Charlottetown needs another taxpayer funded white elephant

 Construction of the $18 million Charlottetown Convention Centre will drain taxpayer’s wallets for decades

When all the right officials line up behind massive public spending based on flawed logic hold onto your wallets.  The announcement of an $18 million convention centre for Charlottetown is one of those magic moments.  Taxpayers are being saddled with tens of millions in public debt including ongoing operating losses. The politicians, land owners and developers don’t care. They will retire to Florida living off our gullibility.

Within hours of announcing the government will build the white elephant, local developer Tim Banks confirmed he is building a $22 million hotel and condo complex. Wait for the details on this one because you can be sure there is public money involved. Premier Ghiz and Banks are political buddies. Ghiz offered Banks a loan to build Banks’ head office building. How much public money is behind the new 120 room hotel?  
No doubt Homburg is heaving a sigh of relief that the Ghiz government is going to drive more traffic into his new 82 room, luxury hotel. The taxpayers of PEI put $30 million into that project. Since expensive hotels lose money on PEI due to low occupancy, we can expect taxpayers to forgive that loan sometime into the future.
Taxpayer’s money will go into the construction of the convention centre. We will be subsidizing the convention center’s operating costs by hiring the Delta as operators. That’s another subsidy for the Delta. We paid for the building lock stock and barrel in the 1980s. Then the government took the hotel in a quasi receivership and sold it to CP Hotels for $1 plus a $1 million promissory note. How many times will taxpayers be forced to pay for government mismanagement and patronage?
All this money is being spent during a period of over-capacity in the convention business. Tourism and convention traffic is down and until the US economy picks up it will stay depressed.
In the meantime, every major convention centre has or is planning on upgrading to snag the bigger conventions leaving PEI in their dust.  Half of the convention business on PEI comes from New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Both provinces building up their convention centres with massive expenditures. We are all chasing the same dollars.
As the the UPEI study on the convention business, it’s a flimsy document that is no more than an exit survey of conventioneers. It does not predict any expansion in the convention business nor does it support Premier Ghiz faint hope of $6 million a year in additional business.
Remember when the government told us that spending $25 million on the Charlottetown Driving Park (Red Shores Racetrack and Casino) would create a profitable racing and gambling centre? We are still losing money at an amazing clip on that bit of brilliant planning. Some people are making money on these developments but it isn’t the taxpayer. Is this the future of gambling more losses at the track?

Click HERE to read more columns by Stephan Pate

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1 Comment

  1. Funny thing! that “white elephant” comment_content_author_url was applied to the Delta Hotel that sits on the waterfront back in the 80’s. Not much of a white elephant as it is doing a booming business. I hate people that always have to be so negative. You know the saying, “Build it, and they will come.” Seems to a have worked at the Delta. Spending taxpayers money on stupcomment_ID things like french language promotion is more of a waste to me than provcomment_IDing jobs to the people regardless what language you speak. And that waste of spending out does this project by about a billion and it would blow your mind!. Given the right operational conditions and promotion, it will maybe squeeze folks out of other locations if we promote beautiful little PEI correctly. You wait and see! Competition is always a good thing. Or maybe you dcomment_IDn’t know that!

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