The City recently revealed its total debt level is now $1.4 billion—nearly double what it was when Jim Watson came into office. It's not clear if this figure includes the debt that will be incurred for the Lansdowne development. But what is clear is that Lansdowne is costing taxpayers way more than we were led to believe.
- In 2008, when the developers came forward, they said it would not cost taxpayers a dime. http://www.canada.com/story_print.html?id=f59a45cf-3436-41d3-9097-9259dea1019f
- In 2010, when City gave preliminary approval, the cost to taxpayers was $173 million.
- In 2012, estimated costs are over $196 million and all the costs are not in.
Here's what the taxpayer is paying now:
$129.3 million for stadium, arena and underground parking (estimated cost, to be confirmed when bids come in)
$35 million for urban park (it is unclear whether this will be enough to cover the park costs)
$8.5 million (contribution to new privately owned CE centre)
$2.9 million (relocating the Dome that used to provide community recreation facilities)
$14 million site work (including moving Horticulture building 150 metres)
$1 million for Ottawa 67s to play elsewhere for two years
$2.8 million Contribution to social housing reserve in lieu of affordable housing
$2.8 million—sole-sourced to Graham Bird Associates to manage the Lansdowne contracts
We are certain this does not include all the environmental remediation and consulting costs. Also unknown are the legal, audit and evaluation costs required to administer this complex, 30-year public private partnership with its numerous sub-agreements. Clearly, the final price tag is going to be well over $200 million.
Since the City does not have this money in the bank, it will have to borrow the money. When you add in debt servicing charges, the costs are over $400 million over 30 years. That's a long way from "it won't cost you a dime".
But the big piece of the spending puzzle is not yet known. The City recently issued a tender for the stadium and arena renovations, with an estimated budget of $129.3 million. (see http://dcnonl.com/cgi-bin/top10.pl?rm=show_top10_project&id=010f13b47caea5aeccbb976ad9223e11b1f7228f&projectid=9091636®ion=ontario). The tender closed in mid-August, but the City still hasn't announced a successful proponent. Did the bids come in on budget or will there be yet another cost increase?
When the City does reveal the cost of the stadium-arena renovation, it may be worth asking why are we handing this expensive public asset to OSEG for a dollar a year. Why not just rent the stadium to the football team like the City used to do with the Roughriders? With the current proposal, if the City of Ottawa or Ottawa residents want to use the stadium or arena any time in the next 30 years, they will have to lease the facilities at yet-to-be-determined market rates.
Our City Council has negotiated a deal where we, the taxpayers, pay 100% of the costs of the stadium, arena, urban park and Horticulture building relocation, give a brand new facility away virtually for free, and then have to pay to use it. Surely, before the final agreement is signed, the City can negotiate specific, long-term public and community uses for Lansdowne Park and maintain its century-long tradition as a public place.
So let's keep an eye on the costs and on the fine print as the City tries to move forward.
If we can't get Lansdowne right, let's at least make it better.