Alberta Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith is no stranger to controversy. She found herself in a heated dispute with Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel shortly after being elected as party leader, and was dogged by inappropriate comments her candidates made in the last Alberta election that many experts say cost the Wildrose the election. Despite her controversial past, Smith suggests introducing a special lottery to help pay for a new arena to house the Edmonton Oilers as a way to keep the team from relocating – an idea that is likely to gain widespread support.
The idea imposes a philosophical debate upon Albertans as Smith’s idea is an effort to reignite negotiations between the Oilers ownership and the city of Edmonton over arena funding. Over $475 million has been compiled for the new arena, but another $100 million is necessary to confirm the arena will go ahead. Oilers owner Daryl Katz has so far refused to contribute any additional funds to the project, and in October cancelled negotiations with the city – though Mayor Mandel says negotiations have resumed.
However, the mayor warns that time is running out to complete a deal, suggesting the end of February could be the drop-dead date. If a new arena deal is not reached and Katz refuses to make further investments, there is a strong possibility Edmonton could lose its NHL team.
Smith’s proposal is to use gambling revenue to help fund the Edmonton arena, as well as a new arena for the Calgary Flames. The idea tweaks a proposal the Wildrose made in the last election of a special lottery to pay for the arena – Smith only referred to a “gaming model” but suggested scratch cards have helped to raise money for projects in the past. She took to Twitter to put forward the idea in the hopes that Albertans would support it. “In the next few weeks we are going to propose something that will allow both teams to fund an arena by direct contribution of their fans.”
The Wildrose are not the only party to recommend gambling pay for the arena. The PC government under Allison Redford once advocated casino revenue to fund the arena, but the idea never gained enough support. Smith will put forward more details of the plan in January, but the proposal could be withdrawn if it succeeds in kick-starting discussions between Edmonton and the Oilers owners again.
Do you think gambling money could help save the Oilers, or is it best to keep those two separate? Let us know on Facebook if you think retaining an NHL team is worth Smith’s idea.