My answer is no.
I am not saying no because the request was announced to a room full of people other than City Councilors (at a building owners and managers industry luncheon).
I am not saying no because our municipal borrowing power is limited by law, nor because what’s left within our ‘credit limit’ will be needed for the most part to fund our portion of the next phases of LRT, should the province in turn come forward to fund the NAIT, West and Millwoods LRT lines.
I am not saying no because the Coliseum (as I knew it growing up) has a generation of functional life left in it as far as I can tell, nor am I saying no because Northlands needs a better seat for any new scheme than the spot in the nose-bleeds they currently occupy.
I am not saying no because the deal seems to be changing and Katz’s $100M seems to be off the table for the arena and is now proposed to go toward the surrounding development.
I am not saying no because the province just cut the Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI) grants for infrastructure from $260M to $160M for 2010.
All of these are related issues, but the two reasons I am saying no are:
Firstly, because it’s not our City’s place to give private industry access to government borrowing power. We are fortunate enough as municipalities in Alberta to borrow through something called Alberta Capital Finance, which – thanks to the fiscal discipline of both local governments and the province – enjoys among the best credit ratings you’ll find (and thus lowest interest rates) anywhere. The public sector has earned this. The private sector has not. Which raises another question about who else would we do this for, or alternately why for an arena and not, say, for a hotel/spa?
The second reason I am saying no is that I knocked on thousands of doors in 2007 and this issue was raised by at least a thousand people. Only one told me the city should help finance a new arena. So I have my marching orders.
This is a relief. I was waiting for something concrete I could react to. So there you have it.
(Update: this has provoked some vigorous follow up debate in the blogosphere and on Twitter. Some fair critiques of style and rhetoric. Guess I shouldn’t write these while taking a redeye flight. One clarification I should have added: I am not against a planning application to develop something like what’s been proposed. It could be compatible and positive for downtown. However, I’ve always seen the financing question as separate.)