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Canadian Style Stadium Financing

2010 September 13
by Brad Humphreys

Phil Miller mentioned in passing the new $400 million arena proposal floating around Quebec City these days.  Never mind that building a new arena without a tenant is a stupendously bad idea unless you like being the “rumored destination” for every franchise that wants to blackmail a new arena out of the local government.  Never mind that the Nordiques didn’t set the world on fire when they were in Quebec.  Up here in the great white north, we do things with a certain panache, a je ne sais quoi. In keeping with this tradition, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced last week that he was open to the idea of federal subsidies for sports facility construction projects.

Granted, the federal government in the US implicitly subsidizes the construction of sports facilities by allowing them to be financed with tax exempt bonds, forgoing the tax revenues that would be collected from the interest on those bonds.  But no federal official, to my knowledge, has ever floated the idea of direct government subsidization  of sport facility construction.  In the US, such stupidity is reserved for state and local government officials.

Harper has been backpedaling furiously since he made the statement.  Probably because of the long lineup of other team owners that appeared outside his office minutes after Harpers’ pronouncement.  Edmonton, Calgary, Regina, and Halifax all want new facilities for their NHL or CFL teams (or to attract a team, in the case of Halifax).   Here in Alberta, where the Oilers and Flames have been seeking hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidies to replace Rexall Place and the Saddledome, which was built for the 1988 Olympics, Premier Ed Stelmach quickly announced that no provincial funds would be used for the construction of new sports facilities.

One Response
  1. Duane Rockerbie permalink
    September 13, 2010

    Harper needs any sort of popularity he can get in Quebec and what better way than to build a state of the art arena to do that thing where they ice skate down a luge run (or try to). Much more comfortable for spectators to watch it indoors. They could also do those comedy shows there that are always on reruns on the CBC. You know, those jokes that make people there laugh but we really don’t understand in the west. Harper is from Calgary, so he is as clueless as the rest of us out here, but we just smile and laugh a little anyway and call it culture. Or maybe a federal Liberal convention?

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