Calgarians are on the fence when it comes to the latest proposed deal between the City and Flames ownership to build a new arena, a new poll suggests.

According to a ThinkHQ Public Affairs Inc. survey released Monday morning equal proportions of Calgarians approve and disapprove of the tentative 35-year agreement.

The deal would see the City of Calgary and Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corp. (CSEC) each contribute $275 million to the new facility. Council is set to make a decision in a scheduled vote on Tuesday.

ThinkHQ surveyed the opinions of 645 Calgarians from July 24 to July 26 in regards to the arena deal with a margin of error at +\- 3.9 per cent.

Here’s a breakdown of the numbers.

Overall approval

The number of people who approve and disapprove of the deal is split evenly at 47 per cent each.

That said, the intensity among those in opposition is greater than those who support the deal, with 26 per cent strongly opposed to the idea, versus 14 per cent strongly in favour of the proposal.

Six per cent said they were unsure.

ThinkHQ President Marc Henry says the split decision shows Calgarians are concerned about the deal. He notes council’s difficulty to approve a new arena at the same time it approved $60-million in budget cuts last week.

“Wow, talk about bad timing,” Henry said.

“City Hall air traffic control has this issue land in front of Council right when they can least afford it - both financially and politically.”
Replacing the Saddledome

Nearly six-in-ten (58 per cent) support the notion of replacing the Saddledome, 35 per cent are opposed and seven per cent are unsure.

Aside from the price tag, 82 per cent were pleased with the deal and felt it would keep the Flames in Calgary for a 35-year term.

A majority (65 per cent) do not approve of The City picking up 90 per cent of the demolition costs for the Saddledome.

Too much, too fast

Six-in-ten (60 per cent) said one week of public consultation was not enough time for Council to engage with citizens before making a decision, while 35 per cent felt the engagement period was long enough.

“One of the biggest risks with the current proposal is moving forward on its current timeline,” Henry said.

“And when you consider that getting a Development Permit for a new backyard deck requires a three-week consultation period, they may have a point.”

Council approval on the decline

This ThinkHQ survey also questioned the overall approval of city council’s performance, calling it “the lowest level in recent memory.”

Of those surveyed, 69 per cent disapproved of council (34 per cent strongly).

Twenty-three per cent gave council the thumbs up. Henry notes that number is down nine points since ThinkHQ last polled Calgarians on city hall approval just one month ago.

“Public confidence in council is staggeringly low right now, and if a quick approval leaves voters feeling unheard by their elected officials on a big project like this, watch out,” he said.

“There isn’t an incumbent on council who shouldn’t be nervous, and the municipal election is only 812 days away.”

Speaking of which, Mayor Naheed Nenshi’s approval continued to slide with 59 per cent disapproving of his performance. His overall approval is also down four points from last month’s survey and now sits at 35 per cent.

As for how individual councillors fare, Calgarians in this poll were split with 41 per cent approving and 43 per cent disapproving of their ward representative.