AHL subsidy ‘a no-brainer’ — Williams

Tara Bradbury
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Application had too little detail to approve: Dunderdale

— File Photo

The province might have considered subsidizing an American Hockey League team if only it had been given an adequate application for funding.

Premier Kathy Dunderdale said Friday afternoon it was the application that was turned down, not the applicant.

“People are wondering why we dealt with it so quickly — it’s because we had so little to deal with,” Dunderdale told members of the media.

She was responding to comments made by former premier Danny Williams earlier in the day that a decision to deny a subsidy to an AHL team was made quickly and not given proper consideration.

Williams is at the centre of the negotiations to bring the Manitoba Moose to St. John’s, contingent on the NHL transfer of the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg.

He said this week the hockey team would likely require some sort of travel subsidy, which would cost roughly $500,000 annually.

He’s not the one requesting the funding, though: since he’s only been retired from office for six months, that would represent a conflict of interest. The applicant is St. John’s Sports and Entertainment (SJSE), which owns and operates Mile One Centre.

Dunderdale said a week before government received the application, officials from the Department of Tourism and Culture contacted SJSE and explained what was needed in order for the proposal to be considered.

“We would need a very sound proposal, we’d need a well-developed business plan, because ordinarily this is not a place where we go; this is not something we normally do. Our focus is very much on amateur sports,” she said. “What we received was a letter of request that was accompanied by several letters of support, (and) an exit survey that had been done at Mile One after some event, where people were asked what they would like to see in terms of professional hockey here in this province. Now, we can’t do any kind of analysis on that scant amount of information.”

Dunderdale said Tourism and Culture Minister Terry French reviewed the application with officials from other government departments, and — “because of the sensitivity, given that we have a former premier very publicly involved in this discussion” — discussed his decision to deny it with her. Once he provided the rationale, she agreed, she said.

Dunderdale said if SJSE came back with a more sound proposal, government would indeed review it again, but stressed it wouldn’t necessarily accept it, since it would mean a change in policy.

“I want to be very clear: we have been on the receiving end of requests for funding from professional hockey teams in particular in this province during our tenure, right back to the Fog Devils,” she said. “Every time we’ve said no. Philosophically, that’s not where we are.”

Williams said earlier in the day he was shocked by the province’s decision, and was disappointed from business and economic standpoints.

“For me, it’s a no-brainer. It’s good for the province: the economic spinoff from that team alone has been calculated to be $10 million on an annual basis,” he said. “I’d hate to see this opportunity go by. I’ve been told by the AHL that this is the last shot; we’ll never get another chance,” Williams said. “It’s there laying before us. I can take a horse to water but I can’t make her drink.”

Williams said he’d like to continue to pursue the idea, as long as the money to support it is there.

“From Mile One’s perspective, I’ve already put a $1 million of my own money into Mile One for the naming rights, so I’ve stepped up to the plate. The least the province can do is come up with half that.”

Williams said if he was still premier, the government would provide the subsidy.

He also said he can’t explain the apparent rift that has developed between the Conservative party and him since he left as premier.

“If there’s actually a rift, it’s unfortunate,” Williams said. “I’ve done everything I can for that party and I’ve been a Progressive Conservative all my life, and my family has. I gave 10 years and a bit of good hard work to the party and to the province, so if there’s anything developing on the inside, I can’t explain it."

When asked about the rift, Dunderdale said she couldn’t explain it.

“Look, I can only speak to this so often. Mr. Williams clearly has issues. I don’t,” she said.

“My job is to serve the people of this province; to be a good steward. That’s what they’ve charged me with. I’m not going to be distracted into other people’s issues or other things that really don’t have anything to do with me.”


Organizations: American Hockey League, Manitoba Moose, NHL Atlanta Thrashers Department of Tourism and Culture

Geographic location: Winnipeg

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Recent comments

  • dw
    May 30, 2011 - 02:48

    Wasn't this guy the premier for a few years? If it's such a great idea then why didn't he push for Hockey in St. John's it then? Was he pretending to be from Corner Brook or something? Hockey has failed in Mile One twice. Mile One itself had failed. Williams failed in his AHL pursuits, at great expense to the NL taxpayer. As a former premier he should probably stay away from development applications anyway...

  • davemorias
    May 29, 2011 - 22:37

    I guesses that Danny will have to tere down the newfoundland flags now !!

  • Eli
    May 29, 2011 - 11:32

    I agree with premier Dunderdale's decision to turn thumbs down on this stupid proposition. I disagree she's being a good steward. Keeping the Muskrat Falls deal under Nalcor's wrap is HER no brainer.

