The Flames Arena Deal (What’s my vote worth?)  

Last week the City of Calgary. the Province of Alberta and the billionaire owners of the Calgary Flames signed a nonbinding MOU for a new arena and related improvements. The tab is $1.2B with $800M for the arena and $400M for related improvements in the entertainment district.

It looks like taxpayers will pay 95% of the upfront costs in return for 0% of the revenues and the Flames owners will pay 5% of the upfront costs in return for 100% of the revenues.*

The obligations of the parties are sketchy because transparency on this transaction has been nothing short of opaque.

But Danielle Smith made one thing crystal clear: the arena deal will not go ahead unless (1) Calgarians vote UCP on May 29 and (2) Smith’s Cabinet and Treasury Board approve the deal in August.

Smith announcing the Flames arena deal

This is wrong for so many reasons.

The bribe…

A decent premier blessed with a $2.4B surplus would not have made the commitment to spend $330M on revitalizing Calgary’s downtown contingent on the outcome of the next election. She would have earmarked it as a line item in the Feb 2023 budget.

Afterall Calgary is the beating heart of the oil and gas sector. It produced that eye-popping surplus. Why should Calgary be left off the goodies list?

Could it be that back in February Smith took Calgary for granted? That she didn’t realize until recently that she’d have to woo Calgary the same way she was wooing the rural Alberta?

Smith’s contingent offer of $330M is sleazy and opportunistic.   

Which leads us to the second problem with Smith’s proposition.

The transaction…

Smith is proposing a transaction—she’ll give me an arena if I give her my vote.

So here’s the thing about transactions. Each party has to want what the other is offering.

Smith clearly wants my vote. She said as much in her press conference and in her follow up letter where she said: “After the election, the province’s contribution to this arena deal must be approved by the Provincial Cabinet and Treasury Board before the end of summer. That’s why on May 29, I’m asking Calgarians to give our United Conservative Party a clear mandate to proceed with this arena.“

But what if:

  • I don’t want the arena. What if I’d be perfectly happy fixing up the Saddledome?
  • I do want a new arena but I don’t think taxpayers should subsidize billionaires who can pay for their own arena.
  • I do want a new arena and I’m prepared to accept the idea of public tax dollars subsidizing billionaires, but I’m leery of this particular deal because it lacks transparency? What else is in the deal? Who bears the risk of cost overruns? What happens if the new arena is flooded in the next 35 years? What if the Flames want to leave before the 35 year lease/loan term is over? Why is Smith asking me to give her something of value (my vote) in return for a pig in a poke?  
  • I’m prepared to accept everything but I’m troubled by the fact the City refuses to commit to public engagement on a $1.2B project. The City says its relying on the engagement conducted back in 2017 and 2018 for the Rivers District Master Plan and the Jan to Mar 2020 engagement on the event centre (then budgeted at $550M). Has the City forgotten that since then we’ve had this little thing called a pandemic. Perhaps Calgarians would rather spend their tax dollars on addressing mental health, homelessness, addiction, and a myriad of other issues.  

The contingency…

Recall that Smith listed two contingencies. One, that she and her government be re-elected and two, that her cabinet and treasury board approve the deal.

It’s true that if Smith is elected, she has the prerogative to appoint cabinet ministers and the treasury board, but here’s the thing. Smith appears to be increasingly reliant on the good will of Take Back Alberta to stay in power. TBA has been clear that if she doesn’t adopt their agenda, they will get rid of her just the way they got rid of Jason Kenney.

So what happens if she is forced to appoint a TBA leaning cabinet? Will such a cabinet support their government giving $330M of their tax dollars to billionaires to build an arena in Calgary?

The bottom line…

While the foregoing is an interesting exercise here’s the bottom line.

There is nothing Smith can offer me in return for my vote because I can’t forget her incompetence with respect to—and these are headlines, it would take many more blogs to cover these topics properly—Indigenous ancestry, debit cards to pay GPs, Stage 4 cancer, the unvaccinated are the most discriminated class of all, pardons for covid rules violators, $80M for kids’ pain meds from Turkiye, rule of law/Sovereignty Act, Art Pawlowski, James Bauder, imprecise language/Crown prosecutors, etc.

Smith’s arena deal is intended to solidify her support in Calgary. It’s done the opposite. It’s revived the debates that killed the last two attempts to ink a deal for the arena, it demands even more by way of a taxpayer subsidy to billionaire hockey team owners, and it drags the rest of Alberta into the debate.

This is a poor election strategy which is likely to backfire on Smith if Calgarians vote wisely.

*If anyone has more up to date information, please share it.

This entry was posted in Danielle Smith, Politics and Government and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

66 Responses to The Flames Arena Deal (What’s my vote worth?)  

  1. Ingamarie says:

    Seriously……..the deal may not go ahead even if the UCP win. Let’s not forget how many times they promised a Cancer Centre, and who in the end built it.

    • Very true Ingamarie. Also there are questions outstanding on some of the key terms like will the City get anything back by way of revenue. To this point it appears that the answer is no, however the newspaper article I included in the post says “Officials say this matter remains under negotiation.” Frankly I’m surprised this is still under negotiation, seems to me (as a lawyer) it would be something the parties hammered out before they signed the MOU. Like I said…very little transparency.

      • Ingamarie says:

        Big promises and darkness in the details becomes a party willing to use any trickery to gull the public. Still, at the door we hear Albertans worried that Rachel will ‘destroy the country’. The other side of gullibility seems to be fantasy fears.

