.
  • Retail property tax: $19.4 million over 35 years.  It’s unclear where this number comes from given that it’s dependent on development that has not yet taken place and would be sensitive to economic downturns which depress business tax revenue.    
  • Indirect Rivers District Development:  This pie in the sky number accounts for $138.7 million and is contingent on many things including whether the Flames exercise two options to buy unspecified Rivers District Lands.  If all goes well, this revenue yields a 1.4% return on investment.  If it goes pear shaped, the City suffers a .6% loss.

The Facilities Update document also lists a number of soft benefits including Calgary remaining committed to economic recovery (well, I certainly hope so!), and the arena being a “catalyst” for future development and an “anchor” for arts, culture and entertainment. 

Sigh, all these benefits are enough to make a girl swoon so I’ll turn to economist Trevor Tombe who said the $400 million in benefits is “misleading” and the real cost of the deal is a $47 million loss.  Loss????   

The deal’s downside  

What the Facilities Update document doesn’t provide is an analysis of the deal’s costs and risks.  These include: 

  • Risk of demolition cost overruns: Demolition is expected to cost $12.4 million.  Calgary and the Flames will share this cost 90/10, but the Flame’s 10% is capped at $1.4 million.  Some estimates show the cost of demolition and reclamation at $25 million.  This means Calgarians could be on the hook for $23 million.         
  • Cost overruns:  The Saddledome was completed in 1983, eight months late and $16 million (about 20%) over budget.  A 20% overrun on this project will cost $110 million.  Council says each party is responsible for the changes it requests.  Good luck with that.  It’s easy to request a change order during construction, it’s much harder to figure out who should pay for it after the fact.  The operative phrase here is “See you in court, buster!”     
  • Free options:  The City gave the Flames two no-cost options on River District Lands.  One lets the Flames buy prime real estate in 2024 at 2018 prices; the other lets them buy prime real estate at fair market value any time up to 2034.  Because hey, why shouldn’t Calgarians subsidize the Flames’ desire to become real estate moguls if the spirit moves them.  
  • Liability: The City will own the arena.  This means Calgarians are on the hook for major structural improvements, the cost of City services, insurance, and any flood mitigation costs in excess of $2 million (does “2013 Flood” ring a bell?) and by 2054 when the lease is up, the arena will be ready for demolition and we’ll start all over again.     

Stop carping

Of all the stupid reasons I’ve heard against public consultation, these take the cake: 

  • Councillors had 14 months to get public input:  Excuse me???  The financial strategy and negotiation mandate weren’t approved until March 4, 2019.  What were councillors supposed to discuss with their constituents…free rides on the zamboni?
  • Woolley and Farkas want to run for mayor:   This fails to account for Farrell and Demong who also refused to rubber stamp the deal.  Besides, who cares.  Running a mayoral campaign on the promise that you’ll listen to the people is more convincing when you actually listen to the people.
  • It gives Calgary a shot in the arm:  This reminds me of a couple I knew who were so depressed about maxing out their credit cards they bought themselves new skis (on credit) for Christmas.  Good public services will enhance the quality of life for all Calgarians.  Draining Calgary’s emergency fund down to 5% will not. 

Don’t worry, be happy

Mayor Nenshi said public consultations is only necessary in two cases: (1) changes are possible and politicians want to hear from their constituents and (2) politicians haven’t made up their minds and they want to hear from their constituents.  He said neither of these reasons apply here.

In other words, we’ve made up our minds and there will be no more changes.    

Silly Calgarians, clean your nails, make sure your curves are properly distributed and your behavior is seemly.  No one wants to hear from you.

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39 Responses to Calgary Flames Arena–Have We Got A Deal For You!!!

  1. ed henderson says:

    Thanks for a great comment Susan!

    It’s obvious that the Mayor and the majority of City Council are out of touch with reality, they live in their own fairy tale world.

    • They certainly do Ed. And their fairy tale world is one that existed in the last oil boom. Here’s an example, Council recently approved 14 new subdivisions on the farthest edges of town. The City administration recommended six. The cost of servicing these new subdivisions is astronomical so what possessed Council to approve more than double? I have a feeling the answer lies in the fact developers contribute big bucks at election time. So the developers profit and the rest of Calgary gets to carry the tax burden.

