Telling Ourselves The Truth

By January 9, 2014Issues, Mike Archer

By Mike Archer. In a pointless editorial stating the obvious the Abbotsford News this week opined that, well … apparently the failure of the Abbotsford Heat is well … an issue … isn’t it.

Furthermore, since there’s obviously nothing we can do about it … oh well.

It has taken the Abbotsford News five years to catch up to the community to which it sells its newspaper and flyer package and reach the conclusion that perhaps the annual bloodletting of taxpayers’ money to keep the Calgary Flames from losing money is a … well … a thing.

Welcome aboard but … what is your point. Other than … oh well … have you anything to contribute to the discussion or are you just sharing what the rest of us already know?

This week we heard Heat president Ryan Walter telling CBC News the same old tired BS about the hockey being really good and if only people from Vancouver would come out to fill the seats Abbotsford can’t fill everything would be fine.

We heard Mayor Bruce Banman regurgitate his tired threat urging people to do what they have spent five years showing they don’t want to do – fill the arena to avoid paying the price in higher taxes.

While Mayor Banman likes to come up with stuff he thinks the taxpayer should pay for – like an intercity transit system for UFV we can’t afford; last year’s hair brained proposal to give the YMCA $17 million plus tax-free status for life, or who knows what other unfunded expenditures he may have up his sleeve – but he doesn’t seem to be able to see the elephant in our living room that is crowding everything else out.

When even the Abbotsford News, which has been a cheerleader for Plan A, Global Spectrum, The Abbotsford Heat and City Hall since the whole mess was first proposed back in 2006, starts actually talking about the $10 million-a-year hole in taxpayers’ pockets over on King Rd., you know we’ve moved into a new chapter in the fantasy world of municipal governance in Abbotsford.

We can blame John Smith and Bruce Beck ’til the cows come home for exceedingly bad judgement in forcing Plan A through council against an enormous amount of resistance and advice telling them that exactly this scenario would unfold … it won’t save us a dime over the next five years.

We can blame George Peary for making his ill-conceived and ill-advised deal to financially support a multi-million dollar major league hockey franchise despite Municipal Charter taxpayer protections prohibiting such a move and all of the loud advice not to do it … it won’t bring a dollar we’ve paid out to the Calgary Flames or Global Spectrum back.

We can hold Bruce Banman and George Murray to task for pretending they are powerless to do anything about the situation and continue to repeat the same BS we’ve heard for years.

Bruce and George either have a complete misunderstanding of the situation; an inability to be up front with taxpayers, voters and citizens, or a frightening inability to make decisions.

We have to stop pushing this stupid mistake down the road in the hope it will go away. It hasn’t and it won’t. In fact, it will only get bigger unless we have an annual NHL strike.

We made a mistake. We didn’t have a business plan. It turns out not enough people want to come out to watch hockey in Abbotsford. If four years and hundreds of millions of dollars down the tubes won’t convince you – nothing will. You are free to delude yourself all you want but stop being dishonest with the people who are paying for your mistakes and your inability to fix them.

The goose is cooked.

The politicians were wrong. The bureaucrats were wrong. The Chamber of Commerce was wrong. The newspapers were wrong.

What now?

Use the City’s lawyers to get us out of this stupid contract. At this point it doesn’t even matter if it costs us several million dollars to put an end to insanity.

Pay off the Flames. Send Global Spectrum packing. Pay the local owners the rather substantial amount of outstanding money we owe them. Turn off the lights. Maintain the building in good condition and low cost until a deal can be struck with someone who can actually fill the arena or put it on the market, sell it and cut our losses.

I can’t believe that it is now 2014 and we are still having this stupid annual discussion. And everyone is still saying the same things.

At all levels Banman’s City Hall appears paralyzed by fear, incompetence or a simple inability to make decisions.

As for the Abbotsford’s News’ contribution to the debate – after eight years of dismissing, belittling, making fun of and ignoring the members of this community who tried to help avoid this financial nightmare by having an open and honest discussion about the issue, for the newspaper to come up with: “Tough numbers to deal with” .. and “Rock, meet hard place,” is simply insulting to the entire community.

This fiasco, in which the News and the Times played crucial roles, has already cost this City hundreds of millions of dollars in wasted money and lost opportunities to build a viable infrastructure, transit system, or an acceptable and affordable parks and recreation program. It will continue to haunt us for the better part of a generation.

Councillors like Dave Loewen like to go searching for forests amid the trees but the fact is he and his fellow councillors’ inability to do basic math or listen to good advice has put their friends and neighbours in debt for the better part of another 20 years.

The longer we belabour under the misapprehension that Banman is going pay our bills or that it’s just a matter of time before the Heat is a success at the box office and that Global Spectrum is going to figure out how to stop losing money on the entertainment side, the longer it will be before we can actually start upgrading our infrastructure and begin the long process towards economic development which has eluded us over the last three councils.

It has to start with telling ourselves the truth.

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