        Nevertheless…door knocking is finding lots of NDP supporters and a surprising number of them willing to take signs. Alberta is losing its fantasies….and its fear of standing out from the shadows. Hopefully the change will be big enough to keep us from 4 more years of UCP cuts to public services and gift cards to the well off friends.

    • Peter says:

      Yes, but this arena ‘deal’ is designed to give more public money to corporations and friends of ucp personalities, a priority for all libertarian government, ‘both foreign and domestic’ as aided by the idu. Hopefully, more of the 30 odd-% of ‘don’t care’ voters will notice and commit to excising this faux government.

  2. Linda says:

    Lordy, where do I begin? First off, when ‘public engagement’ was done for the new arena back in 2017 the public was pretty clear that they didn’t see the need to subsidize billionaires with their hard earned taxpayer dollars. At that point in time City Council agreed that the Flames & their owner(s) could pony up at least half of the cost for the new digs & preferably more. Also there was mention of a portion of those ticket sales coming back into civic coffers rather than simply flowing through to the owner’s pockets. Long story short, the owners decided to bail on the deal, as they didn’t feel the profit love & the ‘threat’ of the Flames moving to new digs was proven less than menacing. Oddly enough, other municipalities were not lined up 10 deep, begging for the privilege of hosting (paying for) a well known sports team. Imagine that.

    Now this pig in a poke is being given a new coat of lipstick, with City Council trying to tell the public that this will be a great deal for Calgary. Not! The ‘re-vitalization’ of the DT core can take place without taxpayers coughing up mega-bucks for a sports team. Here is a radical idea: let Calgary build the new arena & upgrade the crap out of all the local area infrastructure – which is what the deal is anyways – without handing over ‘options’ on very high value public lands to those self same billionaires. If the Flames want to play in said new arena, well that $40 million ‘up front’ rental payment with the subsequent $17 million per year (adjusted upward by 1% – be still my beating heart) for subsequent years of rent is maybe a fair deal. The claim the land will be sold at ‘fair market value’ ignores that an option usually can be exercised over a defined period of time. So if said land is valued at say $10 million in 2023 dollars, it may well be worth $20 million by the time the option is exercised BUT because of the ‘fair market’ price evaluation it won’t be SOLD at $20 million, but rather the original $10 million. Because the option lets the one holding it to purchase at the original price, as long as they exercise the option before the expiry date. This is how the rich get richer & the taxpayer – well the taxpayer pays for all. The deal as reported sees the City as owner of the new arena, so any expenses related to that arena will be billed to the taxpayer.

    As for Danielle & crew, here is hoping Calgarians are smart enough to recognize a snake oil salesgirl when they see her. True story: back in Ralph Klein’s day, the PC’s enacted a ‘deal’ with LAPP (Local Authorities Pension Plan) whose members consist of every municipal employee in the Province plus all medical staff with the exception of doctors. The deal was that any deficit would no longer be the responsibility of the taxpayer but would rather be the responsibility of the plan members. In return, the PC’s swore LAPP would be granted ‘self-governance’. In effect, control over their pension plan. Well, LAPP members did pay off plan deficits. Repeatedly. THAT side of the deal was kept & continues to be kept to this day. Self governance? NEVER happened under the PC watch. LAPP does have self governance today – granted by the NDP. Hence the vitriolic attacks upon said plan by the UCP, starting with them legislating that all public plans must use AimCo regardless of how poorly AimCo’s performance might be. So when a PC by any other name says ‘Trust me to do this if you do that’, don’t. Keep in mind these folks said they would make a $14.3 billion payment against Alberta’s debt. Last I looked, still hadn’t happened – maybe they will make it if re-elected? Promise!

    • Thanks for this Linda. ThinkHQ just did a poll on the new arena deal. Their results showed a roughly even split: 50% of Albertans were against it and 43% were in favour of it. I think I read somewhere that the support in Calgary was slightly in favour and the support in the rest of Alberta was more against. The pollster also suggested that if Smith thought this would bring in more votes from Calgary, she was wrong.
      Your description of the transaction (snake oil—“trust me to do this if you do that”) are very well taken. You’ll note Smith still hasn’t backed off the plan to push all Albertans off CPP. Probably because it’s part of her separate-but-still-part-of-Canada plan.

      • Linda says:

        The whole APP (Alberta Pension Plan) scenario as outlined by the UCP is just scary. I’ll be honest: had I had a choice to belong to my LAPP fund I’d almost certainly have opted out. As a young adult starting out paying into a pension plan was not my priority. CPP ditto. I’d no idea of the actual value of having a DB pension plan – 65 seemed so far away & I didn’t even think I’d be with my employer long enough for it to matter in any case. Thing is, how I felt/thought is just as valid today. The young people who are being promised they can pay less into the APP if they support it don’t realize that by paying less they will receive less come retirement. Because the UCP isn’t telling them that part. Nor will those who are shilling for this pension power grab be around to take the flak when the day of retirement dawns for these folks when they begin to draw from said plan, only to discover it isn’t what was promised & definitely isn’t as much as what CPP would have paid.