  2. Michael Priaro says:

    Great analysis! I’m dead set against this deal.

    • Mike, the more I learn about this deal the worse it gets. Can you imagine what the board of directors of a private company would say if their executive team presented them with a deal where most of the cost and risk falls on the company and the benefit goes to the other guy? They’d fire the lot of them…unless they were the board of directors for the Flames in which case they’d be rushing to the finish line. Hmmmm.

  3. Mike in Edmonton says:

    Lord, lord, and I thought Edmonton’s councillors were suckers after Daryl Katz got his wish. What possessed these guys? I recall a Postmedia article saying Calgary council told the Flames owners “No you don’t get a deal”–or was that in an alternate universe? They must have consulted the same people who said the Teck Resources bitumen mine would raise $55 billion in tax revenue for the Kingdom of Oilberduh.

    • Mike in Edmonton: CMLC, an arms length subsidiary of the City of Calgary, says we can’t compare the Edmonton deal with the Calgary deal because the Edmonton deal was supposed to revitalize downtown but the Calgary deal is supposed to bring wonderful things to the edge of the property around the arena. This is nonsense. Firstly, vacancy rates in downtown Calgary are at 26% and will stay in double digits until 2030 so our downtown is suffering, secondly, the Flames do not have to pay municipal property taxes on the “interior facility” or potential secondary facility. In other words the Flames got a 35 year break on property taxes, downtown businesses pay more than their share and go out of business which means homeowners taxes go up because someone has to pay for public services. And we just got a $60 million cut in services to boot. No wonder they don’t want to give us any time to review this deal!

  4. Docia Lysne says:

    Jobs for construction! More city debt.

  5. menno klassen says:

    IF this Rink is such a GREAT need , Then make it a true 50-50 deal ! Split down the middle the expenses ,ALL OF THEM , and split the PROFITS ! You always hear that Gov`t should not be in the Business of Business ! This DEAL is a GREAT example of why the saying makes sense ! Let each party contribute equally to paying off the Cost of the RINK ! Share all the Revenue and all the Expenses , and the profits will pay for the Rink !

    • Agreed menno. I’ve been the lead lawyer on business deals all my working career. I’ve never seen a deal this one-sided. The Flames are in the driver’s seat. Last week a councillor asked the City to ask the Flames for an extension of time before Council had to decide at 1:00 Tuesday. Today (Monday) the councillor was told the request had been made and a written reply would be presented to Council at 1:00 on Tuesday. That’s disrespectful.
      Meanwhile Nenshi keeps saying it’s the best deal we could get. If I learned one thing in the private sector it’s this: no deal is better than a bad deal.

  6. Jim McPhail says:

    MacLean’s ran a piece Sept/17 on just this issue. U of C’s Trevor Tombe, then associate prof of economics, said, “There aren’t aggregate benefits of such subsidies for the city as a whole. What they really end up doing is shifting activities across sectors and across locations. Tombe said public subsidies for professional teams usually only benefit political careers of city politicians: “Cynically, I would phrase it as it provides a very good photo op.”
    Quoting further from the article, “Conference Board of Canada senior fellow Glen Hodgson, who co-authored Power Play: The Business Economics of Pro Sports, agreed that taxpayer money spent on an NHL arena takes away funds that might be used to build public recreation centres, libraries and schools.” And more, as we are seeing with the new budget.
    BNN Bloomberg’s Barry Ritholtz calls this “crony capitalism.”
    MacLean’s went on to the solid facts in the Econ Journal Watch shared an economic study “assessing the effects of subsidies for professional sports franchises and facilities. The evidence reveals a great deal of consistency among economists doing research in this area. That evidence is that sports subsidies cannot be justified on the grounds of local economic development, income growth or job creation, those arguments most frequently used by subsidy advocates.”
    ‘Nuff. This attempt to give thebum’s rush to Calgary citizens stinks!

