In response to Sheila Tremblay’s letter to the Cornwall Standard Freeholder, in which she is critical of a proposed $25M three-pad hockey arena, I would agree that there are a number of things "wrong with this picture."
Ms Tremblay points to the fact that there is no money(or willingness to spend it) on existing recreation facilities in Cornwall such as children's swimming pools, when in fact, this would be taxpayer money well spent. Any public funds spent for recreational facilities for all children is the right thing to do for all kinds of reasons.
The picture gets distorted because often we have special interest groups that demand something substantial, and then expect the City to go along with it. In the case of the multi pad arena, we have minor hockey leagues that need ice time, but proportionately, we have the elite, travelling teams playing up to 70 games a year, going to tournaments and hosting tournaments.
So, it’s not surprising that the parents of these children are solidly behind the project and I can’t blame them. Nor do I blame the restaurant owners, hoteliers, gas stations, and shopping malls that will enjoy increased revenues during tournaments.
Also, I’m told that families will spend up to $1,000(and more) on a weekend, with one or two children for registration, hotels, gas and other expenses. And that doesn’t include the several $100’s spent on equipping the players and paying for ice time. It’s a huge commitment for parents and their children and it’s very, very expensive.
So the question is: How many families in Cornwall can afford to spend this kind of money on hockey? Given that we are collectively the lowest wage earners in Ontario, I would say it’s a very small percentage. So, it’s bit like the tail wagging the dog.
I like Ms Tremblay’s ideas about outdoor ice surfaces, and it is this kind of “out of the box” thinking that is needed, rather than bull headed, emotional responses.
I also agree that it’s all about demographics, and I was surprised to hear that at least one City Councilor thinks that Dr. Foot is out to lunch with his demographic forecasts in “Boom, Bust and Echo.” When I hear things like that I get worried, because if we start refusing professional expertise, than we are digging ourselves a big hole.
The question here is simple. How many kids will be living here in Cornwall in 10 or 20 years given our population pattern and growth? I think we need to have at least a forecast of the projected decline in the number of children up to 18 years of age, and I’m sure the Boards of Education will give us that information.
In conclusion, do we really know how many taxpayers in Cornwall are willing to support the two or three pad arena idea? Do we leave it up to council to decide on our behalf, or do we base the decision on the enthusiasm of a rally with children holding up signs, our neighbour’s opinion or simply on blind faith?
If pollsters claim accuracy on telephone surveys by two or three points, 19 times out of 20, maybe it’s time to poll the citizens of Cornwall…….but be sure to tell them the increased taxes they will face over the next 10 or 20 years.
In Cornwall, we pay higher taxes than most municipalities in Ontario, yet we earn among the lowest wages. Think about that before signing on for $25,000,000 for a hockey arena.