        Because in the end it is about power. The power having control of all that money. Make no mistake, the UCP sees those pension funds as money they could use for their agenda, not something to be grown/guarded for the use of the plan members who pay into it. Let’s just say AimCo was directed to ‘invest’ in O&G projects regardless of whether said investment was in the best interests of the pension plan members whose funds were being invested. As a reward for acting as the UCP stooge, AimCo was legislated as the perpetual fund manager for all public funds. That would include any APP if it ever comes into being. As an aside, said legislation occurred AFTER AimCo lost some $2 billion – yes, billion with a ‘B’ – in Heritage Fund $ in an ill advised market ploy. Generally such incompetence would see heads roll. AimCo instead was rewarded with legislation making them fund managers in perpetuity regardless of how poor their performance might be. Anyone thinking an APP is a good idea should take note. While doing so, they might wish to consider that the Heritage Fund is currently valued about $15 billion. When I arrived in Alberta in 1981 it was valued around $13 billion. In contrast, the Norwegian Sovereign Fund which was started some 20 years AFTER the Heritage Fund came into being is valued at some $1.3 TRILLION today. So anyone thinking dropping out of CPP for a made in Alberta pension plan should really think about where the Heritage Fund should be & where it actually is.

    • Ingamarie says:

      You’ve got their number….and as usual, if you ‘do the math’ it never adds up.

  3. Less a bid for the soul of the city than a test of whether it still has one.

  4. Jaundiced Eye says:

    Who would have ever guessed that Joti Gondek would be such a key component of Daniel Smith’s election team! Guitarist Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones stated you aren’t selling out as long as you get enough money. By that standard, it would seem Gondek will have no problem sleeping.

    • Jaundiced Eye: I was very disappointed Gondek supported this plan. I’ve been trying to figure out what drove her and the other councillors to approve it. At this time we just can’t afford it. On Mar 21, 2023 a news story appeared saying she cut funding to the Canadian Mental Health Association. CMHA previously received around $544,750 through a joint municipal-provincial program. Gondek is quoted in the article as saying “when money disappears, tough calls have to be made…and the city…simply can’t anymore.” And then Boom! Here’s $800M for a bloody arena and incidental services. Wow!

  5. Alfredo Louro says:

    And, oh, look, now Murray Edwards wants to sell:
    They’re playing us for fools.

    • Mike J Danysh says:

      Hey, Europe is expensive! Ol’ Murray needs pocket change, is all.

    • Alfredo…wow, isn’t that an interesting turn of events. One thing that always bothered me is how little money the Flames put into this deal. $40M in up front costs and $17M/year increasing at 1% (which isn’t even inflation) for the next 35 years. Who knows where Calgary will be in 35 years, let alone the Flames. The owners will be dead and gone, the new owners could be Saudi princes for all we know. It’s bananas.

      • Jaundiced Eye says:

        Seventeen million a year! That is too funny. All the Flames have to contribute on an annual basis is what a first line centre will be making.

  6. Lee says:

    Thanks so much for so clearly articulating the slimmyness of this arena deal! I am so profoundly disappointed in our Mayor and all of the councillors… playing into the hands of Danielle Smith. They’ve been bought plain and simple! Will Calgarians, especially the conservative ones, think this is OK?

    • Lee, I think James’ comment “less a bid for the soul of the city than a test of whether it still has one” is the answer to your question. I was floored that all our so-called progressive councillors who ran on platforms of community and helping those who couldn’t find affordable housing or had mental health or addiction issues decided what the heck, this was a good deal, let’s do it! What happened to integrity and principles? When the next municipal election rolls around and there’s a great big hole in the ground and millions of dollars in cost overruns, we will remember that every last one of them voted in favour of this deal.

  7. Jim Durward says:

    The problem is Calgary City Council. The Province has fixed cost, the Flames have fixed cost but Calgary has no limit on costs and I have no doubt that the costs will be a LOT more than advertised – and Council won’t release any details and just says “trust us”. Get rid of Gondek and her band of fools…

    • Linda says:

      Jim, the costs have already escalated substantially. The original proposal was estimated to cost between $500 to $600 million – & that price was where the original deal fell through & was in fact an escalation from the first out the gate estimate which was under $500 million. As I mentioned in my earlier post the City was holding firm back then on the costs being shared at least equally between the taxpayer & the Flames owners, plus a portion of ticket sales were to flow through to City coffers. And despite the claim that this new deals cost is due to including more infrastructure, there was plenty of infrastructure included in the original deal. I’d say inflation in costs is the more likely culprit plus no doubt a lot of fancy ‘extras’ were added to the original brief because why not?

      Ironically at least one of the councillors who voted in favor mentioned he had ‘scrutinized & questioned’ the deal, noting that the amount of money involved would have been better spent on affordable housing, health care & other such social services. But hey, who cares if they can’t get adequate health care or have access to affordable housing if they can watch a Flame’s game instead? It is all about priorities & in this current election the bread & circus strategy is alive & well. Although one would think City politicians would recognize the bait & switch tactic used by Ms. Smith – ‘only if we get re-elected & only if approved by X post election’.

    • Jim and Linda: the issue of cost escalation from the last proposal to this one is muddied a little by the fact that incidentals to upgrade LRT access and other improvements to the entertainment district have been added. However the City has split the $1.2B total cost into $800M for the arena and $400M for the other improvements. So we still see an escalation from $500-600M in Dec 2021 to $800M today. That’s an increase of at least $200M over the last 16 months. The City would be nuts to hand over project management to the Flames, but remain on the hook for cost overruns, but that appears to be where we are.