    • Jim, thanks for the excellent sources. Nenshi and others are no longer talking about economic benefits because clearly there are none. They’re now beating the drum for “intangible” benefits like “bringing community together” and “uniting people” (most of whom can’t afford to attend a Flames game). Councillor Gondek says we could pack the arena with video game contests like the Legends and Fortnite competition. The Fortnite competition was held in the Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York City. Ashe is 22 years old and holds 23,200 people. The Saddledome is 36 years old and holds 19,000 people. The new Flames arena will be the same size–still 19,000. So the new arena won’t give us an advantage based on seating capacity, although it might give us an advantage based on technology, however if Ashe managed to overcome the technical glitches of being a 22 year old stadium I’m sure we’d find a way to overcome the Saddledome’s technical glitches. The real reason teenagers come to video competitions is the sponsors offer million dollar prizes. If the Flames owners could induce sponsors to put up that kind of prize money I’m sure they’d be able to attract teams like Faze Clan, TSM, and Excelsior to a pup tent, never mind the Saddledome.

  7. Dwayne says:

    Susan: Thanks for another great blog. In your previous blog, you responded to my comments, and mentioned the term corporate welfare. That’s exactly what this arena deal is. For corporate welfare schemes that failed, I recall what the Alberta PCs were doing so often, since Peter Lougheed was not the premier of Alberta. So much money was thrown down the drain on bad business deals, one right after the other. Millions and billions of dollars were wasted, on the worst scandals. Don Getty did it, as did Ralph Klein. The other Alberta PC premiers did it. I’m pretty certain the UCP would do it. When the Saddledome was built, we know who the mayor of Calgary was. None other than Ralph Klein. He magnified Calgary’s debt greatly. Then, look at the big mess he made when he was premier of Alberta. Money for corporate welfare schemes, (which Ralph Klein denied doing, and he even blamed Don Getty for), then cuts. Big cuts. This arena is another corporate welfare scheme, primed for failure, at the taxpayer’s expense. This is why Bill Smith (a mayoral candidate with Conservative ties) lost. When people in Calgary are struggling, they will pay for this arena. Sheesh! Not that good.

    • Dwayne, this is an excellent point. I suspect the people who voted for the UCP because they objected to the NDP taking on debt and running a deficit to keep social programs running wholeheartedly support the City subsidizing billionaire sports team owners and millionaire players. Post media columnist Licia Corbella said the naysayers are complaining because they’re jealous. Actually I don’t think about them one way or another, I just don’t want my tax dollars supporting their corporations when it would be better spent supporting public goods and services.

      • Dwayne says:

        Susan: I think Licia Corbella does not have valid points. I’m putting it politely. I think Postmedia is just an amplifier for anything Conservative.

  8. Douglas says:

    One thing that puzzles me is the behaviour of Mayor Nenshi. The guy seemed to have a steller reputation of a pretty capable leader and stick handler up to now.
    But he doesn’t seem to be in the game in this brouhaha. Maybe the corporate elites of Cowtown have got him in such a strangle hold, he is just a puppet for the bizness mafia.
    The Used Car Party base strikes again?

    • Dwayne says:

      Douglas: For starters, Bill Smith, a former Calgary mayoral candidate, was some type of provincial Conservative party candidate. He wanted the arena, and made it so the taxpayers would be paying for it. The indications of that were there. He was defeated, despite Mainstreet Polls being overly confident about him being mayor.

    • Douglas, I’m very disappointed in Mayor Nenshi’s behavior in this. He said he was “agnostic” whether the vote was delayed or not, but he continues to say things that demonstrate he wants to rush it through. I don’t know if it’s because he knows this is his last term and he’s looking for friends in high places or what.
      All I know is when right wing conservatives like Jeromy Farkas and left leaning progressives like Evan Woolley and Druh Farrel don’t like something, it can’t be good.

  9. Judy J. Johnson says:

    Thanks Susan for once again bringing us up-to-date on major decisions made by Calgary council that pre-empted broad input from Calgarians. Your research is thorough and your analysis bang on! It’s bad enough that globally, democracy is on a downward trajectory. I’m so disappointed that City Councillors appear to be taking us in the same direction. I hope everyone who agrees with your column will join the Keep Calgary Strong movement and unite to protest all future transgressions.

    • Judy, you’ve put your finger on what’s really troubling about all this. When voters see politicians throwing democratic processes out the window they become disillusioned and either don’t participate in the political process or elect charismatic populists who tell them what they want to hear. We’ve seen the result in the US, it feels like we’re heading down the same path here.

