Saturday, February 2, 2013

Feb. 2: Li-ar. li-ar, pants on fi-re.....

The great issue in Moncton is the building a hundred million dollar 'events' centre  (hockey rink). This debate has been going on with one, constant theme in The Moncton Times and Tribune. At no point has the tandt said a word of criticism or doubt about the whole thing. It hasn't even asked any questions about it. Insteand, news items and opinion columns and editorials have been open and obvious pimping for this scheme.

Anyone was has ever followed one of these projects knows that it is almost invariably a scam to rip off the general public in order to make money for a team owner, for contractors with the right connections, and/or land owners who have worthless land to sell.

Such schemes are usualy sponsored by a municipal or other government (with some private but often shady connections)  because only a damn fool of a private business investor would think such a scheme would possibly make a profit. Uusually, they are big losers, and expensive big losers.  Few are ever finished within the estimated cost. Few make any money except for the millionaire hockey team owners and other promoters who make special deals to get the profit while we pick up the debt.

As a general rule, events centres do NOT bring in new money, do NOT make a proft, do NOT attract business into the district, do NOT make huge hotel profits....

Hockey rinks, stadia, events centres are a mug's game. That's why private investors either stay out of of it, or go in for just a share with us mugs picking up the rest of the tab.

I mention this because some two weeks ago, Brent Mazerolle wrote a very superficial story about the John Labatt centre in London, Ontario, and what a great success it is. I have no idea whether that's true and, given the limited research evident in that story, neither does Brent Mazerolle. But it fit right into the pimping mode that has characterized every word of coverage of this centre in the TandT.

Yesterday, the CBC (which has real reporters) ran a major story based on studies across Canada and the US. Bottom line? "Building stadiums and arenas have little economic benefits for cities, research shows."

In 2005, University of Ottawa researchers looked at the economic impact of such activity in eight Canadian cities
1. 80% of the tickets are bought by local residents. In other words, this is money going to the centre - but therefore lost to local merchants. So where's the gain?
2. The impact on hotel and restaurant profits is very small.
3. Estimated costs are usually far below the final figure.

That doesn't surprise me. I watched the disaster we call the Montreal Olympic stadium rise to $150 billion paid over 30 years - at interest. It attracted no business to the area. Today, it is a ghost stadium in such bad condition that it is dangerous to walk into it. (The roof of the parking basement recently collapsed.)

When the Montreal Canadiens moved, the only new business that appeared in the area was a sandwich shop with an owner and one employee.

For Canada, you can find information like this in Journal of Sports Economics. And there are far more studies available from the US. The Super Bowl in the US actually makes one tenth to one quarter the profit for the host city than the league claims it does.

As well, of course, other things the city should be doing don't get done. And if the provincial government is in the game, then there are other things it cannot do - and this in a province already wildly over budget. We can't even properly fund schools or look at pre-schools. But we're going to spend a hundred million (and much more) to give hockey fans nicer seats for sit in?

This is a deal that smells from the start. Did the owners of Highgate Square do what they were legally required to do? To inform the government of the extent and nature of pollution in the soil?

If they did, why did the minister of the environment not tell them to clean it up? Did he think pollution was good for the centre of the city?

What are the terms on which the owner of the hockey team will have use of the arena?

What will the cleanup of the land cost?

Did nobody in city planning ask these questions? Anybody on council? Anybody in Fredericton?

Does it fit into the city plan? Exactly what is the city plan?

And, yes, I know we can attract a huge audience if we can put on a show featuring a guitarist who can jump up and spread his legs while singing through his nose and covered in flames. But we can't do it 365 days a year. We probably can't do it even 3 days.

And we're doing all this while deep and slipping deeper into financial collapse across the whole western world.

Why didn't the TandT pick up that CBC story? Okay. I admit the possiblity that the editors of the TandT are too lazy, too sloppy, and/or too ignorant to know what's going on in the news.

If it's not one of those, we are left with only one possiblity for Brent Mazerolle's "news" story and for the TandT failure to pick up on this CBC report.

The polite term for what they are doing is 'misleading'. The other, and more accurate, term is not a polite one.

And what can one say about our political leadership at both the city and provincial level? What does this tell you about our political leadership? I certainly wouldn't want to accuse them to being corrupt. It's quite possible that they aren't corrupt. They might well be blindingly stupid. And there's another possiblity.

This is a province with a long history of shady deals, exploitation, unhealthily close connections between government and big business, newspapers that are beneath contempt.... And nobody complains because this is a small province; and it has some of the elements of village life about it. So you don't complain because - you know - word can get around....  For a big city hub, this sure feels like a village.

Oh, one thing I must mention that reflect this ignorance or incompetence or lying of the Moncton Times and Transcript. Read the letter to editor, "Why no report on school issue?"

Good news from our ever-alert Prime Minister. Romanys will not be permitted to immigrate to Canada. Romany's (gypsies) are severely discriminated against in their major home, Hungary. They have almost no legal rights; jobs are denied them; they live in enforced poverty. Now, that would fit the usual international definition of eligibility for refugee status. So why does Harper say know?

According to the excellent blog by Karl Nerenberg on,  reason has to do with a fear that if those reasons are taken as adequate for Canada to accept them as refugees, then our own First Nations people would quality to flee Canada. And that would be embarassing. He learned that from a senior fiture in government. And Karl is a reporter, a real one and a superb one. He gets his facts right; and he doesn't pimp for anybody.

I seem to have gone on over my time on the proposed hockey rink. Sorry. But this is one dreadful mess we're being lied into.  I'll  have to deal with today's paper tomorrow (Sunday).

Remember, current events at the Moncton Library at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 5. I'll be the person with sad eyes looking pitifully grateful as you come in. One thing we'll talk about is the events centre.
Any journalist from the TandT would be welcome.

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