  8. Brent says:

    Such an obvious attempt to buy Calgary votes. One that has two escape clauses that will be certainly be exercised when the time comes. Let us hope they will not win the election, I am not sure the NDP will win because the UCP are spending our tax dollars in their campaign and promising to fix the things they messed up. They will fix our health care system after they did their best to ruin it during a pandemic by fighting our health care workers. How many of our doctors left because of this?

    • Brent, you make a good point about the UCP promising to fix our healthcare system after they did their best to ruin it. I attended the Notley writ drop rally this morning. She said Smith’s record counts. Smith has published articles and done podcasts where she repeatedly outlines her plan to privatize public healthcare. Notley said signing a piece of cardboard promising to protect public healthcare doesn’t cut it. Smith’s record over the last few years and months speaks for itself. That’s the message Albertans and Calgarians in particular need to take on board.

  9. NeilRD says:

    As an Albertan living outside of Calgary, I find the deal for the arena and the $118million “private” charter school in Calgary abhorrent. My own city and region, Red Deer, is struggling with a 30 year old hospital in the face of growing demand from a city which has almost doubled in size and a region with limited medical facilities outside of Red Deer.

    Although the UCP has promised $1.8billion for the project, absolutely nothing has been done in the past four years while the medical, nursing, and other health care staff thin out on the frontlines. No plans for the physical plant, no plans for a transition while we wait for long overdue facilities.

    Now provincial revenue is going to help out Calgary billionaires and failed UCP political hacks.

    The battleground in this election may be Calgary, but the casualties will be all over our province.

    • NeilRD: what a brutal example of how UCP promises mean nothing. Your last sentence sent a shiver down my spine. It should be plastered on lawn signs all over our City. Thank you!

  10. Anne Marie Gunst says:

    A very well written post! I hope Rachel Notley can use your points to persuade voters to vote NDP.

    • Thank you Anne Marie Gunst. At this morning’s writ drop rally Notley was asked by a reporter for her thoughts on the arena deal. She didn’t commit herself one way or another, saying only that before she could comment she needed to see the facts and that they’re sorely missing. This is true, however I have the feeling Notley is keeping her powder dry. We’ll see whether she says anything more in the coming days, but I suspect she’ll focus on healthcare, education and the economy.

  11. Lee Neville says:

    Don’t ya just love how private interests get the taxpayers fighting amongst ourselves over the details to finance their cheesy deals? Classic divide and conquer – deja vu all over as they say. As is the typical UCP flim-flammery hiding the details – rest assured it will be super-great returns like 100% to billionaire owners – 0% taxpayers. One cannot blame Gondek either – if she can pick the Provinces pocket, thats just effective municipal politicking. Who knew she’d be better at it than Mandel!

    Duh-duh Danielle has never backed away from a screwy enrich-her-private-sector-donors scheme yet – and she’s feeling pretty comfy in her boots to handcuff a “re-elect me to get ‘er done” threat as the sting in the deal. Albertans better understand a returned UCP govt will be all-salted bullwhip/all the time.

    One has to admire the chutzpah of the hustle. Will Calgary + AB south give their vote for the thug-UCP egregious arena pig in a poke? As much as I’d like to say no, I really doubt those voters will alter their predictable UCP vote. PostMedia and Canuck redneck radio have been beatin’ the drum for a Calgary arena deal for years, so this idea fixee has all the warm, in-with-the-joke folksy charm as a pair of bronzed bull nuts hanging from the rear bumper of a 3/4 ton dually pickup.

    Nothing more can be said than Calgary punk-laureate Art Bergmann’s sentiments in his lovely tune “Company Store” – .

    • Sharon says:

      Not sure what you mean by your comment referencing Mandel. The Alberta government gave no money to Edmonton for the building of Rogers Place.
      The money could be better spent on all the people of Alberta, like the Red Deer Hospital or a new children’s hospital in Edmonton. Oh but wait, kids can’t vote….

      • Mike J Danysh says:

        Sharon, I think Lee means that Ms. Gondek is getting something out of Smith for the arena, but Steven Mandel got nothing from the PC government of the day when Darryl Katz was playing Lord of the Rink.

        However, the cases are not comparable. 1) Edmonton isn’t PC country like Calgary is. 2) Smith is desperate for votes, as the Old Tories never were (except at the very end). So I expect Ms. Gondek is less “picking the province’s pocket” than she’s getting an offer she can’t refuse—no matter how much she might like to.

      • Lee Neville says:

        Sharon – Mike comes to my rescue below – my quip about Mandel was that he couldn’t pick the pocket of the PC govt of the day for the Edmonton arena.

        I’m just as angry and affronted about the Edmonton facility and what grotesque misalignment of societal needs vs frivolity it represents – to build the Roger’s “Merch Church” for a deep-pocketted\shortarmed billionaire when we have hundreds of children living on the cold cruel streets of Edmonton was and is a community-wide moral failure.

        Moreover, to see this moral squalor replicated in Calgary similarly fills me with despair – the stink of the UCP temp-premier poking her out-of-lane nose and big feet into an area of municipal planning/decision making demonstrates again how this dangerous fool and her crowd of fundamentalist remedials are unfit for a governing role in this province.

