Advocates for those being displaced in the inner city with the downtown arena are trying to get an eleventh hour add on to the community benefits agreement, although they admit the chances of it are remote, if not unlikely. A U of A researcher has been critical of the community benefit agreement for not doing enough, and says other CBAs should be put in place for future projects.
“This is a city owned facility and I expect a living wage to be paid at a city owned facility,” Jay Scherer told council’s executive committee. “Those types of discussions are frank and they’re hard and they’re difficult given that the city’s not operating the facility, but they need to be had and we need to be there. And we need to adjust as need be over the course of this, because this is a 35 year agreement. It’s time to have a really healthy and proactive and beneficial discussion, because this is a long term marriage.”
Coun. Dave Loken took issue with that criticism. “We’re at 1 minute to midnight, about to open the arena,” he said.
The community benefits concentrated more early on local issues like neighborhood impacts, parking and noise. Social issues like poverty are city wide, and the mayor said council is dealing with it that way.
“We have open minded partners and the province and good discussions with the federal government about the housing, and the urban indigenous components of that, but those are structural changes that are really inter-generational change and expecting the arena to single handily move the needle on those issues is not realistic. That’s why our council’s focus has been much more strategic and much more city wide on homelessness and poverty.”
“There’s a great opportunity here to look at employment, to look at tax dollars being generated by some of these developments being put back into investment in the community, into social agencies,” said Ian O’Donnell of the Downtown Community League who’s on the steering committee. He said the main focus should be on looking at the province for assistance, “because some of this needs to be dealt with at that level.”
Dan Glubosh, of the McCauley Community League said the Oilers Community Foundation has had other neighborhood benefits. “Can things be done better around the table? Absolutely. We’ve addressed that at our last meeting and I think the people around the table have acknowledged that and I do believe we will work on making things better.”
Members of city council’s executive committee heard been told 22 construction jobs for clients of Boyle Street and Bissell Centre were created. “Probably the most significant area of training and job placement that took place was the development of the NorQuest hospitality institute,” said Rick Daviss, the city’s executive director of the arena project. A $1.5 million grant was given by the Oiler Community Foundation for equipment and bursaries. “This is a program that’s going to help hospitality businesses through out the city, not just at Rogers Place,” Daviss said.