SHOW ME THE MONEY
City Council has approved a financial framework to build four new megaprojects over the next few years.
Those projects are the expansion to the BMO convention Centre, Phase I of the new Arts Commons, a new field house, and a new NHL arena and entertainment centre.
The decision comes after hours and hours of secret, in-camera meetings.
The combined cost of these projects is $1.5 billion - a massive sum of taxpayer money that will limit the City's ability to invest in other areas, including limiting future tax increases.
There are a whole lot of unanswered questions around this issue - here are some of the ones we have:
1. Will moving forward with these four projects raise taxes on either Calgary's homeowners or businesses?
Calgarians are already struggling to make ends meet during these tough economic times - we simply cannot afford to pay ever-higher taxes, especially when Calgary hasn't even explored ways to cut costs like cutting city employee salaries, wages, benefits, and pensions.
2. If taxpayer dollars are going to be used to fund these projects, what value will taxpayers receive in return?
It is very likely that taxpayer dollars will be used to fund all of these projects. If that's the case, will taxpayers also be getting new revenue streams in return? Will taxpayers retain ownership of these new assets?
3. What exactly is the funding plan for these new projects?
There's been the talk of using savings, existing funds, and future revenue sources to pay for these projects, but we have no concrete details about the funding plan. This was one of the major concerns Calgarians had about our dismal Olympics bid - too many unanswered questions about how costs would be paid for. We need full and complete information where the $1.5 billion will be sourced.
4. Will Calgary taxpayers have the chance to review the proposed plan and provide input before City Council pulls the trigger?
To date, most of the discussions around these projects have occurred in secret meetings, with City Councillors prevented from sharing what they've been told with voters. It is imperative that Calgarians be given the full plan and given the opportunity to provide their feedback before City Council moves forward with spending $1.5 billion.
5. Are all four of these projects necessary right now?
City of Calgary senior bureaucrats has warned that funding all four of these projects will put Calgary under serious financial strain. Does the City really need to move with all four of them simultaneously? Can one or more of them be delayed?
These are a few of the questions that Calgarians are asking about these issues, and they rightly expect City Council to provide answers before they endorse this plan.
When can we expect answers from our municipal politicians?