  10. Leila Keith says:

    As usual Susan you got it right! I wrote to counsellor Woolley and said please say no to this deal. You explained it right!

    • Oh good Leila. The more of us who speak up the better. If nothing else this signals that the councillors who vote in favour of the deal will not get our votes in the next election, because they don’t deserve it.

  11. Einar Davison says:

    Susan, do you think that Mayor Nenshi and some of the other councillors have exceeded their best before date? I used to have a lot of respect for Mayor Nenshi but it just seems like being Mayor has gone to his head and a lot of the other councillors are more interested in their “special interest” as opposed to serving the residents of their wards. We also need to worry about the UCP rebuilding the PC’s machine with municipal politicians, by assisting and running slates of candidates who are of the right ideological mindset. Thank you for keeping us informed with facts as opposed to the right wing who keeps us informed with propaganda.

    • Einar, I absolutely think Mayor Nenshi and some of the others have gone past their best before date. I understand that being a city councillor is a grind, people say it’s harder than being a provincial MLA or a federal MP, but there’s no excuse for rushing a decision of this magnitude through in the dead of summer. If these politicians are confident that the people only need a week to learn about the deal and decide whether they like it or not, I invite them to cut the next municipal election period down to a week and hold voting day on July 30.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Corporate welfare is mentioned here, with the arena issue. These things come to mind, from the Alberta PCs, after Peter Lougheed left office, and with the CPC, (where Jason Kenney was a part of), and the UCP. Things that get swept under the carpet.
    Since 1986, the Alberta PCs allowed rip off royalty rates for our oil, depriving Alberta of $200 billion. Since 1986, the Alberta PCs virtually depleted the Heritage Savings Trust Fund, leaving hardly anything in it. Ralph Klein used it for very costly scandals, like Alpac/Mitsubishi, to help fund his provincial election campaigns, and to help pay off the provincial debt/deficit.
    Since 1986, the Alberta PCs did the most costliest scandals in Canadian history.
    The $67 million Gainers scandal, the Principle Trust scandal, wasted $110 million on a metal smelting plant screwup, did the $600 million NovaTel scandal, did the now $5 billion, (and growing), Swan Hills waste treatment plant blunder, blew $180 million on the Miller West Pulp Mill debacle, did the $240 million MagCan debacle, lost almost $500 million, trying to bail out West Edmonton Mall, did the $125 million ambulance amalgamation screwup, did the $100 million A.I.S.H scandal, (which was complete with Ralph Klein and his colleagues, laughing at and mocking the handicapped on T.V), made us pay for the Stockwell Day defamation lawsuit costs, did the $400 million B.S.E bailout failure, did the $34.5 billion electricity deregulation disaster, did the $7 billion PPA debacle, that went with it, wasted $2 billion on carbon capture and storage, wasted money on luxury penthouse suites, wasted money on expensive plane flights, that had no extra passengers, did the $26 billion Northwest Upgrader fiasco, that had $9 billion in added costs, lost Alberta $10 billion, from Alison Redford’s tobaccogate lawsuit scheme, which she did, and got away with, has expensive lawsuit costs against the Alberta government, in relation to the numerous deaths of foster children in Alberta, left Albertans with a $260 billion bill, to clean up abandoned oil wells in Alberta, and so much more.
    As of 2014, corporations in Alberta owed $1.1 billion in unpaid taxes. For many years prior, corporations in Alberta owed very large amounts of money in unpaid taxes, that the Alberta PCs never collected.
    The Alberta PCs, after Peter Lougheed left office, badly neglected infrastructure in Alberta, leaving Alberta with a $26 billion infrastructure debt.
    The CPC was responsible for the $35 billion income trust scandal, the robocalls scandal, (that Jason Kenney orchestrated), prorouged Parliament, did not properly deal with Senate scandals and corruption, wasted money on fake lakes and gazebos, sold the Canadian Wheat Board to the Saudis, the CPC did not help get a pipeline built, that went to tidewater, when the CPC had a majority government, and had far superior oil prices, blew billions of dollars trying to bail out the automotive sector, increased the number of TFWs in Canada, (Jason Kenney was also behind that), and the CPC increased Canada’s debt to nearly $150 billion – $170 billion, all by themselves.
    The UCP has lost Alberta $4.5 billion, from corporate tax cuts. Jason Kenney has wasted money on pointless plane flights. He also wasted money on pointless court battles, he can’t win.
    A new shiny arena is something the Conservatives would love to spend money on. The complainers are upset that the Federal Liberals gave $12 million to Loblaws for fridges/freezers, yet ignore these way worse things, from their beloved Conservatives. What a shame!

