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Danielle Smith says she's 'confident' Calgary's arena deal will go ahead


A day after taking part in an announcement that Calgary's arena deal would go ahead with contributions from the city, the province and the Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation (CSEC), Premier Danielle Smith says she's excited the agreement was struck.

"I feel really confident in this," Smith told the media at a conference in Calgary Wednesday. "It was really excellent yesterday to see all the players at the table.

"The fact that we had a unanimous vote of council that affirmed that – that was very positive."

On Tuesday afternoon, Smith, along with Mayor Jyoti Gondek and Ward 1 Coun. Sonya Sharp and their partners with CSEC, announced details of a $1.2 billion project that would see a new arena for the Calgary Flames, a community arena for the public and a revitalized entertainment district in the downtown core.

Given Smith's strong Calgary background, she said a new arena was always high on her priority list as premier.

"It's no secret that I wanted this deal to happen. I wish it had happened months before. It was one of the first actions I took as premier – I got sworn in on October 11 and I wrote a letter on October 25," she said.


In her remarks, Smith says she took taxpayers into account when she made her decision about the provincial funding commitment.

"Taxpayers would not want us to fund the team in capital or operating so when we were looking at ways to 'bridge the gap,' we were looking at ways that we could support on infrastructure," she said.

Those projects, Smith says, would include elements like roads and underpasses, utilities, LRT upgrades and other projects.

The funding is capped at $300 million and there won't be any more, she said.

"We have an upper limit on that. So, the cost overruns is something that will need to be worked out between the Flames and the City of Calgary."

The province also will be paying for 50 per cent of a community arena – up to $30 million – in Calgary, Smith said.

It's something that will be available to all minor league teams and Calgarians as a whole.

"This is not money that's going into an arena," Smith said when reporters brought up comments she'd made in the past about taxpayer dollars for NHL arenas.

"It's going to build out the community arena, it's going to build out the roads, it's going to help the LRT, and we structured it that way."

As for where the money precisely will come from, Smith says there are still discussions that need happen over the next three years.

"I'm anticipating that the money will come from the normal budget process in being able to assess the needs of our two major municipalities."

However, Smith says her government could also tap into a surplus fund to pay for what's needed.


With an election right around the corner, many would believe such a ground breaking announcement would play into that, but Smith says she wants to avoid that comparison.

She said all the elements the province would be paying for are "things that Calgary needed anyway."

"I'm hoping that this doesn't become an election issue," she said.

"I would hope that, in the spirit of unanimity, we would see the same kind of approach of all the political parties in supporting this deal."


Rachel Notley, leader of Alberta's Official Opposition, says while she agrees with the principle of the deal, there are a number of questions the Smith government needs to answer.

In a statement released Wednesday, she hinted there is an additional burden to taxpayers in the "confidential financial agreement" between the parties involved.

Those haven't been made public, but Notley said they would exceed the announced $870 million.

"These are details the public deserves to know, along with who is responsible for the share of cost overruns and who is financing the CSEC's 35-year payment schedule," she wrote.

"We are told that the agreement will be kept secret for the next six to eight weeks, basically through Election Day, until a definitive agreement is signed."

Notley added neither she nor any member of her staff have looked at the financial documents, but says it's not just money that's involved in the hidden deal.

If it goes ahead, she says CSEC would have "exclusive development rights" to land around the arena for decades.

"It's disrespectful to voters for Danielle Smith to try to make this an election issue for Albertans at the same time she's hiding the details. You wouldn't buy a pickup truck after only seeing pictures of the body and cab, with few details on mileage or payment plan," Notley said.

"This arena project should be a very exciting opportunity for Calgary, but Albertans deserve the whole story." Top Stories

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