Now is the time to play hardball

Author: 2021/04/01

This piece was first published in the Montreal Gazette on April 1st, 2021.

The right time to close the barn door is before the cows get out and the right time to stop government waste is before the deal is announced and the cheque goes out.

In his latest column, Jack Todd is quite critical of this strategy. He suggests the Canadian Taxpayers Federation should wait until all of the detail are hammered out before it criticizes Stephen Bronfman’s proposals for getting taxpayers to pay for all or part of his new stadium.

One thing we’ve noticed at the CTF is that it’s better to advocate against a bad subsidy deal before a cheque gets sent in the mail, rather than after.

When politicians have not made up their mind or made any public statements yet, that’s when they are most open to concerns from taxpayers.

What’s the alternative? Taxpayers could stay quiet until the Bronfman releases details, but that would give him a monopoly on Economy Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon’s attention. And taxpayers deserve to have a say before the minister’s staff starts drafting a press release.

But what if the long-awaited details are full of potential economic and tax benefits that are often touted when taxpayers are asked to pay for stadiums?

The fact is that economists have already spent a lot of times looking into nearly every imaginable type of subsidy deal for professional sports facilities.

There is near unanimity in peer-reviewed economics papers that there is no substantial evidence of positive economic impacts associated with subsidies for pro-sports stadiums. Only four per cent of economists think the benefits might outweigh the costs.

Whatever the details, subsidizing pro-sports stadium just ain’t worth the money.