Canadians oppose using taxpayers funds for NHL franchises - Macleans.ca

Canadians oppose using taxpayers funds for NHL franchises

Fans in Calgary and Ottawa want new arenas. But taxpayers and politicians aren’t keen to help pay for them

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May 13, 2017; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Ottawa Senators right wing Bobby Ryan (9) celebrates with teammates after scoring the over time goal to defeat the Pittsburgh Penguins in game one of the Eastern Conference Final of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs at PPG PAINTS Arena. (Don Wright/USA Today Sports/Reuters)

May 13, 2017; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Ottawa Senators right wing Bobby Ryan (9) celebrates with teammates after scoring the over time goal to defeat the Pittsburgh Penguins in game one of the Eastern Conference Final of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs at PPG PAINTS Arena. (Don Wright/USA Today Sports/Reuters)

A new poll suggests the majority of Canadians would be in favour of another NHL team coming to their community, but that support significantly drops when taxpayers’ money enters the equation.

The findings are in line with past surveys, indicating that most Canadians haven’t changed their minds when it comes to footing the bill for a professional sports franchise.

“Ever since I remember, this has been a perennial debate in Canada,” said David Coletto, CEO of Abacus Data, which conducted the online survey in April as part of The Canada Project.

The poll of more than 1,500 Canadians aged 18 and over found that 56 per cent of respondents would support another NHL club in their area, compared to 12 per cent who opposed and 32 per cent who were indifferent.

However, when respondents were told taxpayers’ money was needed to help get that team, support significantly declined to 27 per cent, while opposition climbed to 61 per cent; 12 per cent maintained no view.

“We’ve seen this before,” said Coletto, referencing a 2011 Canadian Press Harris-Decima survey that revealed similar results.

“Most of the public is generally uncomfortable with governments funding professional-sports organizations. If you’re a municipal government, infrastructure and other services are underfunded. If you’re a provincial government, [there are complaints in polling] about the quality of hospitals and schools. It seems for a lot of people to be an inappropriate use of money to support a professional sports team.”

    Some argue new teams or arenas can produce an economic spinoff in the surrounding area. Coletto notes how the recently opened Rogers Place, paid for with the help of taxpayers’ finances, has transformed Edmonton’s downtown core, but also says the promise of development is not always a slam-dunk selling point to the public.

    “It requires a very clear argument to get people on board and even then, you are probably going to be left with a divide,” he said.