Transcript: Opening Debate on Event Centre Decision Day

Council: Today -- an opportunity is presented to all of us.

This opportunity doesn’t belong to just me, or even this Council, it is an opportunity that belongs to all Calgarians.

This is an opportunity to change the course of our community for the better.

An opportunity to move Calgary onward.

Over the last two years, I have consistently heard from many Calgarians who are frustrated by the lack of direction and optimism in our City, who feel our City is down and out for the count.

Today, we have the power and the ability to something about that.

I believe that prioritizing the Culture and Entertainment District and accepting the proposal before us for a new Event Centre is precisely the type of visionary decision Calgarians expect of us.

It is precisely the sort of transformative decision we were elected to make.

I agree with those who say this deal comes before us at a challenging time for many Calgarians. Last week, we cut $60 million from our operating budget to provide relief for small businesses and reduce the cost of government.

A looming tax shift problem continues to cloud over us. And our downtown vacancy rate remains high. But we can’t -- and won’t -- fix any of these problems by looking back.

In order to solve them, we must continue to grow Calgary and invest in projects that will bring a net positive socio-economic return to everyone who calls this community home.

The deal before us today is a fair deal for the Calgary of today, and a transformative deal for the Calgary of tomorrow.

The partnership leverages $275 million in private investment into a city owned asset.

It will create a facility for significant community events, allow us to attract major performing artists, enhance the Stampede experience, and be the new home for our great sports teams — the Hitmen, Roughnecks and the Flames.

It will spur the development of the culture and entertainment district, help attract and retain young talent in our re-energized city, and solidify Calgary’s place as a vibrant destination for visitors from around the world.

The agreement itself provides direct and indirect returns to support the city’s investment.

We, the people of Calgary, will own the new event centre. We will own the land it sits on, and we will have revenue streams that protect our investment and provide a return to taxpayers.

We’ve known for years that Calgary needs to replace the aging Saddledome. The topic has been debated endlessly on the radio, TV, in newspapers and on social media.

We’re here today at the end of an open and transparent process that has gone on for almost 14 months.

Since May of 2018, this council has approved our terms of reference and guiding principles. You’ve seen renderings and economic studies.

You’ve heard from visionaries like Leonard Brody about the intangible benefits facilities like this will bring. And you’ve approved our workplan, negotiating and financial framework.

Indeed, much of the information before you today was first presented to council months ago. I thank those of you who decided to remain engaged and active participants in the work of our committee since its inception.

Some have argued that giving the public only seven days to provide feedback on the proposed deal simply isn’t enough.

This agreement has been shaped by 14 months of review, analysis, public input and robust negotiations — not to mention several years of talks between the parties.

As we have stage-gated conversations with Calgarians, it began with CMLC engaging thousands of Calgarians on the concept of the Rivers district, the culture and entertainment district and the Event Centre.

Just under 4000 people were engaged in surveys on the master plan over 103 days. By comparison, that would indicate the length of time on engagement isn’t the only measure but rather its reach.

All of this was made public to you on October 5, 2018.

We have had 14 months of conversation with Calgarians through the committee – and in one week, received over 5200 public submissions on top of hundreds of personal emails, phone calls, and social media conversations.

Make no mistake – whether it be a three-day information period, or a 300-day period, the fundamentals of this deal would not change.

We had a trusted, third-party negotiator achieve an agreement with three independent parties – the Stampede, CSEC and the City of Calgary.

Now is not the time to amend a signed multi-party agreement.

CMLC has proven that they are capable of significant engagement, and I promise – Calgarians will continue to be engaged on the built form, design and amenities of the new facility and surrounding public areas, should the deal pass today.

All of us here have been given the privilege of representing our constituents, of being leaders in our community.

Leadership is remaining steadfast and ready to make pragmatic decisions when faced with risk and uncertainty.

Leadership is remembering what is most important to us all – leaving Calgary in a better place than we found it.

We have before us a significant leadership opportunity.

An opportunity to attract investment, be a catalyst for further development, and enhance our reputation on the global stage.

An opportunity to prove that Calgary is indeed open and friendly to business.

I call on Council to seize this opportunity and accept the vision presented before us today. Because the decision you make today, will be the foundation for tomorrow.