No Free Money For Senators Or Lansdowne … Period

 

If life were fair, new Senators’ owner Michael Andlauer wouldn’t get $300 million from the City of Ottawa to build a new arena downtown.

But then if life were fair, Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group wouldn’t be receiving a half-billion dollars from the city for Lansdowne for toys.

If life were fair, everybody in Ottawa would be receiving free money for going to the movies or luxurious dinners or vacations in the Bahamas or new video games or all the streaming services.

At Least Something Runs Well At City Hall

But taxpayers don’t get free money to squander on light-rail vanity projects (“we want an award-winning light-rail line:” OC Transpo general manager John Manconi. Awards for whom? Taxpayers?) or money-sucking charity projects such as Lansdowne or hundreds of millions for a new central library when the internet is the ideal location for such learning, not bricks and mortar. And that’s where the kids are … not on a polluted urban desert like LeBreton where a nearby train often works between month-long breakdowns, derailments and capacity and safety problems (that said, credit where credit is due. The city got everything right about light rail except the transportation).


Andlauer isn’t pulling the figure for the arena at $900 million out of a hat. That’s what the Calgary Flames new ice palace cost … $300 million each from the city, $300 million from the province and, god forbid, $300 million from the Flames themselves.

And if the city antes up $300 million for a downtown arena, do taxpayers get one-third of the proceeds from selling the huge parking lot and land surrounding the Canadian Tire Centre that will no doubt spawn condos, rental units and commercial in competition with the city’s pet project Lansdowne?

Andlauer says a new arena must make fiscal sense. So he should look at his finances, how much he can get for his property in Kanata, and how much he can get from his bankers for a loan. That’s what Ottawans do when they need the basics such as shelter … you know, a mortgage … not toys.

So if Andlauer can raise enough money and his new arena makes financial sense for his private owners, he should build it. And oh yes, will the city get one-third of the appreciation of Andlauer’s NHL franchise? Fair’s fair. You wonder why there was a star-studded lineup of buyers for the Senators? Appreciation. Not capital and operating costs. There’s a lot of millionaires hanging around the CTC.

Here are the responsibilities of the City of Ottawa: local governance, public safety (we need more paramedics and a better, not larger, police force), transportation (we have a transportation crisis), urban planning and development, waste management (hello, hundreds of millions of dollars for a new landfill or Plasco … whatever works best), water and sewer services (yes, hundreds of millions of dollar for a sewage tunnel to prevent raw muck from entering the Ottawa River which is so successful that it overflows during a big storm), parks and recreation (hey, renters are people, too), housing (we have a housing crisis), social services (taken a walk through the ByWard Market lately? … don’t take a bullet on the way), health (another Covid is coming), education, economic development, cultural services, environmental initiatives, licensing and permits, elections and civic engagement (a concept), financial management (another concept), infrastructure maintenance (been down a flat road lately?), emergency services, community and social development (seniors are having trouble getting a hot meal).

Funny? The list does not include free money for rich guys.

Now what’s more important, bailing out the principals at Lansdowne and the CTC or providing the services above? Easy answer.

As a family, people buy with their own money food, shelter, health, education … it goes on and on. The Playstation and Lego come later. The job of the city is to provide the basics so that our people and business can prosper. It is not to provide hundreds of millions of dollars to millionaires and billionaires.

The Senators have a perfectly good arena along a freeway in the fast-growing west end. The determinant of good attendance for NHL franchises is the performance of the team. The Senators have missed the playoffs for six seasons. Andlauer should stick to his knitting.

The new Senators’ owner looks like a good guy with excellent people skills and is a convincing salesman. We wish him great success in Kanata at the more-than-adequate arena he bought there. We wish him billions of dollars of appreciation and a Stanley Cup or two. We wish him financial success. Your agent will be cheering for his good young team.

But Lansdowne and the Senators are private businesses. Toys, not basics. So private businesses should run their operations privately. The city should provide the same services for them that it provides the taxpayers and citizens of Ottawa. Nothing more, nothing less.

Public money? Arenas, stadiums, airport hotels that don’t need it, strip malls in Orleans? No.

Trillium Line Audit Watch: Where’s The Procurement Probe?

We hope they will succeed but if they don’t, we defend their right to go bankrupt like so many businesses, tragically, do. Remember Nortel?

And as for public money for a $900-million arena, we think the owners of the Senators are rich enough to get financing from Canada’s large banks … like the rest of us do.

So the owners of the Senators should build their arena privately if it makes financial sense. That’s what the original owners of the Senators did.

Ken Gray

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