Wet blanket

Rushing out the door last week, one headline jumped off the page….. “Guelph-Eramosa seeks $10.4-million grant for new Rockwood recreation complex”.

It was simply too late to write on the topic of huge capital investments like an arena proposal anyway, but it did provide much needed time to think about the subject further. No one likes to appear like a wet blanket, particularly when it sounds like an awesome facility and great addition to the community.

Guelph Eramosa is seeking a grant for $10.4 million to prop up the projected $14.2 million expenditure.

Provincial and federal top-ups in the form of grants allow communities of dubious size to dream big. Development charge fees struck decades ago and collected from the expansion of Rockwood these past few years will aid in its construction.

Forever the community has wanted such a project to save its ratepayers from driving to Guelph, Acton, Fergus and Hillsburgh. Apart from general numbers and revenue projections it is hard to tell exactly how much of the proposal is user driven locally vs catchment area capacity.

The Marden field house built numerous years ago is nearing completion of its debt repayment. Township officials often hold it up as a cash positive facility, but to be fair those revenues have been helped handsomely by non-resident users from Guelph and Centre Wellington over the years. It begs the question whether the new arena proposal has built-in a similar reliance on the catchment area to meet revenue targets.

Regardless, the Township has proven itself capable in developing projects of this scope. It should not be forgotten there are inescapable long -term operating costs to which it is now committed. These don’t go away and at some point, significant repairs and upgrades will be required too.

With eyes wide open, if the community and council are willing to take it on, its only right to support it and wish it success.

That’s where the wet blanket aspect of this column comes in.

The federal election held a few weeks ago and the provincial election last year, generated discussion points that suggest there is a need to rethink grants, particularly programs like the one under which Guelph-Eramosa is seeking over $10 million.

Affordability, healthcare and environmental issues were front and centre in these recent campaigns.

For most Canadians, costs continue to rise and for many this inflation for lack of a better word eats into their lifestyle.  Food, housing, transportation and entertainment costs have risen dramatically with no end in sight. It isn’t a cheap existence here in Ontario so anytime development of further facilities is enabled from above, since a local justification would not pass muster, costs inflate unnecessarily.

It boils down to a want vs need discussion.

Imagine for a moment if the issues of importance to Canadians were prioritized and every effort was made to realize on those ambitions.

Affordable housing, now referenced as attainable housing since homebuilders co-opted the phrase, is a significant problem best helped by provincial and federal governments developing a plan to deal with the homeless and almost homeless. Redevelopment programs and developing more housing stock for the disadvantaged is urgently needed.

Healthcare, including the struggles families face with autism or dealing with elderly parents, will never get the funding it needs unless a strategy is earmarked for such a purpose.

The environment, whether that be flood-proofing hazardous zones or implementing significant conservation efforts to buck the west’s reliance on fossil fuels, will never get the attention it deserves if soft funds aren’t redirected to matters of consequence.

Like most residents, my personal hope to enjoy the proposed facility one day, watching the kids play hockey or indoor soccer will be tempered by the knowledge that other far more important issues were overlooked in the process.