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Weekend Newsstand: March 15, 2014

A soothsayer bids you beware the ides of March. Dearest friends and Romans, it is time for some news: MLSE wants $10 million from the City to renovate BMO Field, David Soknacki likes the idea of region-specific tax levels, cyclists are mad as hell about snowed-in bike lanes and are not going to take it anymore, and road closures this St. Paddy’s Day weekend.

matt newsstand carsandflags

Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (MLSE) has put together proposed plans for a $120-million renovation of BMO Field that would see the Toronto Argonauts take up permanent residence at Exhibition Place. The renovations would add 8,500 seats, nudging the stadium’s permanent seating capacity up to 30,000, with potential for an additional 10,000 temporary seats. Now, here’s the catch. The plan relies on a $10-million contribution from the City of Toronto, which is currently under consideration by the executive committee. MLSE would also seek a pair of matching $10-million contributions from the provincial and federal governments to help fund the expansion. A report before the executive committee estimates the expansion would generate more than $47 million in visitor spending, which would offset the investment. You’re not wrong if you’re currently scratching your head thinking, “Renovations to BMO Field? Didn’t they just build that?” However, MLSE CEO Tim Leiweke says the seven-year-old venue already isn’t living up to the standard of other Major League Soccer teams. The proposed renovations would allow the venue to host events such as the Major League Soccer Cup and the MLS All Star Game, which could generate additional revenues.

Yesterday, mayoral candidate David Soknacki released a paper that details some of his plans for change within City Hall and beyond, if elected. Among his proposals, Soknacki favours region-specific service and a tax-level structure that would allow each of Toronto’s four community councils to determine the level of public service they require from the City, and pay a tax rate commensurate with those needs. Soknacki also offers a laundry list of changes to the inner workings of City Hall, including guaranteed representation from each of the City’s community councils on the executive committee, and a redistribution of wards that would still maintain a 44-ward council, yet with a ratio of one councillor to every 68,000 residents.

There are likely a lot of cyclists around the city who wonder whether or not Soknacki’s pay-as-you-go tax structure would let them opt out of paying taxes for city services they’re not even getting in the first place—such as keeping bike lines snow-free during the winter, for instance. On Thursday, Cycle Toronto brought together a group of frustrated cyclists who are fed up with snow being dumped into the city’s bike paths. The group, armed with shovels of protest, cleared the contraflow bike lane on Shaw Street, between Bloor Street and Harbord Street. City Councillor Mike Layton (Ward 19, Trinity-Spadina), who was at the event, says he plans to introduce a motion in April to ask staff to create better policies for winter bike-lane maintenance.

Finally, no matter how you are travelling around the city this weekend, here is a list of road and transit closures to peruse. It is worth noting that the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade is this Sunday at noon, meaning the route—which travels from Bloor Street West, east to Yonge, south to Queen and west to University—will be blocked by a sea of people in green chasing shamrocks and leprechauns. If you can’t beat ‘em, grab a Guinness and join ‘em.


  • dsmithhfx

    “The plan relies on a $10-million contribution from the City of Toronto[ ....] MLSE would also seek a pair of matching $10-million contributions from the provincial and federal governments.”

    No, no and no. Goddam corporate welfare bums.

    • nevilleross

      Agreed. Also, somebody should show the people of Toronto and city council this video/interview with Dave Zirin (conducted by Bill Moyers) about cities doing this while neglecting other things; (skip past the opening about the Syria brouhaha.)

  • OgtheDim

    The city is forcing the Argos onto MLSE and into BMO. If this doesn’t happen, the Argos would likely move up to York or Peel. My understanding is Kelly thinks the $10 million is a doable figure to get through city council. The spin is that without this move, the tax revenue generated by the Argos will go somewhere else. I would be very surprised if MLSE has not already got a verbal commitment from both the feds and the province.

    BTW, this is all about getting Leaf games outside, and making money off that fad. The Argos are an afterthought and TFC an excuse.

    Somebody should ask OC and Tory what they think of this….the answers would be enlightening.

  • VictorianShuter

    I’m left wondering if Soknacki’s proposal would lead to residents in Black Creek paying higher taxes than residents in Rosedale.

    • Mark Dowling

      I think he’s sticking his neck out here politically and could get it chopped off, but it’s fair to say that sometimes the unmet needs of discrete parts of the amalgamated city get vetoed by the whole, and some legacy entitlements paid for by all cause a lot of friction. It would be interesting to see the city forced to confront socially necessary vs nice to have, and the core services review findings (where what the public thought is necessary decisively overthrew Ford’s microgovernment thinking) lead me to think not too many things would necessarily be flagged for this process. In any event better to have DS talk of policy delivery rather than his gauche attempt to get a rise out of the Chow campaign which just led to Soknacki friendly policy nerds losing it.

  • Mark Dowling

    47 million in extra spending, but how much in revenue for the city without a share of HST or income tax? And that’s true for all such event spinoff figures too like Caribana or Pride. The city pays for the facilities but other governments rake in the rewards. At least with Pan Ams higher government is paying most of the freight.