Robbing Roads-And-Sewers Peter To Pay Stadium Paul

The G&M is reporting that some Conservative MPs are suggesting we should use gas tax money to fund sports stadiums like the one being considered for Quebec City and, presumably, the one Regina has its heart set on. There is also a report out that looks at changing the gas-tax rules to allow for this.*

The only named proponent of the scheme is Edmonton-St. Albert Conservative MP Brent Rathgeber. Finance minister Jim Flaherty, however, is on record as saying that such a shift in focus for the gas tax is a possibility.

Meanwhile, over at the L-P, in a piece by Angela Hall, saner heads seem to be prevailing as provincial cabinet minister Ken Cheveldayoff points out that in Regina at least that money is already spoken for. And then some.

See, that gas tax money is supposed to be used for things like water and waste-water utilities, roads, bridges, public transit and solid waste management. Not only has our budget already taken this year’s allotment of gas tax money and earmarked it for such purposes,our council has also been lobbying for a greater share of gas tax money in future so that we can use it to offset some of our $2.1 billion infrastructure deficit.

Putting gas tax money towards the stadium would just mean leaving our infrastructure problems to fester. Problems like that $146 million expansion to our waste water treatment facilities that we’re being forced to undertake because of changes to federal environmental regulations the Conservatives put in place.

That some Conservatives are even floating this gas-tax-reallocation balloon seems to be a pretty good indication of how out of touch they are on the infrastructure crisis.

(And speaking of the infrastructure crisis — and the summits convened to cope therewith — we’ve a big feature article on that very subject in the latest prairie dog which should be hitting newsstands any minute now.)

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Note: This G&M story changed dramatically from when I first linked to it. When it first went up, it was about the gas tax scheme. Later in the day, after Quebec City’s mayor announced that his city and the province would be going it alone on the stadium plan, the gas tax angle was sidelined. It’s all still in there, you just have to read through to the final few paragraphs.

Author: Paul Dechene

Paul Dechene is 5’10” tall and he was born in a place. He’s not there now. He’s sitting in front of his computer writing his bio for this blog. He has a song stuck in his head. It’s “Girl From Ipanema”, thanks for asking.

You can follow Paul on Twitter at @pauldechene and get live updates during city council meetings and other city events at @PDcityhall.

4 thoughts on “Robbing Roads-And-Sewers Peter To Pay Stadium Paul”

  1. There are two issues with the gas tax: how much comes back to municipalities and what it can be used for.

    During the budget discussion at city council much was made about gas tax returns not representing what was collected. Perhaps that is why mayors have met this trial ballon with little sympathy.

    My understanding of the changes to gas tax was that sports or entertainment facilities would be added to the list of things the money could be used towards. This would leave it up to local governments to decide, roads or project. I’m fine with local councils being given more choice, they’ll be politically responsible.

    I didn’t get the impression that the Feds would use the gas tax funding for their portion of stadium funding, that would not be acceptable for anyone.

    It would seem municipalities have ear-marked their gas tax money and so any change in the rules wont create funding options anyway unless the proportion of the gas tax received increases.

  2. You’re right, Martin. This would be a case of the feds just “giving municipalities choice” and thereby making them “politically responsible.”

    But it’s a false choice. Even with a boost to the cut of the gas tax cities get, a city council would have to be a pack of maniacs if they were to divert some of those funds to anything other than the projects they’re currently being used for.

    So this is either an example of some Conservative MPs being so out of touch with the direness of the infrastructure deficit that they actually think using gas tax funds for stadiums is a reasonable idea. Or, it’s a cynical ploy by some Conservative MPs to shift the political responsibility for stadiums not getting built away from themselves. “We gave you the financial tools to build a stadium but you had other priorities so it’s not our problem.”

    Either way, it puts cities in a tight spot.

  3. An even more cynical take would be to note that this possibility is being dredged up to placate Quebec.

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