  13. Anonymous, thank you for this amazingly list! It boggles the mind to imagine what all those wasted tax dollars could have accomplished. Your reference to Klein’s electricity deregulation caught my eye. Jason Kenney is scrapping Notley’s plan to move to a capacity market, leaving Albertans exposed to wildly fluctuating electricity prices. But what does he care, the executives at TransAlta and Epcor are doing backflips.
    And now we’re witnessing corporate welfare at the municipal level and being berated by our own elected officials for daring to ask for some more time to engage in public consultation so we can figure out what we’re going to get in return for our $275 million gift to the Flames and what we’re going to have to give up.

    • Anonymous says:

      Hello Susan. You mentioned Trans Alta. They got a really whopping fine for manipulating power prices in 2010 and 2011. Yes, power consumers will foot that fine cost. One other thing is that Jim Dinning, a former Alberta PC MLA, and Alberta PC leadership candidate, was on the Board of TransAlta. Also, courtesy of Murray Smith, with any new power lines built in Alberta, the costs will be footed by the power consumer. In regards to the Calgary arena, will any Conservative politicians be involved with this process? I have a hunch that they will be. People go really bonkers for what goes on at the federal level, which is peanuts, compared to what is wasted on the provincial level, right here in Alberta. If someone was to bring up these things at any forum, it would be shut down, because there are moderators. These moderators have obvious ties. Not only that, most of the attendees would not want to hear it, because it is the truth. You also mentioned Licia Corbella, and her opinions. It’s clear who the media is associated with, and influenced by. That also has roots in Ralph Klein. His sidekick, Rod Love, would harshly punish any columnist who criticized what Ralph Klein did. Postmedia is now fully entrenched in everything UCP.

      • Anonymous, you make a really important point about Trans Alta’s past behavior and what we have to look forward to now that the UCP announced it will scrap the Notley government’s plan to move to a capacity market and revert back to the energy-only market. Notley asked Kenney in Question Period whether he would keep the cap on electricity prices to protect the consumer from sky rocketing prices. He refused to answer. The consumers had the “privilege” of carrying litigation fines and additional power lines in the past, why shouldn’t they have the same “privilege” in the future?
        I agree with your comment about Postmedia…it’s not news, it’s the UCP’s mouthpiece. The only place you see criticism of the UCP is in the letters to the editor–ironically a recent letter writer complained the UCP wasn’t appointing enough UCP supporters to prominent position on UCP boards and panels.

  14. Jerrymacgp says:

    First, the usual disclaimer: I am neither a Calgary resident, voter or taxpayer, nor am I a hockey fan (in fact, I detest the game, which probably disqualifies me from claiming to be a Canadian 😉 even though I was born here & have lived my entire life in Canada). That said, here is my perspective, FWIW.

    The Calgary Flames are a private business corporation that sells its “product”—that being the right to watch young grown men play a game—to paying customers that choose to attend, as well as to TV & radio broadcasters that choose to air the games for fans that are unable or unwilling to attend in person. The business is presumably profitable, at least in the medium to long term, or it would no longer be in business. It needs a venue to play, one which is big enough for the number of attendees and the revenue from their admission fees to exceed their costs to operate, without setting ticket prices so high that nobody attends—which is why a 100-seat arena is not viable.

    But the investment needed for this infrastructure is no different, in principle, than that needed by a manufacturing business in its physical plant, and is a cost of doing business, to be recouped by its various revenue streams. The corporation could simply build its own, at its own cost, and hope to earn additional revenue by renting out excess capacity to other users, such as when the team is not playing (i.e. during the all-too-brief off-season) or is on the road; or it could lease space in a venue owned by someone else, whether that be another private business or a public owner like the city. But in any lease arrangement, the team would simply be a tenant, with the right to negotiate terms & conditions of the rental contract with the landlord on the same basis as an anchor tenant in a shopping mall, but without ownership rights over the facility.

