Saturday, September 11, 2010

Maxime to professional sports free loaders: Build your own arena

Build your own arena

Maxime Bernier,
Special to the National Post ·
Saturday, Sept. 11, 2010

The following first appeared yesterday on Conservative MP Maxime Bernier's blog.

For the past two days, I have received several demands to clarify my position on the project to build a new arena in Quebec City, which would get 100% of its funding from governments. I expressed my main reservations about it yesterday in an interview with a Beauce radio station (the daily paper Le Soleil published a summary of what I said in an article on Friday).

As many people have told me, I can't travel the country and make speeches about individuals and governments being responsible, about living within our means and reducing government intervention, while refusing to take a clear stand on an issue where these principles squarely come into play.

The hard reality is that we have just been through a global economic crisis -- which remains very preoccupying and is likely not over -- and governments in both Quebec City and Ottawa are heavily indebted. Our government has just posted a huge $56-billion deficit and the priority is to get back to a balanced budget through reductions in our own programs, and avoid by all means getting involved in risky financial ventures.

I was not at all impressed by the Ernst & Young study, which concluded that the project would be "profitable" -- but only on the assumption that governments provide full funding for the construction as well as the repairs and renovations that will be necessary over the next 40 years. That's a deceptive way of putting it. The conclusion should rather be that the project is simply not profitable and will constitute a financial burden for taxpayers for decades to come, even in the best scenario. That's why not a single private player has been found to invest in it.

Finally, one of the arguments we've heard most often in Quebec City in support of public funding is that "Montreal got such and such investment," "Toronto benefitted from this program," or "Vancouver got that amount of money." Since our governments have been throwing money in all directions for decades, there is obviously no way to refute such arguments.

But the fact that we are caught in this unending spiral of spending and debt accumulation is precisely what has brought us to today's intolerable situation. It is the same dynamic which pits Canadians against one another in the hope of getting a share of the big pile of money which constitutes the public treasury.

We can see the usual pattern already. If Quebec City gets the $175-million that it is asking from Ottawa to build its arena, other cities and regions of the country will want the same treatment, using fairness as an excuse. At the end of the day, we may be forced to spend several times that amount of money in order to treat everyone fairly.

As the great French economic Frederic Bastiat wrote, "Government is the great fiction through which everybody endeavours to live at the expense of everybody else." When such large amounts are in play, it is impossible to calculate exactly who has received how much. We would need to go beyond a single file and take into account all public spending items, going as far back as possible.

That's what Quebec separatists like to do. They keep telling us that Quebec has been on the losing side of the financial equation and that Ottawa has systematically been favouring Ontario for more than a century. Meanwhile, people in the rest of the country believe that Quebec is the spoiled child of the federation. Each region can point toward many examples to nurture its frustrations. It is a pointless debate which can only divide our country.

This dynamic has to stop one way or another. We cannot continue in this way to pass on to our children the bills for all the projects that we cannot afford to pay ourselves. We cannot continue to distribute ever larger amounts of money to please everyone and buy social peace, while refusing to face the consequences. We cannot ask governments to manage our money in a responsible manner while at the same time demanding that they devote some more money to an irresponsible venture that will benefit us.

I too share the dream of again seeing a professional hockey team come back to play in our region and I sincerely hope that a way will be found to make this dream come true. But dreaming does not make the hard financial reality go away. It's nice to have dreams, but when you use borrowed money to achieve them and act as if money grows on trees, you may have a brutal awakening. For all these reasons, I cannot in good conscience support this project.


Anonymous said...

Maxime is the first Conservative that I have seen that has expressed any common sense. Now wouldn't it be nice if he looked into the Income Trust fiasco and gave us a reason why the Conservatives say there is tax leakage? BB

Anonymous said...

We (Liberals) have supported public financing of arenas in the past. And this is a very good community building initiative, its good for the federal government to be involved in it. We're not right wing ideologues, there's room for government in initiatives like this. I'm surprised that the Conservatives support this, but we definitely should be 100% behind this! It's also another wedge issue we can effectively use to divide the Tory caucus.

Dr Mike said...

Bravo Maxime!!

At a time when debt is spiraling out of control because of poor policy such as the income trust fiasco & the new rules for foreign taxation , things such as funding for "fun time" projects to enhance vote "getting" is pure nonsense.

Maxime has expressed himself well & to the point.

Common sense is a rarity in Ottawa these days.

Well done Maxime.

Dr Mike Popovich

Anonymous said...

Fortunately, Maxime's ideas on politics are about as far away from Liberal ideas as you can get. I hope we support this because it's good policy and good politics - it'll help split the Tory caucus. Many economists are worried governments are pulling back spending too quickly.

Cari said...

I am a Liberal and do not like it, as it will stir up a can of worms...I want money for an Arena, csn be heard fom the Provinces.
This a a time when the Feds have a huge defict. They are going to hike IE benefits at the same tome spending hundreds of millions, that soon becomes billions. Enough!!!

Kid Leduc said...

Max wants to be the first to break from the pack. This is all about cracks in the iron of the iron fist of Hartler.

Anonymous said...

the only intelligent thing I remember Bernier saying. . . . ever


Bruce Benson said...

Hmmm, Maxime, soon to be the next relic of the Conservative Party. His name will stand with the Casey's & the Turner's or anyone who ever disagrees with the dictator. Bye bye Maxime. Oh, can't say that I will be too sorry to see you go even if this is the one intelligent thing you have said.

Anonymous said...

Maxine Maxine

Sounds like a leading goal scorer.

Great stuff Maxine

Now we need you to awake the
$35B issue called Income Trusts

Then you will have your Hat trick