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EDITORIAL CARTOON: Dec. 17, 2018
EDITORIAL CARTOON: Dec. 18, 2018
Would you like the city of Halifax to pay off your mortgage? Would you like your neighbours to also help pay your mortgage? This, my friends, is the proposal from the group that wants to build a football stadium!
Anthony LeBlanc, one of the stadium sponsors, proposes a “tax-increment financing model” (TIF). This plan is described as follows: “The property tax normally generated by the development would be set aside and returned as payment against the debt on the facility.” The property taxes would include the property taxes for the stadium and neighbouring businesses. New taxes are also proposed on hotel and car rentals to help pay for this folly.
The debt is estimated at $9 million or $10 million annually, and you know how accurate that will be! This would be equivalent to a two per cent raise in your city tax rate.
This is a prime example of so-called private enterprise, where society pays the bills and capitalists take the profit! Perhaps we should wait until the new convention centre is paid off before the city takes on another unlimited liability.
Dave Harvey, Dartmouth
I do not want my tax dollars spent on a football stadium. There are far greater priorities in Nova Scotia, such as health care (including new nursing homes), education, poverty reduction and infrastructure renewal.
Kathleen Bruce, Head Chezzetcook
Launch the Schooners
I join with many other voices supporting the proposal to locate a CFL franchise in HRM. The recent East and West finals demonstrated in spades the high level of enthusiastic public support in Ottawa and Calgary. Halifax, Nova Scotia and the Maritimes deserve to share in that type of excitement first-hand. The Atlantic Schooners football club could be the next Ottawa- or Saskatchewan-style football success story. No doubt, the Schooners will raise the region’s profile and help boost civic and provincial pride.
The time is right for Halifax to secure a CFL franchise. The city’s growth and economy are strong, the proposal is backed by reputable owners with strong regional ties, a reasonable business plan has been developed, the region has an enthusiastic football fan base and the proposed location for the new stadium at Shannon Park has excellent potential.
The stadium is doable. The proposed design does not seem extravagant. Several other major Canadian cities have made it happen, none of which appear to be worse for the wear. Should we “give away the farm” to get the stadium? No, of course not. But should we contribute towards a project that will enhance HRM? Yes, we should. So my message to decision-makers is: Find a way to make it happen; don’t let this opportunity slip away!
Gary Westoll, Truro
Too close to the water
Oh, dear. Shannon Park is the proposed Schooners football team’s stadium.
I’m amazed at this. Bringing CFL-event traffic into the city and after the game, a mass exodus. Another narrow concentration of traffic on streets ill-equipped to handle the volume.
Then there is the greater thoughtlessness and the perennial human habit of ignoring environmental issues that stare you in the face. Investing in something of this nature and magnitude and locating it just a few feet above the high-water mark is utterly insane. I need say no more because the science is again staring us in the face.
Vanity and power are the damnations of Halifax’s progress, methinks.
Sandy Roberton, Bedford
The proposed CFL stadium for Halifax has become a “Dead Man Walking” saga. With HRM council facing a possible tax increase for 2019 and 2020 or loss of public services, it will be political suicide for any mayor or council to vote for a stadium that requires any public money, period.
The only reprieve for the investors will be to solely use their own money.
HRM residents are smarter than these investors estimated, and we will not be duped into reckless spending. The problem is we have a mayor and council who are somewhat willing to be cheerleaders, using public money for nothing more than a photo op.
Jim Hoskins, Halifax
Let’s intercept profits
Re: “Four reasons to build stadium” (Nov. 26 letter). I agree with John Pendergast. The football franchise seems such a great economic opportunity that it is clearly the Big Chance for investors. Indeed, I expect potential investors would call foul should the government horn in on the action to steal their profits.
Dermot monaghan, Kingston
If HRM councillors want a stadium, perhaps they should personally sign the guarantee for the borrowed money. If the business case can be made, then why should the province or city pony up one cent?
I, and many others, do not want our provincial or municipal taxes to increase to cover this boondoggle. Nor do I want my children saddled with any more public debt to cover the dreams of the millionaire organizers of this foolish enterprise.
Perhaps we should concentrate on a new hospital to serve everyone in the province rather than a stadium to serve a small minority of the population. It seems that council is slowly pushing this idea down our throats, one inch at a time, getting us slowly used to its inevitability, rather than choking us all at once.
Brian Smith, Dartmouth
Now that they’ve come up with a name, my fear is that they’ll show off a mascot, then they’ll maybe even tentatively sign a player or two, and people will get excited, and the whole thing will become a self-fulfilling prophecy — council and the province won’t want to be seen as the spoilers, and they’ll end up giving in and funding the stadium.
