Wednesday, July 18, 2012

#yegarena double-think

Tonight I sat through Inside Sports to listen to Kerry Diotte's arena argument. I don't agree with Kerry that we are at the beginning of an economic boom, the reasons of which are heavily documented on this blog, but I do agree with most he said otherwise.

What I really found interesting however is the double-think that was pervasive throughout the whole conversation. Now I realize that, being that this is a sports show, the debate and responses was going to be a little one sided. So far the only sports blogger I've seen that is critical of this deal is Ryan Batty - you all should support him, he's in the minority of his elk it seems. I wasn't prepared however for the clear distortion of terms and the general confusion of issues.

As soon as 630CHED posts the audio I will link to it and record exactly verbatum what was said for this blog post, but until then I will try my best to go on memory. I almost in fact called in when I heard Dan Tencer imply that those against the arena deal somehow don't want Katz to make any money.

This isn't really a post about the arena deal, it's really pointless to try and use logic and data to debate it. everything about the arena is an assumption, assumptions piled on top of other assumptions piled on top of others, with an added pinch of fear that comes in the form of constant reminders that if we don't give this NHL team something new to play in, they won't stay and play for us anymore. This post is instead going to focus on this distortion in the context of the arena.

Tonight Dan Tencer talked about how out of all the places that might not want Katz to make money, it was "Alberta". He was obviously eluding to our pro-industrial, pro-capitalist, conservative sub-culture. Again, I have to turn this statement around as well and say it's bizarre that out of all the provinces, Alberta with our "shovels in the ground attitude" is so hung up on trying to get government funding. Montreal was ironically used (by the same person) as a reason why Alberta should waste the money on an arena and as an example of how Quebec is spending too much money and are in debt due to government spending.

This arena clearly constitutes as corporate welfare, while those for the arena are quick to say that those against the arena are against Katz making money - I'd instead like to turn the tables and phrase it like this: I support hard working business owners, small business owners, etc, keeping their hard earned money. What's being proposed is known as a "wealth transfer", this is not capitalism or free-enterprise.

What it keeps coming down to is the anticipated surrounding developments and the available capital and credit and consumption. Any typical business would need to approach a bank, with a business plan, a loan would be issued, land deals would be made with the city and they would "just build it already" already. For those who just want "shovels in the ground", my suggestion would be to let Daryl Katz know that bank loans are not subject to the same municipal political procedures as pretending the city is a bank would, however since he is not going to a bank and getting his private enterprise an upgraded facility "the capitalist way", you are going to have to sit through a painfully long process where not much is accomplished while listening to all of the people voicing concerns and "talking" about everything you apparently don't want to hear. That's politics, suck it up, buttercup.

Do you know what capitalism is? Risk and reward. You take a risk, you get a reward, and the bigger the risk you take, the bigger the reward. The Katz Group is attempting to put all of the risk on to the city with this deal. The Katz Group gets to deal with the city, while the city has to deal with private banks. Debt secured by a municipality or government is quite different than the risks associated by corporate debt (yes, even in these ridiculously fraudulent banking times). Any penalties the city might levy against the Katz Group for a failure to meet a debt obligation would be a slap on the wrist at best. Not that the Katz Group is likely to miss a payment, with a maximum of 5.5million per year the payments pale in comparison to hockey player salaries as Kerry Diotte points out.

To conclude, why are Edmontonians so against keeping their hard-earned money for their needs? Comparisons between libraries, the art gallery, the LRT, and the arena concept are absolutely silly and an obvious attempt to grasp at straws. There is a difference in reasoning in why a person might say, not use the 23rd street interchange, and not want to pay the overpriced ticket and beer surcharge at an Oilers game.

I don't use the 23rd street interchange, but I didn't and don't oppose it. I do think it could have been planned better but the point is that interchange is there for when you need it. The LRT, likewise, you may not use it today but maybe in a couple years you accidentally have your car towed, or you get a DUI, or whatever. Huge accident, etc. the LRT will be there for you. The Library? The Museum? I'm sorry, history, science and discovery, the development of our society are high-priorities. Perhaps those listening to Dan Tencer are as he is, and doesn't use these facilities, doesn't even know whats in these facilities! Well, that's their loss - now isn't it?

With a library, I can have faith that even if the internet goes down one day, my children may have public access to books and literature. Museums provide a public, factual, and explained record so we can learn and understand about our environment. Today some Oiler's fans may look at these structures as no different than the entertainment provided by an arena, but they are quite different. Historically these institutes have played an important role in societies for hundreds of years.

Arenas, too, have played important historical significance. In Rome, the government sponsored stadiums to distract the public as economic growth failed and corruption prevailed.

The difference between these core facilities and infrastructure projects and an arena shouldn't even have to be discussed, regardless of how significant the team is to the city. If the team and the city are as close to being one as many in the pro-arena crowd would claim, then you are saying that a piece of Edmonton is willing to leave Edmonton for a quick buck or because they didn't get the money they begged the government for. "But.. But.. but.. they are a business!" you are probably saying. You're right, the Oilers are a business, they need to make business decisions - and if your fear in losing the Oilers revolves around possible business decisions then you must ask yourself why Edmontonians must sacrifice their hard earned money to keep the family together, when all it's going to take is a business decision to break it up. Maybe we should start making some business decisions, too.

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Richard Fantin is a self-taught software developer who has mostly throughout his career focused on financial applications and high frequency trading. He currently works for CenturyLink

Nazayh Zanidean is a Project Coordinator for a mid-sized construction contractor in Calgary, Alberta. He enjoys writing as a hobby on topics that include foreign policy, international human rights, security and systemic media bias.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous18/7/12 22:16

    Well thought-out commentary, Richard.

    Wish more folks would delve into this issue with thoughtful columns -- including a few more mainstream newspaper folks.

    Good on you for taking the time to write intelligently about this deal and to compare it to other projects.

    Keep up the good work.

    - Kerry Diotte