Against the new GTA Arena: Marilyn Ginsburg, director of the Markham Citizens Coalition for Responsive Government
For the past year, I have been part of a group of Markham residents that has actively opposed the idea of Markham borrowing $325 million, plus interest, to build a 20,000-seat arena, primarily for the benefit of the private sector. Many ordinary residents have spent thousands of volunteer hours fighting this proposal. Why?
Secrecy, secrecy and more secrecy. We are offended by the idea of our mayor and some senior staff of the city negotiating behind closed doors for two years on this massive financial deal without informing the public, and even other members of council, of their plans. This would be the largest loan ever taken out by the City of Markham, and there should have been full transparency from the very beginning. Also, this is a private facility, like the Air Canada Centre. It will be a ticketed venue, not a community ice rink. There will be only approximately 13 days of pre-approved community use per year. In addition (and because this will be a municipal capital facility) the city will give up $3.75million per year in property taxes. We will also give up about $20 million in development charges. Furthermore, part of the city’s loan was to be repaid with “section 37” (from the Planning Act) money, funds which are designated to provide parks and other community amenities in areas undergoing intensification. Those communities need parks for their kids much more than a private arena. A major part of the city’s loan is to be repaid with the use of “special levies,” for which there is no legal authority in Ontario. They will be charged to developers, who will then include them in the price of new condos and homes. This would result in each unit costing the buyer an average of $5,000 extra! Finally, our research has shown there is little economic benefit to our residents or our local businesses from an arena of this nature. So, who is protecting the interests of the taxpayers here?