    • Lee Neville: your very first sentence got me thinking about all the times voters have voted against their own interests. I don’t know where this blindness comes from but you have to wonder how many of these people (who happily hand over their hard earned tax dollars to billionaires) can afford the events that the new arena will bring in. The problem with the Saddledome isn’t that the Flames can’t play hockey there, it’s that it isn’t conducive to the big-name artists. So guess what, a nosebleed seat at a Beyonce concert costs $600, if you want to sit in the front rows it goes up to $3000. Who can afford to fork over that kind of cash? Certainly not the little guy complaining about inflation and the cost of food.

      • Linda says:

        Susan, an excellent point. I’ve been trying to recall how often I’ve attended events in the Saddledome. I think maybe 4 times altogether since I arrived in Calgary in 1981, so roughly once per decade. Taking out the Flames fans I have to wonder how often the vast majority of Calgarians have actually gone to an event in the Saddledome. Would not be shocked to learn some have never so much as entered the building.

    • Lee says:

      Here’s the perspective of one councillor about the merits of the “new deal”…….

      • Lee: that was quite the polemic wasn’t it. So just off the top of my head I’d like to point out that
        – While Carra acknowledges the crisis in our health, education and justice systems, he does not explain why public spending for the arena took priority over health, education and justice.
        – He talks about inaccurate information and misdirection but fails to correct the inaccurate information and misdirection.
        – He talks about the hard work of city-building and the success Council had in the past getting funding for things like the Arts Commons, the Glenbow, and BMO (BTW: the cost of admission for those venues ranges from free to $20), all this is interesting but not relevant to this deal.
        – He says that after the 2021 election the Mayor and Council realized the Event Centre would cost a lot more than expected and wouldn’t accomplish “either parties’ programmatic goals”. So my question is how the hell did that happen? Then the Mayor and Council decide to go with the deal that died in Dec 2021 because he was committed to a new Event Centre and “from a frankly realpolitik perspective, because….” It’s unclear what that means. Is it they had to go with the Dec 2021 deal in order to get other improvements? If so, what improvements? This is both irrelevant and pure bafflegab.
        – He says this $1.2B deal is very different and “undeniably much better” which is why all 15 councillors voted for it. Really, how is it better to have the Flames upfront contribution drop to $40M? How is it better to do a deal that’s contingent on the outcome of the next provincial election. How is it better to do a deal where you’re still negotiating whether the City gets any revenue?
        – He talks about the design being better but the design isn’t finalized yet, it’s so preliminary they don’t even know if they’ll need a development permit.
        – He talks about getting provincial funding for previously unfounded public infrastructure, and yes, that’s a good point, but this funding is dependent on the UCP winning the election and the (perhaps) TBA leaning Cabinet approving it.
        – He concludes by saying this deal readdresses the land ownership arrangements between the City and the Stampede (which could have been redressed without doing this deal) and allows the City to sell and buildout the private realm (hotels, restaurants, etc) which also could have been done without this deal.
        – He stresses that the anchoring principle of the deal from the beginning was “no public money without commensurate public value”, but nowhere does he demonstrate $800M of public value.
        – the cost benefit analysis is missing: We can point to $500M of municipal tax dollars that won’t be going into affordable house, alleviating mental illness, addiction, homelessness, (ie the “cost”) but he hasn’t shown us $500M of public value (ie. the “benefit”).
        Sorry, I don’t buy it.

  12. lungta mtn says:

    Been watching TBA swarm UPC riding association , then rigging and bullying their nominations and elections until they get their trucker/rancher/farmer/puppet of choice on the ballot .
    A new arena might be the nicest thing that comes out of the United Convoy Party.
    Dani wants to stay at any cost and as she will never have to pay …..

    • Lungta mtn: A few days ago someone reposted a TBA message on Twitter where the TBA guy asked TBA members not to wear their TBA t-shirts and other TBA swag to UCP events because the media was trying to paint them out as something trying to take over the UCP (or something to that effect). The responses were great, people told them it’s too late, we see what you’re doing. What’s weird is they said they were going to take over the UCP by taking over their constituency associations, that’s what the media has been reporting so I don’t know why they’re in a flap about it, unless the UCP told them to back off because they’re turning off voters. Could it be that some people don’t want to vote for a party that’s beholden to TBA?

      • Mike J Danysh says:

        Susan and Lungta, they’re in a flap about it because it’s true. Maneuvers like this work best in the dark. Turn a spotlight on it, and the rats all scuttle back to their holes.

  13. Dwayne says:

    Susan: Thanks for another great blog. At different times in the past, Danielle Smith said that she opposed the government paying for a new hockey arena. Where does Danielle Smith really stand on the matter? I know! It’s a provincial election, and she has to drum up support. A new hockey arena isn’t the most important thing. Public education, public healthcare, and helping the less fortunate, are examples of where the money could be better spent. Now that the writ has dropped, and the provincial election in Alberta is officially underway, I’ll play some more fitting music. This is a Bob Seger composition, from Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band, and it is from 1980. The song is Betty Lou’s Gettin’ Out Tonight. This is in my music collection.

    • Dwayne, you’ve put your finger on one of Smith’s greatest vulnerabilities…she’s her own worst enemy. Things she said in the past, heck things she said yesterday, trip her up today. As Notley said at the rally this morning, Smith flip-flops like its going out of style, and unlike Smith, what Notley says in the morning will still be true that evening.
      Today Smith was asked about her threat to sue CBC and the NDP for defamation. The deadline Smith imposed has passed, the reporters wanted to know what she’s going to do, is she going to sue? Smith ducked the question saying she’s focusing on the election for the next 28 days. I guess her lawyers finally convinced her that she couldn’t sue someone for saying something defamatory when she was the one who said it. Frankly I think it was all for show, a way to get out of having to answer any more questions about her talking to crown prosecutors.

