Friday, December 20, 2002

City of Ottawa Subsidizes Mercenary Sport:

On September 19th I went before the City of Ottawa Health, Social Services and Recreation Committee to request that the City act on earlier requests for the provision of interim facilities and/or financial support for the local athletics community to bridge to such time as, hopefully, the City build an indoor training facility.

This request came after the committee had delayed the start of the meeting to donate $5,000.00 of taxpayers money to the charity of choice of a retiring City senior recreation manager - one who was not particularly sympathetic to the plight of the local athletics community.

When the committee responded to the request with the standard "we have no money, yada yada.." response (remember, this is just minutes after they burned $5,000 as mentioned above), I responded that I thought it strange that a city that subsidized three mercenary sports teams, the Senators hockey team, Renegades football team and the Lynx baseball team could not support an indoor training facility. Councillor Alex Munter, the chairman of the committee, responded that they did not subsidize these teams. This is the same Alex Munter who at an RMOC meeting on the 8th of December, 1999 put forth a motion that recognized that "...whereas Kanata bearing a disproportionate burden for Corel Center tax reduction is only a one-year situation, until the new city of Ottawa comes into effect, at which time the cost of this reduction will be spread across the region...". If it looks like a subsidy, smells like a subsidy and walks like a subsidy, it's a subsidy Mr. Munter.

The facts are as follows:

1. It is a matter of public record that the City built a single-use facility baseball stadium for the Lynx expending over $20 million of taxpayers money. This stadium is the biggest white elephant in the City and when the Lynx leave town it will make a great snow dump.

2. The Renegades have a three year rent free deal at Lansdowne Park.

3. The Senators had their property tax bill reduced from $4.6 million to $700,000 as part of a collusion between the Province of Ontario, the City of Kanata and the RMOC in 1999. This deal continues today under the new City of Ottawa.

Any rational person would agree that these three teams are being subsidized.
In fact in speaking with a city tax official, when asked if he would characterize the Senators deal as a subsidy, he said that, yes ,the Senators were being subsidized by the City of Ottawa and the Province. The yearly subsidy by the City for the Senators would almost pay for an indoor training bubble facility by itself.

The City's study on an indoor training facility is proceeding at a pace that will see global warming eliminate the need for an indoor facility in the City.

At the very least the City should provide a subsidy to the athletics community towards the use of the Coliseum at Lansdowne Park.

Posted by Ken Parker

Ken Parker has been a runner, coach, race director and sponsor for the past 25 years+ in Ottawa. He has been involved in several initiatives to get the City to build an indoor training facility over this time.