Conflict for Katz?

Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz's agenda appears to be to discredit the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, according to...

Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz's agenda appears to be to discredit the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, according to Sun columnist Paul Friesen. (Sun File/Jon Schledewitz)

PAUL FRIESEN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:44 AM ET

I'm not going to sit here and call Mayor Sam Katz a liar.

But I will say he bends the truth, conveniently forgets some facts and cherry-picks others to suit his own agenda.

And right now his agenda appears to be to discredit the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

Katz will tell you he's only interested in protecting the taxpayers, a noble position that's impossible to argue with, and one that'll win him support from much of the public.

It won't fool everyone, though, and it certainly doesn't explain some of his comments in his latest conversation with the Sun.

For instance:

- Katz continues to insist that the $4 million bank account the Bombers showed off last week was a mirage, that $3.6 million of that is tied up in an old debt for stadium improvements.

The Bombers say that debt belongs to the city, through Winnipeg Enterprises, which used to run the stadium.

The city's own chief financial officer, Mike Ruta agrees with the football team.

The Bombers and their auditors were so put off by Katz's insinuations they moved to set the record straight yesterday.

"We didn't want a lingering doubt out there that we were somehow hiding three-and-a-half million dollars in debt," club chairman Ken Hildahl said. "We don't live in a banana republic where we can hide a $3.6 million debt. We can't have that kind of confusion out in the public without us making a very public statement."

- Katz said most of the team's reported $3.3 million Grey Cup profit was on the backs of taxpayers: $1.5 million from the province, more than $1 million from the city.

But a quick check with the province revealed the provincial contribution was $1 million, and only for stadium improvements.

- Katz included the amusement tax on Grey Cup tickets (some $500,000) as part of the city's taxpayer contribution.

However, Katz's own Winnipeg Goldeyes and the Manitoba Moose get to keep their ticket tax.

Katz said you can't compare the situations because the ball park and the arena were built largely with private funds, while the stadium was a public facility turned over to the Bombers.

He neglected to mention some $9 million in taxpayer money went into his ball park and $40 million into the arena.

-Asked about the public money that's gone into the ballpark, Katz said the city contributed $300,000.

Not only is that way off the mark, it fails to take into account the federal and provincial amounts.

Katz's comeback: the ballpark actually saved taxpayers $15 million "because the City of Winnipeg was committed to building a brand new facility for the 1999 Pan Am Games."

A statement like that defies logic.

And get this: the loan Katz insists on hanging the Bombers with was for stadium improvements for, you guessed it, the Pan Am Games.

- Then there's the dispute over the stakeholders steering committee, established in 2000 to oversee the football team as it fought its way out of a $5.5 million debt.

Katz says the committee should still be overseeing the franchise, while the Bombers say it's been disbanded. What's the big deal, you ask?

Whoever is calling the shots will soon have to decide whether or not to privatize the team.

The one person we know wants to own the Bombers is David Asper of CanWest Global, which just happens to be one of the Goldeyes big corporate partners.

And the naming rights deal at CanWest Global Park comes up for renewal in two years.

Given all that, not to mention Katz's ownership status with a competing sports franchise, this spat has conflict of interest written all over it.


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