Liberals shouldn’t fund BMO Field expansion, Tories say

An overview of BMO Field. Claus Andersen / Getty Images

TORONTO – Ontario’s governing Liberals must stop doling out taxpayer dollars to wealthy companies and celebrities while cutting funding for community events, the opposition parties said Monday.

Multimillionaire rap star Drake was reportedly awarded a $300,000 grant from the government to stage his two-day OVO Fest in Toronto this summer.

Yet Toronto’s Beaches Jazz Festival – a free event – didn’t qualify for a grant under the same program, called Celebrate Ontario.

Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, a company that’s estimated to be worth $2 billion, wants $10 million from the province to upgrade BMO Field in Toronto – a city-owned property.

The company that owns the Toronto Maple Leafs, Toronto Raptors, and Toronto’s professional soccer team says it will put in $90 million for the upgrade, but only if it gets $30 million from the city, province and federal government.

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A spokeswoman for Infrastructure Minister Denis Lebel said Ottawa will not provide any money.

“I can tell you that the federal government has no program to fund professional sports facilities,” Michele-Jamali Paquette said in an email.

“In fact, our government has decided against creating such a program. This decision is applied consistently across the country.”

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford was the only member of the city’s executive committee to vote against giving MLSE money, saying the private sector – not taxpayers – should foot the bill.

The governing Liberals, who are facing a $12-billion deficit, are still considering the proposal.

Read More: MLSE boss has choice words for Rob Ford after he votes against funding

“They did submit a request,” said Tourism Minister Michael Chan. “We are looking at it.”

It’s bad enough that they quietly gave $500,000 to MLSE to help secure the 2016 NBA all-star game for Toronto – a grant Premier Kathleen Wynne defended, the Ontario Tories said.

MLSE is one of the most successful sports companies in the world, said critic Rod Jackson. Drake doesn’t need any help either.

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“These are things that make money on their own, they’re making these companies money, and then we subsidize it,” he said.

“For what? They’re already going to run them at a profit. It makes absolutely no sense and it’s indicative of how this government runs just about everything.”

Chan defended the decision, saying Celebrate Ontario is a competitive program, which attracted 441 applications last year, and supports many events across the province.

“Unfortunately this year, the jazz festival, the proposal they submitted – they were not able to make it,” he said.


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