  14. Dwayne says:

    Susan: Here is my second song pick. This is a Carlos Santana composition, and is from 1971. It’s called Everything’s Coming Our Way. Carlos Santana, the guitarist, is on vocals here, instead of Gregg Rollie. A 17 year old Neal Schon is also on guitar here. He and Gregg Rollie, the organist/keyboard player, and vocalist in Santana, would form Journey, after they left Santana, in 1972. This is also in my music collection. I saw Santana 5 times live.

    • Dwayne, I love Carlos Santana! You were so lucky to see them 5 times. Like I’ve said before, one day you’ll have to fill us in on how you managed to see all these great bands live. Thank you!

  15. Dwayne says:

    Susan: Here is my final song pick. It is from 1972. The song is Coathanger. This is a composition from a late Midlands, United Kingdom artist, Clifford T. Ward, who passed away in 2001, at age 57. He suffered from MS later on, and passed away from pneumonia.

    • Dwayne, I’ve never heard this artist but he has a lovely voice. The lyrics to this song are intriguing. Thank you.

      • Dwayne says:

        Susan: This is a compilation CD, with different artists on it. Donovan, Genesis, Procol Harum, The Zombies, and others are also on it. It has 3 CDs. I’m going to order this, and get it for my music collection. Clifford T. Ward never toured, as he was more interested in recording. Had he toured, he would have reached more people. Since, I do like classical music, this would be a great CD to have.

      • Dwayne: sad news about Gordon Lightfoot passing. All the greats are leaving us. The Globe and Mail had a terrific article on him today. The quintessential Canadian musician.

      • Dwayne says:

        Susan: I heard that Gordon Lightfoot passed away. Very sad. I saw him live in 2010, front row center, and I met him and his band, after the show. He will be missed, and he left behind some great songs that are so powerful.

  16. Mike J Danysh says:

    Some thoughts on Ms. Soapbox’s analysis, more or less in order of her presentation, follow:

    Why would Danielle Smith have to “woo” rural Alberta? They own her! Or is it the other way around? I doubt they know, either. Smith was aware months ago that she couldn’t count on Calgarians to rubber-stamp her elevation to Queen Danielle of Oilberduhstan. She said as much early on, when she talked about winning just enough Calgary seats to gain a majority. Has she forgotten, or is this just her clumsy way of making a deal? (It didn’t work with Jim Prentice, so why would it work now?)

    I’m not sure if Smith’s $330M bait is a bribe—or a threat. “Vote me, or else.” Edmonton didn’t like it when Ralph Klein did that in 1997. But hey, we’ve been used to it for years. How’s it feel when Old Tories realize they don’t own the guv’mint anymore?

    “What if” questions are fun. Here’s one: “What if the ‘district enhancements’ are just empty promises?” Edmonton hasn’t seen much “enhancement” around the Ice Palace. Covid, admittedly, hasn’t helped. But we’re still waiting for the vibrant downtown revival Darryl Katz more-or-less promised in return for us buying him an arena. I could be wrong, so don’t take my word for it. Check with the City of Edmonton, the Chamber of Commerce, the tax department, downtown-business owners, folks who live downtown…. Was it worth it? I’d say no. How many would agree?

    Calgary has over a million citizens. How many are Flames fans? How many are willing to pay to watch the Flames in person? And are the rest of the citizens willing to indulge the die-hard fans’ passion? We’re suffering from the damage done by Covid, aggravated by the UCP’s war on doctors; and nurses; and teachers; and lawyers; and the never-ending war on government employees. (I’m surprised they didn’t pick a fight with accountants, too.) How much of this mess could be at least mitigated by $1.2 billion? Or even $330 million? Do Calgarians want to have a better arena—or a better city? No, they’re not the same thing.

    By the way, the price of these things always goes up. Always.

    Smith’s shoot-from-the-lip habit is playing her false again. Calgarians weren’t thrilled about this deal anyway, and Smith’s “or else” has made it worse. The Flames’ owners can damn well cash in some stock options and pay for their own arena. Of course, they’ll still have to abide by the local zoning laws and development plans. (They won’t like that; Darryl Katz didn’t, either.)

    So, Calgary, bottom-line time. Are you willing to give Smith and the Take Back Alberta Party four years to screw things up? Is that worth the privilege of gifting some billionaires a revenue stream, in return for vague promises of pie in the sky by and by? The choice is yours.

    • Linda says:

      Mike, agreed that this so called ‘deal’ is anything but. I live in Calgary; while a new convention centre/sports/events venue is not top of my list of where to spend tax dollars I can in theory concede that our current facilities are in need of upgrading or replacement. What I can’t support is handing over the codes to the bank vault while picking up the tab for those who can very well afford to foot the bill themselves. Also, I do not in the slightest believe any promises of largesse made by Smith & crew if re-elected. History abounds in promises made pre-election by politicians that never actually see the light of day post election. Earlier I mentioned Ralph Klein. Whatever else one might say about Ralph, he will forever remain in my mind as a politician who actually kept an election promise. This is sadly so rare & unusual that it remains of note even now. The UCP came to power promising diversification, the return of ‘Boom Times’, jobs, jobs & more jobs for everyone & a rainbow pony to boot. Their pre-election rants about ‘fixing’ health care – after they broke it & nope, still not ‘fixed’ despite some hastily applied bandaids – plus promises to do all the things they haven’t yet managed to do in the past 4 years does not persuade me they are worth another chance. They had their chance & frankly blew it. Time to scrape the boot clear of these meadow muffins.

