Ex-Councillor Admonishes Sutcliffe Over Lansdowne

Long-time Bay councillor Alex Cullen condemns Lansdowne proposal in an open letter to Mayor Mark Sutcliffe:

Mayor Mark Sutcliffe:

City Council should reject Lansdowne 2.0 – not only is it too rich for taxpayers, supports a private for-profit sports company (not what taxes are paid for), but it is a sinkhole for taxpayers money.

I bring a different perspective on Lansdowne Park, having been a pre-amalgamation City of Ottawa Councillor when the City ran Lansdowne Park, and then again as a post-amalgamation City Councillor when Lansdowne 1.0 occurred.

In the 1990s the City ran Lansdowne Park and got revenue from exhibitions, conventions, concerts and sporting events (including the fabled Rough Riders games), The City never made money from Lansdowne but it never meant to – it was a civic facility like community arenas, community centres and libraries. The Rough Riders and the 67’s hockey club were occasional renters.

By 2008 the City saw the dis-integration of the southside stands, the collapse of the Rough Riders football team, and the removal of the Central Canada Exhibition. City Council knew the southside stands had to be replaced, and was contemplating an international design competition to revive Lansdowne Park.

However, the Ottawa Sports & Entertainment Group (OSEG( stepped in with an unsolicited offer to take over the site (stadium and Civic Centre arena) and bring back CFL football, provided it could benefit from retail development on the site plus build a condo tower and some townhouses. OSEG promised a world-class destination and future revenues to the City. Council fell for OSEG’s dream.

LANSDOWNE LIVE CHAT: Here’s The Transcript

Ten years later OSEG is back, asking for more retail development to support its business, plus a new taxpayer-funded northside stands, and more residential development. Again the promise to the City is a share of future revenues (the City never did get a share of Lansdowne 1.0’s revenues).

At $419 million this is a very rich subsidy (both in dollars and in public land) to support a private for-profit sports company. It must be rejected. The premises behind the proposal are dubious and the benefits are far from certain. More importantly, though, is the opportunity cost of spending over $400 million of tax dollars on this venture when there are far more important public priorities for Ottawa’s taxpayers – fixing LRT immediately comes to mind, affordability housing is another.

To govern is to choose. There are better choices for $419 million than Lansdowne 2.0.

Alex Cullen
Ottawa City Councillor (pre-amalgamation) 1991-1994
Ottawa City Councillor (post-amalgamation) 2000-2010



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3 Responses

  1. MM says:

    Plus property tax, bus fare, water, parking (on street/city garages) and other fees set to rise, this is not a good look for Sutcliffe to be on the side of developers instead of the citizens. It’s clear he has abandoned the city of Ottawa citizens, the very people he is suppose to represent.

  2. Been There says:

    Sutcliffe’s intention was never to represent the citizens of Ottawa. He was a radio personality picked for his brand and name recognition by Ottawa’s conservative older demographic – some might say former Mayor Watson’s base. He was given one job by his OSEG and Watson sponsors- give Landsdowne Park to OSEG. This goal has consumed him , to the point of ignoring all of the cities pressing priorities and as MM states abandoning the people that thought they were electing a leader.

  3. The Voter says:

    Sutcliffe also isn’t concerned about being re-elected so it doesn’t matter to him who he offends or upsets while he plays the role of mayor. In the four-year mandate that some of the city’s voters gave him, if he can get Lansdowne 2.0 approved and entrenched then he has done what he was sent there for. He may dabble in some other less important files but this was his mission.

    I have to say I was astounded by his seeking approval from staff before voting on such enormous issues. On a couple of occasions, he specifically asked staff if they supported the motion under consideration and when they said “No”, he said he wouldn’t support the motion. I thought his role was to represent the citizens of Ottawa, not the views of staff. Staff are there to provide information and advice, not to instruct elected officials in how to vote. Of course, he may think this gives him access to the Trump defense that he took the word of the people paid to work on these things.

    Definitely not the mayor this city needs.

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