Calgary asks Flames for more time to consult on arena deal as poll shows majority feel week is too short

On the same day that a poll was released showing a majority of Calgarians feel the arena deal is being rushed, the city revealed it is asking the Calgary Flames’ ownership group for more time to do public consultation.

At the outset of their talks, all parties to the negotiations — the city, the Flames owners and the Calgary Stampede — agreed that there would be a quick decision by all sides if they reached a successful conclusion.

But Couns. Evan Woolley and Jeromy Farkas say allowing only one week for Calgarians to have their say isn’t fair — especially in the middle of summer — and they want the city to ask the Flames to allow council to delay their vote on the deal until the end of September.

Acting city manager Glenda Cole said during Monday’s council meeting that she has forwarded that request to Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation (CSEC).

“I have made the request and I will be providing all members of council with a response before 1 p.m. tomorrow,” Cole said on Monday morning.

As it stands, council is set to start debating the deal on Tuesday afternoon.

Meanwhile, a new survey suggests most Calgarians feel they haven’t been given enough time to understand and provide feedback on the nearly $600-million deal.

60% say 1 week too short

Sixty per cent of respondents to the poll by ThinkHQ Public Affairs said one week is not enough time for city council to engage with citizens over the proposal, which was only made public on Monday last week.

The poll also found that Calgarians are split on the proposal, as it stands, with 47 per cent in favour and 47 per cent opposed, and the rest unsure.

This chart illustrates Calgarians’ responses to a recent ThinkHQ Public Affairs poll about the arena deal. (ThinkHQ)

Support for the arena deal was highest among older Calgarians and those with higher incomes.

The poll found 61 per cent support among those with household incomes of $100,000 or more, compared to 34 per cent among those with a household income below $50,000.

Among Calgarians aged 35 and over, support was at 51 per cent, compared to 39 per cent among those younger than 35.

Support for mayor, council declining

The survey also found public approval for Calgary’s municipal government to have reached a new low.

Just 35 per cent of people surveyed said they approve of Mayor Naheed Nenshi, down from 61 per cent when ThinkHQ did a similar survey in June 2018.

Only 23 per cent of survey respondents approved of city council, as a whole, down from 48 per cent in June of last year.

This chart illustrates Calgarians’ responses to a series of polls by ThinkHQ Public Affairs about their views on Calgary’s mayor and city councillors. (ThinkHQ)

Henry said the low approval ratings combined with Calgarians’ opinions on the arena deal and how it has been rolled out could spell trouble for city council.

“One of the biggest risks with the current proposal is moving forward on its current timeline,” he said in a release.

“First, it may undermine support for the deal itself as even 35 per cent of those who like the plan think that a one-week consultation is too short. Second, public confidence in council is staggeringly low right now, and if a quick approval leaves voters feeling unheard by their elected officials on a big project like this, watch out.”

Council previously rejected decision extension

Monday’s development is not the first time some members of council have tried to extend the deliberation period on the arena deal.

Coun. Evan Woolley introduced an amendment at council last week to put the decision off until September but was voted down by a 9-4 margin.

Coun. Jeff Davison, who chairs the city’s Events Centre Assessment Committee, said at the time that all parties to the deal had agreed that one week is probably an appropriate amount of time.

He said putting off the decision would kill the deal, given the terms of the tentative agreement the city had reached, and suggested the Calgary Flames might leave the city as a result.

“You should know that if this [amendment] passes, this deal is done tonight and you will forever be known as the council that likely lost the Calgary Flames,” Davison told council last week.

The Stampede board has already given its approval to the proposed agreement.

Survey methodology

The ThinkHQ poll was conducted via an online research panel from July 24 to 26.

A total of 645 people were surveyed and results were weighted based on Statistics Canada demographic data.

For comparison purposes only, a probability sample of this size would yield a margin of error of plus or minus 3.9 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

The margin of error on sub-samples of data (for example, those specific to age or income) would be higher.

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