COLUMN: No multiplex on my dime, thank you

NANAIMO – Any multiplex in Nanaimo must be paid entirely with private money.

Nanaimo city councillors Bill Bestwick, Jim Kipp and Bill McKay feel the need to lower expected tax rate increases is so great they were willing to circumvent the usual council protocol by dropping their bombshell proposal of $2.2 million in budget cuts on fellow council members and staff without any notice.

Politicking? Perhaps. But the basis behind the idea is sound. With phrases like ‘out-of-control’ municipal spending being tossed about more often, any break for the weary taxpayer would be welcome.

That’s why – when water rates jump five per cent a year for the foreseeable future to pay for a water treatment plant; the Port Theatre and Vancouver Island Conference Centre continue to require taxpayer subsidies; council has to decide how many millions of dollars it’s going to take to do something about Colliery Dam Park’s dams; and we have kilometres of infrastructure under our roads that needs to be replaced – that I can’t believe council is even entertaining the idea of a multiplex for Nanaimo.

If the entire project is financed by private money, then I’m all for it.

But it has to be the entire project. No public-private partnerships. If the city has the land ideal for the multiplex, then the developer should buy it. And none of this giving up the land for $1. Top dollar will go a long way to helping our tax rate woes.

The developer or private company should also operate it, be responsible for booking acts or drawing a Western Hockey League team to play there.

And if the economy isn’t quite as rosy – the hockey team tanks, the big name bands don’t come to the Island or the boat, car and RV shows aren’t quite as popular as people predicted – then it falls on the private owners to cover the losses, not the taxpayer.

There shouldn’t be one penny of public money ever going to the project. Is it not enough the public will pay to attend the events?

Our economic climate is still flirting around a recession despite talk of many that we are out of the woods.

Words including layoffs and restructuring are still on the lips of many CEOs as companies try to weather a storm of business instability.

In the private sector, people haven’t seen wage increases in years yet taxes go up, the cost of food … everything … has gone up.

As the News Bulletin’s editorial board said in Thursday’s issue, taxpayers are fatigued.

Choices often have to be made between food and rent, what bills to put aside for another month and what ones have to be paid. Luxury items are put on the back burner to take care of necessities.

I believe there is no appetite for a publicly-funded multiplex – a luxury item in tough times when the city has so many necessities it has to deal with.

I know there are people out there who disagree – that a multiplex seating 4,000-5,000 people would put Nanaimo on the map.

Again, if funded privately, let’s go for it. But don’t forget big events mean big admission prices and I go back to my luxury versus necessity argument.

How many people would love to take in some of the performances at the Port Theatre only to balk at the cost to take a family? Those prices are ridiculous and still the taxpayer forks out a subsidy for the theatre’s existence.

If a private company can’t manage to put up a multiplex on its own and is looking for help from the city, let’s put it to a referendum and let the voters decide once and for all.

If they want to pay for it, fine. I’m a believer in the democratic system though I won’t like it.

If there is no appetite for it, let’s put it to rest once and for all.

A great movie line goes “If you build it, they will come.”

Well, you pay for it, not us, and we will see if they come.