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Calgarians, Albertans split on new Calgary arena deal: ThinkHQ

Fifty per cent of Calgarians surveyed approved of the new Event Centre deal.

Like the provincial election, Albertans are statistically deadlocked on support for a new Calgary arena, according to a new survey from ThinkHQ Public Affairs.

Last week, the City of Calgary, Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation, the Government of Alberta and the Calgary Stampede came together to unveil a new, $1.2 billion Event Centre and Rivers District plan.

The deal includes a $300+ million kick-in from the province, something that could have lingering effects on voters outside – and inside – Calgary.  Recently, political experts weighed in on the impact that it might have on both Calgary and Alberta voters.

The ThinkHQ online survey sampled 789 Albertans for their views on the arena deal. The panel source was the Angus Reid Forum and is weighted to reflect the gender, age and region of the Alberta population, according to Statistics Canada.  The margin of error of a comparable, probability-based random sample survey if this size is 3.5 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

Province-wide, 50 per cent disapprove of the agreement to fund Calgary’s new Event Centre, while 43 per cent approve. Seven per cent were unsure.

ThinkHQ president Marc Henry said he’s not surprised by the result.

“We’ve tracked public sentiment on every proposed Event Centre deal that’s come forward in the past decade, and they always seem to divide Calgarians in half. Not shocking,” he said.

“It’s also not shocking that Edmontonians don’t like the deal, given the historical rivalry between the two cities and the lack of provincial support for Rogers Place.”

Geared toward Calgary voters

Henry said if it’s meant to secure more Calgary voters for the UCP, it’s probably not going to be that effective.

With that said, with just the Calgary numbers, 50 per cent approve, and 45 per cent disapproved of the deal. Outside of Calgary, 61 per cent disapprove of the deal, with 33 per cent supporting.

“This is not the issue that is going to win a lot of new votes for the UCP in Calgary – in fact, it may cost them votes in the ridings surrounding Edmonton,” Henry said.

“That said, it is an issue that could cost the NDP the election if mishandled, i.e., if they threaten to stop the deal as Government.”

Henry said that the NDP must secure most Calgary ridings in order to win this provincial election. If they threaten to kill the deal, that could erode the much-needed support in tight ridings.

Previously, Mount Royal University political scientist Duane Bratt figured that when all is said and done, it would probably end up being a wash in terms of political influence.

“Those that are cheering this on and showing what a great leader Danielle Smith is, I’m pretty sure they were voting UCP on Monday.

“Those who are talking about what a flip flop and this is just pure political opportunism, and she’s trying to bribe people with their own money – I don’t think they were voting for Smith on Monday.”