Against the new GTA Arena: Mar­i­lyn Gins­burg, di­rec­tor of the Markham Cit­i­zens Coali­tion for Re­spon­sive Govern­ment

Richmond Hill Post - - Face Off -

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?

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