    The City of Calgary is giving this profitable private business a clear subsidy paid for by its residents’ tax dollars, a sweet deal which gives the Flames virtually the same rights as an owner without the inconvenience of having to build it themselves. The residents of Calgary have every right to be outraged, and I am particularly disappointed by Mayor Nenshi, whom I had once thought was one of the good guys.

    • Jerrymacgp: Thank you for this clear explanation of why any thinking Calgarian would be outraged by this deal. You nailed it when you said it gives the Flames the same rights as an owner without half the obligations. In a typical commercial lease situation the tenant signs a triple net least which makes the tenant responsible for property taxes, insurance and operating & maintenance. Here the Flames are NOT responsible for property taxes or insurance on major uninsured structural damage. Those who support the deal say it’s because the Flames don’t “own” the building. So what, the major tenants in the Bow don’t own the building either, that’s no excuse. There’s no reason why the City couldn’t have negotiated a standard triple net lease making the Flames responsible for all property taxes (especially when the City is losing commercial property tax revenue from the downtown core businesses and is shifting the burden onto small business owners and residential tax payers) or “uninsured” structural damage (given the high likelihood this area will flood again just like it did in 2013, that’s an incentive for the Flames NOT to insure against flood damage).
      It’s a sweet-heart deal that will divert tax dollars from projects that would serve the public much better than a vanity project for the Flames owners. Unbelievable.

  15. Andrew Boothman says:

    The Frazer Institute has written numerous articles on the stupidity of local governments paying for sports stadiums. They, as well as almost all independent economists, point out that economic benefits are just not there. Local government money is better spent on cheaper projects to revitalize a city or some part of a city. There is nothing wrong with the Saddledome for hockey other than that a new arena would make the Flames more money.
    The Professional Sports current business model depends on getting public money to build sports facilities. The business model works very well for Pro Sports, not so much for local government. There are many examples of governments spending big time for a sports area and in some cases not even getting a team. The Flames in Calgary are one of the more profitable NHL teams so saying you are willing to move is a bit of a risk. There are not a lot of options that would be better than Calgary. Did the City of Calgary have more bargaining power than they thought? Would Pro sports be willing to make an example of Calgary to help keep the business model in tact.
    Oh, the intangibles. I have never bought a ticket to a game although for many years I have made it to at least one game courtesy of the oil business. Including one game in the now defunct government suit. I am a big fan of hockey on TV but have had a hard time justifying the expense of paying to attend a live game. It is always fun when the team is playing well and in the playoffs. The city can have a noticeable buzz. The Raptor’s run this spring was exciting; can’t say I have ever watched so many basketball games from start to finish. Sports arenas are like public art and other cultural events supported by government, it makes the city a better place to live. The problem is that sports take way too much of the pie and can leave other worthwhile projects underfunded.
    I wanted a new arena and hoped there was some way to get the billionaires who own the team to pay for more of the costs. That was not likely to happen. The one good thing the city did was delay the start of the area by about 10 years with their slow negotiating. They did start out with “no public money for private companies” and ended up with this unfortunate deal.

    • Andrew, thank you for this thoughtful comment. Multimillionaire Brett Wilson was a vocal advocate of this deal. He said the Flames are giving Calgary $275 million, not the other way around and that it will revitalize the area just like the arena in Nashville (he’s part owner of the Nashville Predators) revitalized Nashville. He poo-poos “a couple of economists” who say otherwise.
      So let’s take that from the top: (1) if the Flames are giving Calgary $275 million then Calgary should end up ahead of the game when the dust settles, it will be at least $47 million behind, (2) dismissing “a couple of economists” and the Fraser Institute et al with the statement “the proof is in the pudding” shows Wilson has no economic data to support his case, and (3) even if Nashville has been revitalized by the arena, this isn’t an argument for why the public should foot the bill; a 100% privately funded arena would have revitalized Nashville just as well, but put less money in the owners’ pockets.
      The gyrations these guys go through to justify their positions is astounding.