John Davie, Halifax
Other hidden costs
Here are a couple of reasons not to build a CFL stadium:
The main one would be the unknown/uncertain attendance figures for events, but a very close second would be costs probably required to be borne by HRM taxpayers and really ancillary to the cost of the main structure complete with amenities.
These costs follow:
1. The installation of new services and utilities to the site (warer, sewerage, electrical power, communications, etc.).
2. The construction of paved streets and parking lots, complete with underground stormwater runoff structures and outfalls.
3. Regular maintenance and operating costs of the above-noted services and structures, both above and below ground.
These costs are outside the stadium cost itself and will be whose responsibility? Without knowing all the details being negotiated between the stadium proponents and HRM, my guess would be you and I, the HRM taxpayers.
With a property tax increase looming in the near future, I strongly question the real need for a CFL stadium at this time, whether it be built in Shannon Park or anywhere else in our city.
I vote a resounding “No” for this stadium.
Don Carter, P.Eng., Dartmouth
I’ve always been a supporter of HRM Mayor Mike Savage until he suggested we must take a gamble on a football stadium. Many people said that he wants this at all costs as a legacy.
As we know, neither matter nor energy can be created or destroyed, but merely changed. This is the same with money. No new money will be created; it will only be spent on things other than football.
At a $180-million minimum capital cost, that comes to $200 per every person in Nova Scotia. If the crowds were at capacity, it still means 24,000 spectators per game — only about two per cent of the population of Nova Scotia will be attending, with the other 98 per cent picking up the tab (not to mention continued upkeep, etc.)
It’s time to deflate the ego and put this to a vote! It’s the right thing to do.
Tom Brady, New Glasgow
McNeil should nix bid
If the trust in public officials is at an all-time low, it is because of potential deals like the CFL stadium.
When the Halifax regional council met privately with the CFL promoters and agreed to be bound by the promoters’ non-disclosure terms, they gave up too much control over the deal. The promoters are telling us what financing arrangements they expect: the ITF diversion of commercial property taxes, new taxes on hotel rooms and car rentals. They get to promote their version of the stadium story to the public, and city council is not challenging or qualifying any of it.
The Halifax Chamber of Commerce has also been strangely silent about the proposed subsidies for the stadium. The Chamber has been campaigning for tax fairness and for fewer fees, so why are they giving the CFL promoters a free pass?
Mayor Mike Savage says that the city needs to see the business case before deciding on the stadium proposal. Given the recent dismissal of city planner Bob Bjerke, city staff must be keenly aware that an unfavourable finding will not be well received, so they must walk a very fine line.
They have no experience operating a football franchise, so the safe choice will be to use the CFL’s own attendance projections, the CFL’s estimate of stadium costs, and the CFL financing model, with some minor adjustments to give the appearance of due diligence. For the many parts of the deal that are not yet agreed on, they can make assumptions that favour the stadium.
Mr. Savage seems indifferent to the economics of it. He has already stated that we should not expect this type of venture to pay for itself. All that Halifax regional council needs is a report that says that the stadium is unlikely to become an economic burden. But no knowledgeable, competent person would ever give such an assurance. So what is the point of it?
Some years ago, city council was hopelessly entangled in the Commonwealth Games proposal, and it was Premier Rodney MacDonald who saved the day by saying “no” to any financing. This time, the unpleasant task of bringing the city back in line falls on Premier Stephen McNeil. The stadium can’t go ahead without new provincial legislation for the ITF and for new hotel and car rental charges. He needs to say “no” to all of it.
Mark Porter, Dartmouth
So much is being said, so little is being offered. How does a city of 400,000 support a CFL team? Surely not with the few tax dollars available (see our doctor shortage, failing infrastructure, etc.).
To suggest that people all over the Atlantic Canada will attend games is absurd. “Jobs, jobs, jobs” always turns out to be a red herring, regardless of the enterprise. Any tax dollars spent on corporate initiatives need to be vetted in a way that assures long-term growth and sustainability.
And while I’m at it, give Shannon Park back to the Mi’kmaq of Sipekne’katik — the people it was taken away from in the first place. Let them negotiate with any interested parties.
And finally, those claiming there’s been an exponential growth in Halifax lately have either their head “where the sun don’t shine” or are simply over-hyping their point. If anything, the rate of growth has decreased over the past 18 years.
As great of a game as the CFL offers, there are no public resources in the Maritimes to support this dream. Let’s not turn it into a nightmare.
Marke Slipp, Port Williams