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Calgary city council defeats motion to pull arena funding

Calgary city councillors have voted down a budget amendment to pull funding for the new arena project amid challenging economic times for the city.

Coun. Evan Woolley put forth the proposal that would have the city withdraw a $290 million total contribution for the arena, with $200 million going towards the troubled Green Line project, $45 million towards the construction of a new downtown Calgary police station and $45 million for deferred capital maintenance for Calgary Housing.

Woolley said that times have changed since even this July when the city approved the original deal.

“Resources are scarcer than they’ve ever been,” Woolley said.

Since the vote to approve the arena deal had already been made in July, this amounted to a reconsideration motion, which would require 10 votes to pass.

The amendment to the main budget motion was then amended by the seconder, Jeromy Farkas, to remove the downtown police station.

“We can’t tell the police commission how to spend their money,” said Mayor Naheed Nenshi said during debate.  

Farkas advocated that while he supports a new arena, he can’t do it when we’re in a difficult budget situation. He’d like to take the deal back to Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation to reinforce the situation the city is in financially. Farkas also questioned directing the money to the Green Line. Still, he supported the main motion to reconsider.

Not an ‘either or’ situation: Coun. Carra

Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra said he wouldn’t support the reconsideration and added that we shouldn’t be trying to make a bad situation less bad. He didn’t want us to take money away from the arena project and put it to the Green Line. Carra blamed the province, however, for putting this situation before them with recent cuts and the change to funding for the Green Line.  

“I do not think we should create either or situations here,” said Carra, referring to taking from the arena deal to give to the Green Line.

“I fundamentally reject that we have to make that choice.”

There was a bit of a council flare up over the reconsideration motion itself, whether they should just be able to debate the actual reconsideration, or to debate the whole motion. Once they got past that, they voted.

When the dust settled, councillors defeated the reconsideration 11-4.

One note: Councillors that voted against the motion didn’t speak to the reconsideration, except Coun. Shane Keating and Coun. Carra.