Tuesday August 19, 2014

Arts centre must be affordable

It won’t go down in the history of Kamloops as a winning election campaign, but politicians of today would do well to look back in recent history.

Eight years ago, then-president of the Kamloops Chamber of Commerce Al McNair ran for mayor. McNair was a well-connected leader in this community (and former Daily News publisher) when he ran for office. 

With a name brand and lots of campaign money, McNair was widely expected to challenge Terry Lake, then a councillor, for the mayor’s seat on council. 

Instead, McNair came a distant third, behind the low-key campaign of retired Mountie Pete Backus.

Ah, 2005 — remember the heady boom days when it didn’t much matter your income, you just borrowed your way to the illusion of personal wealth? Three years later it all came crashing down in the Great Recession, caused by runaway debts of consumers and governments alike.

McNair ran on a campaign of caution, saying the city had too much debt. 

What a downer.

But in the initial euphoric stages of planning for a performing arts centre, the City and its performing arts committee would do well to harken back to McNair’s warning.

At that time, the debt, driven by the Tournament Capital program, was slightly more than $100 million. Today it is $84 million.

But as a recent Daily News story outlined, that number is set to balloon to $122 million next year, driven by road infrastructure and the wastewater treatment plant.

That increase is outpacing the inflation rate at a time when the cost of borrowing is lower than at any time in contemporary history. Just like a homeowner with a mortgage, the City must be mindful that rates will go up — it’s just a matter of how long and how high they will go.

Coun. Donovan Cavers recently suggested a council workshop on debt. This is a sensible idea that was nonsensically shot down by council.

Such a workshop could be one of the tools council uses as part of its evaluation of whether this is the right time to proceed with a performing arts centre.

We Say editorials represent the viewpoint of The Daily News and are written by publisher Tim Shoults, city editor Tracy Gilchrist, or associate news editors Dan Spark and Mark Rogers.

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