Arena Subsidy Triggers Tax Increases

Arena Committee Chair Coun. Sharp promised no tax increases for new arena, months later the city faces tax increases

When the city announced the deal to commit $831-million in public funds to build a new arena for the billionaire Flames owners last April, Arena Committee Chair Coun. Sonya Sharp boldly proclaimed "No added taxes to taxpayers. There's the question, that's the answer."

Now in the face of municipal tax increases, two councillors who spearheaded the use of public funds to bailout the billionaire Flames owners, Coun. Sharp and Coun. McLean, are pushing "fiscal responsibility" and a punishing austerity agenda to block investments that directly help everyday citizens.

Councillor Sonya Sharp, chair of City Council's Arena Committee, and Councillor Dan McLean spearheaded the billionaire bailout of $831-million in public funds to build a new arena for the Flames owners. (Image sources: The Sprawl, City News)


Economist warned arena subsidy was effectively a tax increase

After the arena deal announcement, University of Calgary economist Trevor Tombe warned that the use of public funds for a new arena was effectively a tax increase because it would be taking away from other priorities.

Source: Twitter.


Upfront public subsidy of arena would have more than covered new investments included in proposed 2024 budget

The $831-million in up front public subsidies for the new arena would have more than covered the $426-million in new capital investments in transit, libraries, parks, community safety and affordable housing included in the proposed 2024 budget. None of these items should have come as a surprise to City Council.

(Source: City of Calgary, C2023-1148, Attachment 5, Table 2 - Investment Recommendations)


📣Help us tell City Council to invest in everyday citizens


1) 🚃 Make Calgary Transit funding a priority, not an afterthought 

Calgary Transit has fallen into a state of neglect, with infrequent and unreliable transit service. Tell City Council to properly fund our public transit to be reliable and frequent with 10 minute minimum frequency on all BRT and LRT routes. Necessary investments include:

  • Airport transit connection on the (east leg) / Blue Line
  • Blue Line Extension
  • North Central BRT and Green Line North (Stage 2) funding
  • Reduce transit fares and make transit free for youth 12 and under permenant


2) 🚲🛴 5A Network - Add 100km of protected cycle tracks 

All communities in Calgary should have access to safe cycling and active mobility infrastructure. Unfortunately, the City is still not adequately funding protected cycle tracks or pedestrian safety improvements - instead making only tiny, isolated piecemeal improvements.

Meanwhile, the City of Edmonton is planning to build over 100km of bike lanes over the next four years. Other winter cities like Montreal are making even more ambitious investments with plans to add 200-km of protected bike paths.


3) 🏘️ Build more affordable housing

Affordable housing is critical to tackling poverty and making Calgary a safe place to live for all citizens. In October, City Council approved their Housing Strategy and Affordability Task Force recommendations. Now they need to fund it. 


4) 🏬 Revitalize mainstreets and downtown

Calgary’s mainstreets support local businesses and their surrounding communities. But underinvestment in these streets has resulted in most of the planned revitalization projects for our mainstreets sitting on the shelf while Council approves $100M’s for new communities on the city’s fringe. City Council must fund the 10 approved mainstreets that have been sitting on the shelf unfunded since 2018.


5) 🎧 Tackle noise pollution in Calgary

(Image source: CBC)

Last November, City Council unanimously passed a motion to address excessive vehicle noise. Now they need to fund the peace officers necessary to enable the enforcement.


TAKE ACTION: We need your help to tell City Council to invest in these priorities!

💬 1) Speak at the City Council public budget hearings

Sign up to speak at the City Council budget public hearings on Monday, November 20th. Language translation services are available if needed. 




📨 2) Sign up for Project Calgary email updates on the 2024 budget adjustments

Stay connected on the latest news and advocacy on the budget adjustments.


📣 3) Spread the word

Share this post with your friends and family.