Redford denies City’s request for community rink funding

EDMONTON- Premier Alison Redford has denied a request from the City of Edmonton for funding for a community rink, according to a letter released Friday.

In the letter, dated May 9, 2013, Mayor Stephen Mandel asked the government to consider contributing $7 million to help build the community rink, which would sit beside the downtown arena.

“The City has committed $7 million towards the capital cost and is looking for a cost sharing arrangement with the federal and provincial governments to provide funding assistance for the remaining $14 million. I ask your government to consider contributing $7 million (one-third) towards the project,” Mandel wrote.

But, in a letter dated June 11, 2013, Redford said while she admires the City’s commitment to develop the downtown core, the province already provides significant funding to municipalities through the Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI) program.

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“Additional provincial funds are not available to support the community rink project; however, the city may wish to consider using a portion of its remaining MSI funding,” Redford wrote.

“With project commitments of $1.216 billion to date, and an estimated $2.077 billion to be allocated over the course of the MSI program, the city could conceivably commit an additional $563 million to new projects,” she said.

Ward 12 Councillor, Amarjeet Sohi, says he’s disappointed by the premier’s response.

“We don’t receive the amount of MSI that we should be receiving based on our needs,” he said. “Every time we ask for money (the province says) ‘oh, use MSI.’ MSI is not sufficient. Either you increase the amount of MSI or you give us other tools that we can determine our own way of doing things.”

The 1,000 seat community rink would be owned and operated by the City of Edmonton and used by MacEwan University, rented out to local sports teams and used by the Oilers as a practice arena.

“If anybody should be putting in this money, for the Oilers practice rink, it’s the Katz Group, quite simply. It’s ridiculous that no public money is going into this facility,” said Ward 11 Councillor and mayoral candidate Kerry Diotte.

Ward 10 Councillor and mayoral candidate, Don Iveson, says he wasn’t surprised by Redford’s response.

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“I think it’s time that we accept that the province had the common sense to stay out of this one, and that what we should really be doing at this point is turning our attention to the largest ask we need of the province, which is LRT funding.”

Even though he asked the province for the money, on Friday Mandel said the money should come from MSI.

“It should come from that, but we’re getting other partners to put money into it and we’ll see what happens,” he explained. “People are overreacting to this. But, that’s where it should come from and I think the premier’s right on that.”

Ward 5 Councillor and fellow mayoral candidate, Karen Leibovici, says there is the option of delaying construction on the community rink. She believes the main priority should be the downtown arena.

“I’d prefer that we spend our time about how we’re going to ensure the entertainment district comes to life, because what we’re talking about is revitalizing the downtown. The community rink is a really, really small piece of it.”

The City was also seeking $7 million from the federal government, according to the letter obtained by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

Plans on the downtown arena will go ahead with or without the community rink.

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Both letters have been posted below:

Letters exchanged between Mayor Stephen Mandel and Premier Alison Redford.