    • Mike J: thanks for this. I think Smith took Calgary for granted (just like Kenney and Harper did throughout their reigns). She told a reporter she only needed 4 or 5 seats in Calgary, this made me think she didn’t care if she lost a few ridings, but when more and more ridings started to turn against her she realized she needed to win us back. So what did she do? She came up with this ridiculous plan.
      Which as you said could be a bribe or a threat.
      When she made the announcement I was both angry and offended. Angry because she should have earmarked funds for Calgary redevelopment in the 2023 budget, and offended because she thought she could “buy” my vote by taking a whack of taxpayer dollars and wasting it on the arena.
      Your “what if” question is perfect. What if it’s all smoke and mirrors, like the fairytale that a new arena will drawn in millions of dollars in new revenue from new businesses. Study after study have shown that is not the case.
      I really liked your last paragraph. It’s a perfect summation of how ludicrous Smith’s contingent offer of $330M really is.

  17. Mm says:

    They are treating the hockey arena deal like a game show: what’s behind door #3? This is not the way to run a province and certainly not the way billionaires run their businesses. Calgary City Council doesn’t get a free pass, either. Since they want to play games, I suggest Pin the Tail on the Donkeys.

    Give me one good reason why I should subsidize a billionaire living in Switzerland. Give me one good reason why billionaires deserve handouts, but the homeless on our province’s streets should be cast aside. Tell me what will be taken off the table to pay for all this: our public health care, education, downtown revitalization? No, the arena is not a downtown revitalization project. Something’s got to give. Money will be shuffled and services will be cut. The last minute, secretive wheeling and dealing just in time for an election makes me believe there is nothing rational or reasonable about this deal. That’s why we are being kept in the dark.

    • Mm: you’re right about us being kept in the dark.
      I flashed back to my past life as an executive with a publicly traded company: if our executive team received a deal presentation with this level of transparency (opaque), this kind of cost/benefit (high/questionable) and this level of justification (see Lee’s link to Carra’s note) we’d have fired everyone pitching the deal.
      Although I’ve got to hand it to the Flames billionaire owners, their team was outstanding.

      PS I see Pawlowski was convicted and is going to appeal. I suspect Smith will say she can’t comment on the verdict because it’s going to appeal. I also suspect Pawlowski is telling everyone within earshot that Smith let him down.

  18. Mm says:

    (I’m looking forward to the Pawlowski verdict tomorrow.) :/

  19. James Lees says:

    If they are so competent and confident that their policies are superior, why can’t she campaign on the UCP platform instead of making blatantly slimy deals to try and buy votes in Calgary? She is morally and ethically lacking, for sure. I hope Danielle Smith doesn’t get dragged into this quagmire.

  20. Carlos says:

    I think I have said more than my fair share about Danielle Smith and the UCP in general.

    I am not as kind as most of you are when dealing with the UCP. I find them so disgusting that I had to stop posting as much as I use to. I noticed with each message my level of anger growing and becoming more abusive. There are no more words to describe these people. I have had enough.

    Danielle Smith cannot be dragged into this quagmire because she is it.

    My concern right now is how fragile our democracy is and we have to be careful we do not fall into a situation when the damage is irreversible. It does not take long for these people to destroy what took so long to build and nurture.

    I am not interested in the kind of religious/fascist type freedom they seem to want to push down our throats.

    • Carlos: my husband has said the same thing and we take a little break from talking about Smith just so he can get back on an even keel.
      You make a very good point about the fragility of our democracy. Here in Alberta we’ve accepted so much undemocratic behavior from the UCP, starting with the Alberta Sovereignty Act and leading up to Smith’s promise to enact legislation so there can be no more tax hikes without a referendum. I’m waiting for legal academics to tell us whether her promise to bind the hands of future law makers is legally binding. I would have thought if a UCP majority Legislature can enact a law, a subsequent NDP majority Legislature can get rid of it.

  21. Janet Currie says:

    Dear Albertan friends often tell me that Alberta once did have a reasonable con gvt. But that ended in 1985, a long time ago and this kind of nostalgia avoids the fact that mostAlbertan gvts have been relentless drivers of global warning, polluting groundwaters, selfish members of the Canadian family, leaders of healthcare privatization and mistreatment of the poor among us. The richest province ..Alberta wants even more, threatening to upend our federal pension and poking the fed liberals in the eye for spending 30 billion plus on a pipeline many Canadians never wanted. Notley provided consistent, thoughtful gvt without a scandal for four years..her platform is well planned and takes all citizens into account. If she loses the loss to us will be incalculable. Our version of Trump is the alternative and DS will be just as bad.

  22. Carlos says:

    This is a comment to Janet Currie comment that did not work as a reply

    Janet this is very well said thank you.

    I agree with everything you have said and you are correct that Albertans have become whiners only because been told over and over that everyone else in Canada lives on our backs. Conservatives love to spread what has now become ridiculous conspiracy crap to hide the awful mismanagement that they have provided since Peter Lougheed left. The reality is that we send more money to Canadian treasury because we are privileged to make more money than anybody else in our country.

