Chamber of Commerce Expresses Concern on Event Centre Financial Plan

Thunder Bay City Hall
Thunder Bay City Hall

Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce President
Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce President Charla Robinson

THUNDER BAY – NEWS – The Thunder Bay Event & Convention Centre is an aspirational project that continues to receive broad support from the Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce membership although concerns are being raised about the proposed financial plan.

Thunder Bay City Council will hold a special meeting Thursday night on the funding and financial plans for the proposed event centre.

The move is drawing in commentary from both pro and anti event centre groups.

Ray Smith who heads a group of concerned taxpayers is stating “With regard to the option of a 50/50 split between the city and government sources. City manager Tim Commisso stated ‘We’re not recommending 50%’, the city’s share of funding for the proposed Event Centre is  already well beyond this.  That means STOP!”

Smith says, “The city should put this project on hold until the next municipal election.   The city stated they did not give the citizens a vote on the proposed Event Centre in last year’s election  as they didn’t know what question to ask and there wasn’t enough time”.

Jason Susin who is a part of Citizens for a Downtown North Core Multiplex is planning a pro-event centre rally outside of Thunder Bay City Hall for Thursday night.

Susin commented on the group’s facebook page that about ten people attended the Concerned Taxpayer’s recent media conference and is hoping to get more people out to support the project.

Chamber of Commerce President Charla Robinson says, “The business community is well-informed about both the short and long term benefits that a new Event Centre offers to the local economy through job creation and investment attraction. Business owners also place great importance on ensuring the business plan makes financial sense and does not contain undo risk. The apparent lack of new federal funding support towards financing for the Event Centre project and the change from an equal three-way split between federal, provincial and municipal portions are big concerns.”

For over 4 years, City Council and Administration have pointed to a significant shortage of funds to address the basic infrastructure needs of our community and have increased the tax levy each year in an attempt to close that gap. Chamber members believe that Gas Tax funds received by the municipality should continue to be used to address key infrastructure of roads, bridges and storm sewers and not shifted to the Event Centre.

Concerns have also been expressed regarding the inclusion in the capital financial plan of private sector contributions through naming and sponsorship support. This appears to conflict with the Phase 3 Report business plan indicating that naming and sponsorship revenues are allocated to annual operating revenues and raises questions about the calculations used to determine the total annual cost to taxpayers.

Robinson concludes, “The Chamber membership remains supportive of the project; however, it is our opinion that the financial plan for the Event Centre is not strong enough to support moving forward at this time. We encourage City Council to vote against proceeding to Phase 5 based on this proposal; however, this should not be a ‘now or never’ decision and we should continue to work with stakeholders for as long as it takes to get it right.”