Lansdowne by no means a done deal

CHRIS STEVENSON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:59 AM ET

Another step taken — a big one — on what is turning out to be a long road for the Lansdowne Live vision.

I’ve got what I would call guarded optimism when it comes to the future of the project.

By “guarded,” I mean I don’t trust anything this city council says or does.

Today’s go-ahead is tomorrow’s lawsuit.

Let’s face it: Anything to do with this sickeningly parochial council, which lacks vision, inspiration or, for the most part, leadership, is far from a done deal. This is a good deal for the city. That doesn’t mean council won’t back out.

The city could have paid for a new Frank Clair Stadium just with the penalties council rang up flip-flopping on the light rail project. Near as I can figure, with what they spent before pulling out of the light rail deal, along with the lawsuit and the legal fees, Ottawa taxpayers are on the hook for about $100 million.

Now it sounds like they could wind up stepping in another money pit with the contract for that automated system that calls out bus stops (isn’t that just part of the bus driver’s job? Anyway, I digress.)

Concessions made

Monday’s 15-9 vote by council to go ahead with the plans for Lansdowne Live and a new Frank Clair Stadium is an encouraging development and came to pass only because of another considerable concession by the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group, the company formed by local developers Roger Greenberg, William Shenkman and John Ruddy and fronted by Ottawa 67’s owner Jeff Hunt.

In simplistic terms, the Hunt group won over some councillors who had reservations about what happens if the CFL franchise proposed to be a tenant in the new stadium ceases operations.

Certainly that’s a legitimate concern since one of the lynchpins of the project is the CFL team.

The 10 dates a year and something like a Grey Cup game, which has been promised by the league, are keys to generating revenue and making the project a success.

In the simplist terms, what the Hunt group promised is if the CFL team ceases operations, it will be on the hook for about $1.6 million a year to be paid to the city for the duration of the 30-year lease.

“It’s a little more complicated than that. It’s difficult to deal with a complicated issue in sound bites,” said Hunt. “That pretty much sums up the motion, which is public knowledge. If the football team ceases operation, there is a trigger in the waterfall (the finacial mechanism for the project) and we’ll be saddled with an additional $1.6-million expense.

“It’s a significant deterrent, but as far as we’re concerned, it’s academic. It was a prudent request and difficult to oppose.”

It’s also another indication of the confidence OSEG has that it’s going to be successful where others have failed.

The vote Monday to go ahead with the Lansdowne Live project has a bunch of conditions attached to it now because this timid council is brutually afraid to make a commitment to anything except more analysis, more polls and more study.

Still, Hunt is excited the Lansdowne Live project is still on the rails.

“I know there’s another vote (in May or June), but Monday’s vote was a significant, significant thing. All signs are we’re on our way,” he said. “That vote was kind of an agreement in principle, like between two companies that decide to merge.”

Good deal

The 15-9 margin was significant, as well. That’s a pretty good majority.

The Forces of Darkness have another seven months to try and win over four councillors to their side to scuttle the deal. Bay Coun. Alex Cullen, an opponent of the plan, said: “As people begin to realize how much public money is going into this, we may hear more from taxpayers.”

That statement ignores the fact that it does not really matter how much public money is going into this project; only that it be a good deal for taxpayers, that taxpayers are getting their money’s worth.

It also points out another irksome characteristic of this council, to download decision-making to the taxpayer. It’s like some councillors are afraid to live with a decision.

Is it really good public policy for taxpayers to be telling their councillors how to vote on these things? How many hard-working taxpayers have the time or knowledge to understand every nuance, detail and ramification of a complicated business arrangement?

I thought that’s what we pay councillors to do.

chris.stevenson@sunmedia.ca


Videos

Photos