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Cancel the Calgary arena funding, says Coun. Woolley

Calgary city councillors will debate a notice of motion Thursday to reconsider its decision to provide $290 million towards a new Calgary arena.

Coun. Evan Woolley will put forward the plan during Thursday’s budget deliberations as the city grapples with different tax rate scenarios, a tax shift and fewer provincial dollars.

So far this week, Calgary city councillors have heard from the public and a number of city general managers on the effect of service reductions in the wake of tax rate changes.

Woolley said he’d rather see the funding for a new Event Centre go towards other capital projects, like the Green Line, which saw provincial funding cash flow changes put a wrench into that project’s timeline.

“Council has said everything is on the table. We can’t, in good conscience, move forward with significant cuts to the budget without reconsidering the arena deal,” said Evan Woolley, Councillor for Ward 8, in a prepared statement.

“Giving $290 million to the owners of the Calgary Flames in our current economic climate is both irresponsible and shortsighted. It’s been four months since Council voted to move forward on the arena and I’m asking them to reconsider that decision when there are higher, city-building priorities.”

Calgary’s capital projects

Mayor Nenshi has said in the past that with current budget constraints and changes to the province’s contributions to the city that some capital projects could be at risk.

He added, however that the big four projects – the Event Centre, the Arts Commons Transformation, the multi-sport fieldhouse and the BMO expansion likely wouldn’t be affected.

RELATED: Calgary’s capital projects – Where do they stand? (Nov. 14)

Bulk of money to go to Green Line

Calgary city council voted in favour of the Event Centre proposal, which would see the city contribute $275 million directly, with the additional $15 million going towards demolition and the accompanying land sale options on the Victoria Park bus barns and the former site of the Enoch Sales House.

In Woolley’s notice of motion, he said he’d like that $290 million to instead be put into three different projects: $200 million towards the Green Line, $45 million towards a downtown Calgary police station and $45 million to cover deferred capital maintenance costs for Calgary housing.

“This week Council has heard from Calgarians about the importance of public transit,” said Councillor Woolley.

“The Green Line is a transformational project that would serve hundreds of thousands of Calgarians and the project is in jeopardy due to the Province withholding funding.”

There was some initial reaction from fellow councillors, however.