Sunday, July 22, 2012

On failed strategies

Let's follow up with one more point from Bruce Johnstone's attempt to justify ramming through a stadium deal without any serious public input - which speaks less to the stadium project than to the bona fides of the politicians who are pushing it:
Is it perfect? No, because unlike some places, like Texas or Indiana, we don't have rich sugar daddies, like Jerry Jones, who helped bankroll the $1-billion-plus Cowboys Stadium in Dallas or Forrest Lucas of Lucas Oil, who bought the naming rights for Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis for $121 million.

Roughriders football fans, Saskatchewan taxpayers, in general, and Regina property taxpayers, in particular, will have to foot the bill for the $278-million project.
Given that we have precious few rich patrons or private companies that want to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on sports stadiums, governments are generally on the hook when the time comes to build or renovate sports and recreation facilities.
Now, Johnstone is right in saying that none of the private-sector actors who have been constantly courted by both Pat Fiacco's city administration and Brad Wall's provincial government has shown an iota of interest in contributing the legacy project both have long demanded. But let's question why that's still the case.

By all indications, Saskatchewan's corporate sector has been handed anything it could have possibly asked for and more over the past few years. Wall has offered to pay effectively the entire cost of any resource-sector operator's head office in exchange for the privilege of having it located in Saskatchewan. And Regina (like most municipalities) has then doubled down with additional tax breaks for businesses who deign to operate within city limits.

So we've tied up hundreds of millions of public dollars in trying to offer a sweet enough deal to attract exactly the type of sugar daddy who might be expected to fund projects like the stadium plan. And both Wall and Fiacco appear to have concluded that their efforts are a failure - meaning that we'll be on the hook for hundreds of millions more to make up for the corporate community spirit that hasn't materialized as promised.

Of course, one could argue that the problem is simply one of time - that we'll need to wait for BHP Billiton, Mosaic and others to actually put down roots in Saskatchewan's cities before we can expect them to offer any support for community projects. But it would be downright absurd to push ahead with a new stadium on the public dime now if we can expect there to be genuine private-sector funding (in the sense of contributions, not mere laundering through a P3 structure) in just a few years.

Instead, it seems more likely that Wall and Fiacco have just now reached a conclusion that seemed obvious to some of us from the beginning: that banking on the community spirit of mercenaries is a losing proposition. And if we can't count on big-money benefactors to contribute to even the most jingoistic of social projects, then it's about time to take back the goodies which were supposed to lure them here in the first place.

No comments:

Post a Comment