    If you compare (I am sorry to mention one more time but unfortunately we have to) Norway’s oil fund, with more than 1 trillion dollars versus ours which no one really talks about, it is pathetic. By the way we have similar population and oil production.

    I am not suggesting any political system because no system is perfect but it shocks me as a citizen of this province that in the last 40 years none of our politicians took the time to at least take a peek at what they were doing and possibly adjust ours to do better for our people. WHY? Because CONSERVATIVES, yes they were there 43 years, could never accept or care that maybe, that “socialists” could be any example at all. After all the only people that were consulted were of course the oil companies. An insestious relationship that only politicians benefitting from it, could carry out. A system created to benefit only the landlords. The Norwegians, on the other hand came here to check our system.

    We are now at a moment when our premier is nothing but a lobbyist for the same oil companies and making decisions that directly benefit them. Have the full cake and gobbled it all down. She now talks so proudly of locking our taxes to referendums but never did she think that maybe royalties and taxes to oil companies should also be determined by us and not by some lunatic in bed with them.

  23. Dave says:

    The simplistic political message Smith is trying to sell here is vote UCP if you want a new arena in Calgary or else. Of course, there is a lot wrong with this.

    First of all, other parties, even though they have reservations about Smith’s deal are not opposed to a new arena. So another alternative is possible, a new arena and a better deal for taxpayers.

    Second, Smith has, to put it mildly, serious trust issues. What if voters keep their end of the bargain but Smith does not? She has a history of changing positions and later claiming things like imprecise language.

    Third, as Edmonton has shown it does not necessarily take a big provincial contribution to build a nice new arena. Yes, it has been a long drawn out process, but it also was in Edmonton and in the end was it succesfully done there without much provincial support.

    So a vote for Smith does not mean a new arena for sure and one against her does not necessarily mean no new arena.

  24. Carlos says:

    I am not the only one who thinks Rachel Notley is anything but NDP.

    Not that she is not a good choice. Compared to the alternative she is a political genius, but for those interested in more social democratic changes, it will never happen.

    She veered into neo-liberal policies that have created the mess the west is immersed into and that sooner or later will take us down whether we like or not. The great propagandists of the inevitable economics and the invisible hand of God. It ends up that the hand is pretty visible and is composed of the new class of billionaires that make the royals look like their servants. The fact is that they want votes and power just like everyone else.

    The world is in deep need of more citizen centered policies rather than feeding the enormous conglomerates that right now control world politics. The new monarchs making billions of dollars now design the world as they please. At the same time that a great number of workers cannot afford the basics even when fully employed.

    Right now I will be happy to have a full month without scandals and Rachel Notley gave us full 4 years of stability and scandal free government. I guess for most of us that will be more than welcome.

    • Mike J Danysh says:

      Carlos, you and Max Fawcett are exactly right about Notley’s politics. (I just made the same point in Lisa Young’s latest Substack post.) The problem is, Canadian politics have become so strident, so polarized and toxic, that nobody listens anymore. Yes, I’m including us on Ms. Soapbox’s blog.

      Somehow, we have to counter 50-odd years of propaganda from American billionaires: “government bad, business good.” It’s almost impossible to overcome, but hopefully a moderate, center-right government under Notley will persuade more people that simplistic “blame the victim” policies won’t solve big problems.

      • Carlos says:

        Mike thank you for your comment. Nothing gives me more pleasure than a good discussion with anyone that is willing to listen and to respectfully voice his/her concerns.

        I understand what you mean by the 50 years of propaganda but it is time to create a more intelligent reaction to what is going on. Just get in power and hope for another oil boom is ridiculous. If the NDP wants to get support, they have to present solid alternatives and not just pie in the sky statements like we will make our health care stronger. HOW?

        People are tired, frustrated and not interested in the same slogans that have been around for ages which are totally meaningless. Political life in Alberta is reduced to election time when we are bombarded with phone calls begging for money and ‘vote for me and I will promise what I can not deliver’.
        Can we not be better than this?

    • GoinFawr says:

      “Rachel Notley gave us full 4 years of stability and scandal free government. I guess for most of us that will be more than welcome.”

      No kidding. And it wasn’t a ‘given’ either, Albertans earned it, and the NDP delivered.

      Of course last ’round was barely a start, and with ALL of Alberta breathing down the NDP’s neck. Plus a massive fire and a crash in oil prices just as royalty rates were being reviewed, and…. but we all know this story.

      Naturally the rate and direction of political change will never be fast enough or ‘correct’ enough to please some people. Take TakeBA for example: sure, I’m totally taken aback, but it seems nothing hard right can be taken back violently or quickly enough for them, which takes me back to the following:

      Unlike fascists, a good chunk of the ‘left’ recognize education is the only decent way to real change, and that takes time. It especially takes time to show people things they have been actively conditioned for generations not to see..

      With a dash of decency, and a pinch of luck we can continue this converstion in ~6 years or so, and there will be a litany of actual, mandated NDP legislation to draw conclusions from rather than glass half full conjectural laments of what shall never be’s.

      ‘Actions speak louder than words’, and all that.

  25. Michael Klein says:

    I believe this arena thing was simply a cynical ploy. It is so full of maybes and maybe nots as to be meaningless. I believe the Mayor and Council and Rachel Notley went through their “What if it happens?” and “What if it doesn’t happen exercise?” and answered appropriately as they also recognised it as a cynical political ploy.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s