  16. Carlos Beca says:

    Yes lots of truth here – glad to see opinions that reflect reality in a time of NO-thinking.
    The main truth to me is that since Peter Lougheed left there has always been one objective and one alone – enrich the corporations and their CEO s. To do this there is only one solution and there is to rob the province at any cost. They have been successful and they continue because we got to the point where no other party can change the financial network and deception that is in place without a complete Tear down of the existing system. Albertans are not interested in such a move and do not even believe there is any problem at all (majority at least) and so we are basically prisoners of a horrible cul de sac. Whether we like it or not, nothing will change even if this government gets kicked out in the next election. The NDP is not up to a radical change and without it we are trapped. Not just here but in most of the Western World. The solution is going to be a tough one but it will come.

    • carlosbeca says:

      By the end of these four years – Jason Kenney’s 19 million dollar fortune will double – MARK MY WORDS

    • Carlos, thank you for your insights. I think you’ve been ahead of the curve on this for a long time and much of what you’ve described is now coming to pass. I was trying to figure out why people who call themselves conservatives supported this deal. Conservatives say they respect the free market and reject corporate welfare (but they’re OK when the municipal government gives a $275 million subsidy to the Flames). Conservatives don’t like it when the government picks “winners” and “losers” (but they’re OK when the government picks the Flames to be winners at the expense of other business owners who are now losers (the City isn’t giving capital dollars to local businesses owners to ensure they stay alive). I finally realized it’s got nothing to do with conservative ideology and everything to do with the super rich taking the necessary steps to protect their wealth. George Monbiot writes about this in The Guardian. It will take radical change but we’re beginning to see the start of it.
      It’s going to be a turbulent ride!

      • Carlos Beca says:

        Yes you have it absolutely right. The problem is that these people are not conservatives – they are crooks. They bullied themselves into power but like you said it is going to crash because no fad lasts forever without force. I do not think on the Canadian side force will be used but I do not say the same in the US side.

        They do not care about ideology because they do not have one. All they care is money and in some cases power and money at the same time.

        George Monbiot talks about this and before him many other people that witnessed the same happening in the third world where the hit is in the trillions of dollars. I am sure that history will not forget these last 3 decades of open sacking everywhere and now coming to the so called first world. Some people thought this would not happen here but they undervalued the greed from these gangs of billionaires. They no longer consider themselves part of society because it does not exist for them. They were thought the right education – Greed is good and society does not exist.

        The end of this, of course is going to be violent, because these crooks will not give up their extraordinarily privileged lives that make the monarchy look like upper middle class.

        The examples we have from the past do not make any difference. So it will have to be taken away. That is never easy and of course the propaganda will prolong it as far as possible but no one convinces me that it is not coming. Canada’s political system in the next 15 years will be so different that will make us stunned. It will start after next election because Scheer will not get a majority. The conservative circus will be over soon. If not I will not be surprised to see assassinations soon. Humans have limits.

  17. carlosbeca says:

    This is what matters everything else is just pure talk

    This is why we are stuck – everything else is just propaganda

  18. David Grant says:

    Thanks Susan for your great analysis here. The problem with this deal for is that most people I know who love the Flames or the concerts can’t afford them. It is criminal that these owners were able to bamboozle the taxpayers into paying for this. The thing is, the average citizen is responsible because they tend to buy into the blackmail of the Flames leaving. I would have told them to leave if they weren’t going to pay for the arena. People can’t get over this sense of civic pride that they have for sports teams and no amount of factual analysis will convince them. They don’t understand how bad of a precedent this sets. What happens if a big business that is in trouble wants to get bailed out. People are rightly opposed to bailing out Bombardier or Air Canada and yet will support this stupid arena. I had a long exchange with someone on Facebook who couldn’t understand the difference between funding public libraries, public transit and a concert hall. He doesn’t understand that the first two are available to all people, and in the case of a concert hall, there are ticket prices for the CPO that are made available as well as the chance to volunteer some time in exchange for seeing the concerts(I have been a volunteer for more than ten years with the CPO). I hope all of those concerned will raise this issue at the next civic election. I would also like to know how we can counter the emotional feelings that people for arenas. Facts don’t seem to be enough.

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