Windsor Tourist Board
Stratford is striving to be the first site in Canada to test automated vehicles, the future of the auto industry.
Windsor is paying recreational hockey players to come here.
That says it all about municipal politics here the last week.
City council’s last two meetings were defining events. But not in a good way. Council rejected hiring an auditor general. It cost too much. It refused to waive fees for the farmers’ market downtown or the Windsor International Film Festival, two popular and growing local events drawing people to the core. “A slippery slope, ” Mayor Drew Dilkens said of waiving fees.
Then councillors voted to hire a sports tourism czar, estimated to cost $120, 000, with a budget estimated at another $200, 000 to bid for events. That’s $320, 000 — far more than the $286, 000 for an auditor general.
This is a priority in the city with the highest unemployment rate in the country?
“We’re trying to keep a lid on the 2016 budget and we keep piling on issues, ” Dilkens complained during the auditor general debate.
The city already has money for sports tourism, he said, citing $393, 000 in his office budget for it. That will last only one or two years, the council report states. If more money is needed, “it should be noted that funds would need to be made available through a tax increase or reduction of service elsewhere, ” it states.
The city won’t actually spend $320, 000 a year, Dilkens countered. The estimated $120, 000 for the position is “highly, highly inflated” and “we would never spend $200, 000 on bids.”
This is an expensive proposition, the report warns repeatedly. The cost to bid and host events is rising. Windsor paid $750, 000 — enough for almost three auditors general — to host a Canadian Adult Recreational Hockey Association tournament next year. The fee for the association’s next tournament in 2020 could be $1 million.
The amount of money needed for bids fluctuates, the report states. Municipalities with sports tourism budgets sometimes have to ask their councils for more money. The $200, 000 bid budget here wouldn’t come close to covering the recreational hockey tournament. Sometimes municipalities have to hire consultants to handle significant bids. Windsor hired a consultant to run the 25-metre world swimming championships here next year.
“… in order to continue to hold the line on taxes, city council may choose not to pursue an expanded sport tourism office …, ” the report concluded.
Dilkens cites the return on investment for events the city has already hosted. The International Children’s Games in 2013 was purported to generate $8.9 million in “economic activity.”
“A stunning success, ” the local tourism board called it. It counted the almost $1.7 million in taxpayers’ money for the event as “spending.”
Our $750, 000 for a beer league hockey tournament will help pay for the players’ hotels, transportation, ice rental and other expenses. It’s not subsidizing their vacation, said association spokesperson Reuben Greenspoon. It’s “contributing” to it.
It’s like renting tourists.
The city has spent almost $6 million on five events in the last several years.
“Let’s take a pause, ” suggested Coun. Irek Kusmierczyk. “Let’s get an independent value-for-money audit done, see if we’re really getting the return on investment that we think we’re getting and then have a discussion about what we want to do next.”
A reasonable suggestion. Yet Kusmierczyk and the three other councillors who opposed a sports tourism office — Rino Bortolin, Chris Holt and Bill Marra — were publicly crucified for it.