Yesterday, Mayor Jim Watson announced his most recent campaign pledge, to spend $1.5M per year to lure high-profile sporting events to Ottawa (things like the FIFA World Cup, the NHL All-Star game or the Grey Cup). Currently, we spend $900,000 each year on this. There are points for and against such initiatives (Watson’s team claims the economic value is 50 times the outlay, but sports, in general, tend to be a net drag on a local economy…and, of course, the ’88 Grey Cup helped bankrupt the Rough Riders), but it is noteworthy what gets priority.
Remember, in November it was proposed that the city plow an extra 16 km of bike lanes at an estimated cost of $200,000 (which is cheaper than plowing the same distance of roads). Council balked at the cost. Yet, we will spend 7.5 times as much on this project.
And so, we see how things go in Ottawa under the current council (and this is the preference of many other municipal candidates); the focus is money, business and prestige–the desire to be a world-class city by hosting world-class events (and the Grey Cup). It is not the city’s priority to ensure that we create a livable city.