2017 Calgary mayoral candidates Q&A: How much should taxpayers contribute to a new arena?

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WATCH: Mayoral candidates Andre Chabot, Naheed Nenshi and Bill Smith answer the question: Do you support spending city taxpayers’ money on a new arena and if so, how much of an investment should the city and taxpayers be asked to make? – Oct 10, 2017

Global News asked our Calgary viewers and readers to tell us which issues matter most ahead of the municipal election on Oct. 16.

The prospect of how a new arena should be funded was among the top concerns.

We asked all 10 mayoral candidates to answer your questions below, keeping answers to six sentences per issue. Their answers are reprinted here, edited only to meet our Global News editorial standards.

FULL COVERAGE: 2017 Calgary municipal election


How much do you think taxpayers should contribute to a new arena in Calgary? Would you choose the city’s current plan, Ken King’s plan or do you have a new plan for getting an arena built?

Answer from Jason (Jason GoGo) Achtymichuk:

“This arena attracts locals and tourists to games, concerts and special events. It is essential for the vibrancy and economic well-being of our city. The current Saddledome is antiquated, it is the oldest in the NHL and ill-equipped to hold major events. There are primary and secondary financial benefits to the new arena, but the tertiary effects are limitless. Overall, I’m supportive of contributions to bridge the gap for what I see the city can offer. I can’t put a number on it without being in the room, but I support hard fiscal contributions.”

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Answer from Andre Chabot:

“I have been very vocal that I am committed to getting a deal, but not with property tax dollars. I am the only mayoralty candidate who has come forward with a plan to fund the arena with a collaboration of private investments instead of the burden being solely on the City and Calgary Sports and Entertainment Group.”

Answer from Brent Chisholm:

No response by publication time.

Answer from Emile Gabriel:

“New plan: I am in favour of starting to build a world-class sports complex at the most suitable location in the city and partner with investors, so Calgarians do not have to be burdened by extra taxes. The partnership will be based on mutual benefits and the city remaining in control of its assets. This approach will put the power of negotiation back in the hands of Calgarians and turn the tables, placing Calgary in a position where teams will be looking and begging to make our world-class facilities and arena their home. The city will need a state-of-the-art multi-purpose sports complex in order to:

  • Have a bigger arena and other needed facilities
  • Provide ice time for Calgarians who love to play but are faced with lack of time availability and existing facilities
  • Stop losing business to other cities
  • Generate significant new revenue for the city”

Answer from Larry Heather:

“I support the Victoria option under 50/50 per cent funding plan, but not using a district CRL [community revitalization levy], as it unfairly burdens the remaining taxpayers outside of that zone. A 35-year lease with no property taxes and no additional charges flowing over to an ‘Entertainment’ mecca around it. Professional sports (a business with great risks in player investment) and a ‘Huge’ congregating place is a sociological necessity in an energized municipality. Socialist politicians, equalizing the mediocre, cannot stand the exceptionalism found in professional sports and want to tax the daylights out of it to bring it under their control.”
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Answer from David Lapp:

“Let’s make a deal. Any self-respecting city needs an arena — not to mention a stadium. It will pay off in spades economically, creating jobs, tourism, and small business opportunities. It’s an incredibly inspirational X-factor that will have immeasurable amounts of positive impact on the community at large and at an arguably tolerable price. Expected to be a roughly 50/50 cost split, a public-private partnership is the only sane way to shoulder the shared load of this important project. Those making up the Flames’ ownership group have been model corporate citizens over the course of decades of friendly cooperation in Calgary and I look forward to that continuing.”

Answer from Naheed Nenshi:

“I want a new arena but it needs to be a win-win deal where the City shares in both the risk and the upside. As I have been saying for months, public spending must have public benefit. A new arena could be an important addition to a cultural and entertainment district in the east end of downtown, and the City remains at the table, ready to negotiate. I believe the City’s current proposal to split the $555 million cost of the new arena equally between the fans, the Flames, and the City is eminently reasonable. So to be clear, I am in favour of some public money going towards supporting the new arena project, provided that the City shares in the upside of the arena and gets a vibrant new community in the deal.”

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Answer from Curtis Olson:

“The Calgary Flames are very important to our city as they provide both economic/social value and it is advantageous to ensure this professional sports franchise remains in Calgary. That said, given that the discussions between the City of Calgary and the Flames have broken down, there is work to be done in restoring this relationship. Then, and only then, will we be able to initiate an arena proposal that includes a fact-based, clearly outlined cost/benefit analysis upon which to make a decision.”

Answer from Bill Smith:

“I’m as confused as anyone about the deal/no deal. Who knows what the truth is? The fact is, there is no deal and there never will be one under the current mayor. Other cities across North America seem to be able to work with their sports teams. Why can’t we? Like most Calgarians, I’d like the Flames to stay, but any new deal has to accurately balance cost and benefit, and put Calgary taxpayers first.”

Answer from Stan (the Man) Waciak:

“An arena — what a question. Every time people go there, they are investing in the arena. How much should people pay? I have a better plan. Vote me in and I’ll show you how it’s done.”

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