Friday, January 20, 2012

Jan. 20: Moncton: The City that exists to get ripped off...

Today's editorial in The Moncton Times and Transcript brought a tear to my eye. A highly successful developer (land, stadia, hockey teams, hotels) is rumoured to have bought land around the Crown Plaza Hotel (which he already owns). That, says the editorial writer, is admirable. It shows confidence in the people of Moncton and in the City Council which has been working to build a hockey rink/convention/centre/entertaintment palace in the same area. Very admirable.Lots of character. That's the part that brought the tear to me eye.

It brought to mind a childhood friend who had a similar goal in life. He wanted to show confidence in the banks of Montreal. So he worked hard, studied hard to become an armed bank robber, with each sortie building confidence among Montrealers that there was, indeed, money in their banks.

(Alas! He strayed from his charitable work to deal in drugs as well.As a result, he is now spending the rest of his life in a big, stone and steel hockey rink near Montreal. But I digress.)

As a Monctonian, I am indeed proud that the developer, Aquilini Investment Group, is showing faith that there is money to be made in Moncton - just as my friend devoted his life to showing faith in the banks. But---

The whole basis of this plan is that we are going to put up the money to build the essential hockey stadium/convention centre/ emtertainment palace/whatever. Estimates of the cost to us tax-payers and rate-payers have ranged from a low of sixty million dollars to somewhere north of two hundred million dollars.

From that vague starting point, The Moncton Times and Transcript has led parade for us taking on an enormous debt (at a time when the province is cutting its never-very-impressive services for ordinary people) to deal with an already overwhelming debt.

To that vague start of mumbling about millions, the Tand T and City Council have added nothing whatever about economic benefits. Who will get the profits of this investment? Some ushers will get jobs, sure. A few restaurants will. Some bellhops and cleaners at the Crown Plaza. But where, precisely, will the big profits go? How much of them will even stay in the province?

And that's not even considering the impact of a world recession that shows every sign of getting worse, and perhaps lasting for a very long time.

And what will we cut to make it possible to pay back anywhere from 60 to200 plus millions of dollars? Will we cut back on housing? Education? Medical care? So that those who can afford it can watch hockey in a new stadium?

Remember how this started. It was all about a hockey stadium. Just a hockey stadium. But it was so obvious that the only person to benefit from a new hockey stadium was the owner of the hockey team, that it was morphed into a hockey stadium/convention centre. Then, somebody noticed that the world has no shortage of convention centres, some of them in cities even more exciting than Moncton. So It is now a hockey stadium/convention centre/entertainment palace - with more, no doubt to follow.

The has been pushed hard by city council and by The TandT - in the face of no noticeable enthusiasm from the general public. It is being done with no information about costs, projected profits, or who would benefit from those projects. It is being done with no sense of what the priorities of government at any level should be. This is not just amateurisn. It smells bad.

I would not dream of accusing City Council or the TandT of having been corrupted. They may well just be stupid and incompetent. But it still smells bad.

As well as I understand capitalism, the theory is that investors raise and risk their own money. The whole justification for them in making big money is that they have taken risks to get it. The theory is also that investors compete with each other. The defining works on capitalism say nothing about government help in the form of grants,gifts. tax exemptions, "private/public" partnerships, - or using newspapers for propaganda.

We don't have capitalism. What we have is a  welfare state for corporations. It has gone so far that corporations are openly involved in the business of government - providing most of the financing for politicians who promise to be good, controlling our access to news about our own governments. Even, as in New Brunswick, naming their own people to government bodies.

This is not capitalism. Much of what we have is defined in dictionaries as coporatism, a system that is one of the varieties of fascism.

A new hockey stadium at whatever price should rank very low indeed on our list of priorities. And if it is to be built, let those who have become wealthy on our resources and our work, use their own money to build it.

I will believe in their confidence in Moncton's future when I see their money - and only their money - on the table.

In short, if any of the corporate bosses in New Brunswick think a  hockey rink/whatever is a sound investment, let that corporate boss use his own money. Meanwhile, I suggest editors of The TandT read a few books about what capitalism is and what democracy is.

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