Markham councillors move forward with plans for arena
An attempt by some Markham councillors to cancel a publicly-funded arena project failed early this morning.
After eight hours of debates and deputations, councillors narrowly voted, 7 to 6, to keep moving forward with plans to build a 20,000 seat, NHL-style arena.
Negotiations will continue between the city and private partners, one of those being Graeme Roustan.
"It's been a very, very long day for everybody," Roustan says.
And in the end it was a good day for him. Even at 4 a.m., after hearing a lot of criticism, he showed no fatigue, just a smile.
"When I set my eyes on something, when I want to get something done, and I want to pursue something, I don't get discouraged," Roustan says. "Until I hear a 'no,' I don't get discouraged."
Some councillors like Joe Li had tried this morning to rescind the financial framework that would involve public funding, which would have essentially cancelled the project, but their attempt failed.
"I'm disappointed. I'm angry," Li says.
Li and the other five councillors who voted to rescind the funding plan thought they were in the majority. But they were surprised when councillor Logan Kanapathi, who was expected to be on their side, voted to keep the process going.
"Logan flipped," says Annette Cacorovski of the Markham Ratepayers Association, a big critic of a publicly-funded arena. "In the eleventh hour he's changed his vote. He has the right to change his vote and we have the right to remember that vote in 2014."
The debate is far from over. A final agreement between the city and private partners has to be put together, including the funding plan.
The proposal now is to have the city and private sector split the $325-million cost.
Some councillors are calling for private partners to cover all the costs, while others say that's not possible.
So the debate will continue to rage on, and Roustan knows that.
"Technically, I could put three years of work into this and they can say no," Roustan says. "And that's the risk that I took."
For now, mayor Frank Scarpitti, a main supporter of the project, says he is glad councillors decided to stay at the table.
"Just one more meeting, that we keep the process going," Scarpitti says. "The fact that council agreed, the majority of council agreed, not to kill this project before we've completed all of our due diligence quite honestly is a really wise move on their part.