This is writen by a tree hugger in Winnipeg.[url=http://www.winnipegsun.com/News/Columnists/Brodbeck_Tom/2007/09/15/4498096-sun.html]http://www.winnipegsun.com/News/Columni ... 6-sun.html[/url]
By TOM BRODBECK
Winnipeg businessman David Asper pitched his idea of building a new, privately-owned football stadium -- largely with tax dollars -- to federal Treasury Board President Vic Toews on Wednesday, Sun Media has learned.
But Asper -- who wants taxpayers to contribute $80 million to a proposed $120-million stadium for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers -- got a cool response from Toews.
Toews told Asper during the meeting in Winnipeg that he would review Asper's request for federal dollars "as a courtesy," but at this point he's not even considering funding the proposed building.
"We've made absolutely no commitment to supporting it," Toews told Sun Media. "It would be a stretch to say we're even considering funding it."
OWNERSHIP FOR FREE
Asper is seeking $40 million each from the federal and provincial governments, which would cover two-thirds of the cost of a facility Asper would own outright.
As part of the deal, Asper wants ownership of the Bombers for free and the right to develop commercial property around the existing Canad Inns Stadium, which we as taxpayers own.
Did you want me to polish your shoes too, Mr. Asper?
Premier Gary Doer has expressed an interest in funding Asper's dream stadium and the province is reviewing details of the funding arrangement.
No big surprise there. Doer's never seen a corporate welfare deal he didn't like.
Unfortunately for Asper, the federal government hasn't been quite as loose with the purse strings for this stadium proposal.
Toews said his government is willing to take a look at the proposal but insists the federal review should not be construed as showing interest in the project.
"All we're doing, as a courtesy to a very prominent Manitoba businessperson, is taking a look at a proposal he's presenting," said Toews. "We see all kinds of proposals, but that does not in any way assume any type of tacit or other support for the proposal."
Toews says using tax dollars to build privately-owned stadiums for professional sports teams does not fit into the federal government's plan to upgrade Canada's "hard infrastructure," like fixing crumbling bridges and roads and upgrading sewer and water systems.
No kidding. And can you blame the feds?
"We have people who don't have basic infrastructure in their communities, and so we have to be very careful with the money that we as a federal government have," said Toews.
For example, there are now 50 boil-water orders in Manitoba, said Toews. And much of Manitoba's infrastructure, including bridges and roads, are aging and need to be refurbished or replaced, he said.
"As a federal government, where we're sharing the burdens of these financial demands, we have to make sure we have our priorities right and that they're in keeping with what Manitobans want," said Toews.
Asked if a privately-owned football stadium falls within those priorities, he said it's "not what I would call hard infrastructure, and my priority has been to emphasize hard infrastructure."
That's not to say the federal government isn't interested in making financial contributions to publicly-owned sporting facilities like those attached to universities and colleges, said Toews.
But funding privately-owned ones for professional sports teams is a different story.
NOT RULED OUT
"As far as I know, our government has not committed to any funding of privately-owned sports facilities primarily utilized by professional sports teams," said Toews.
Nor should they.
Toews has not ruled out making a contribution to Asper's stadium.
He says federal officials will review the plan and he'll come to a firm conclusion at a later date.
But at this point, it looks like Asper may have to go back to the drawing board -- and maybe dig a little deeper into his OWN pocket.