  • Krissie
    May 29, 2011 - 09:25

    First let me say Mr Danny Williams was a great Premier when he was in politics. The best NL ever had in my opinion,I wish he was still there.What is wrong with you Kathy Harper oopps Dunderdale, I don't even like hockey but has enough sence to realize that this is a no brainer. Remember your serving the people of Newfoundland & Labrador and any screw ups will haunt you in the next election!! We will REMEMBER!!!!

  • Maureen Ellsworth
    May 29, 2011 - 09:00

    If it is such a good business venture, why does it need a taxpayer subsidy to survive? A good business would make a profit without help from the government.

  • WaitngOnHockey
    May 28, 2011 - 16:29

    That's what I said.

  • sam
    May 28, 2011 - 16:16

    Is Danny going to do the same thing with the AHL deal as he did with the Mustrat Falls one. He makes the deal and then bows out and leaves someone else to defend it. Might i remind Danny that Miss Dunderdale has been defending that deal since he up and left in December. It was your choice to leave Danny...now stop acting like a child and go back to Florida for a little R & R. There are more pressing matters in the province for the government than having to answer for your tantrems. And Danny, more than you did a lot for the PC Party...get over it before you discredit all the good you did while you were Premier. The rest of us believe in this province and want what is best for all residents. Stop believing that you are the only one who really cares!!

  • Uncivil Servant
    May 28, 2011 - 16:09

    From my experience, when we receive an incomplete application for funding, which this appears to be, then it is rejected or returned to the applicant with a request to supply the missing information. We've also seen applicants that were not eligible for funding try to use 'fronts', which is what SJSE seems to be here, in order to get around the rules. As for the spins-offs, there is no evidence that professional sports teams generate any significant financial benefit to a province or state. The reason being that the revenue source is the local population's entertainment budget. All it would do is redirect people's entertainment spending from movies, restaurants, etc towards hockey but there would be no increased benefit. Lastly, Danny did spend $1 million for the naming rights but that was an asset purchase which he can resell, if he hasn't already, at a higher value later. There's nothing Danny has said that would justify putting half a million dollars a year of taxpayers money into his project.

  • Not a Danny Fan anymore
    May 28, 2011 - 14:43

    Please Premier Dunderdale stick to your decision on this matter. This hockey venture doesn’t seem to be viable, if it was Danny would have no trouble getting backers to support him. In my opinion the Danny really didn’t want to leave politics when he did. When he passed over the reins to you, I’m sure he thought you wouldn’t run for premier. You were the only one who would run, no one else wanted it. Was Danny hoping for that and then he could step back in and save the party. Don’t be bullied by Danny, the people are behind you but right now it seems Danny is attacking you because he can’t control you just like he did with Stephen Harper and Fabian Manning. What is he going to do start an ABC campaign, Anyone but Cathy? Stay focused and when the election comes in the fall, you will still be premier. He’s not premier and doesn’t carry the power he did then. Yes, he still has clout but we’re voting for you not him.

  • Ramble on
    May 28, 2011 - 13:46

    I was often annoyed how other former NL Premiers would collect their bloated pensions and move elsewhere in the Country once retired, but Danny, please do the same. You're not happy unless you have David Cochrane's microphone stuck in your face.

  • Chris Neill
    May 28, 2011 - 11:30

    If its going to create jobs and bring money in why not?.

    • JB
      May 28, 2011 - 17:58

      Do the Math Ms.Dunderdale... The pros out weigh the cons by a land slide. Give the Province & the City of St.John's the $500 K for increased travel cost.. Think about the 40+ HOME games that will generate buzz, jobs, motel, direct & indirect taxes from ticket & other team sales.. The $500 K is nothing! Anyone who thinks this would be a bad decision, look at what the city of Glendale has done for the Pheonix Coyotes.. $500 K isn't $40 Million.

    • casual observer
      May 29, 2011 - 09:56

      Suggesting ABC at the provincial level this fall might get some support for the Moose Subsidy.

    • David
      May 29, 2011 - 11:52

      I heard it's going to cure cancer and end world hunger.....so I agree, why not?

  • gd
    May 28, 2011 - 10:56

    First let me say Mr Williams was a great Premier when he was in politics. The best NL ever had in my opinion. However, he is now out of politics and has no say in what Govt does and as a professional courtesy should not be so critical of our present govt. Remember many of the present cabinet ministers were appointed by Mr Williams If the people in control wanted a subsidy and they were told what information was needed to assess their request it was their responsibility to present it not Govts. They apparantly didnt do that and therefore were denied and properly so, Mrs Dunderdale on many ocassions has said she has no problem with Mr Williams however again the assumption is being made either by media or Mr Williams himself that there appears to be a personal difference between the present Premier and him. Obviously the problem is either fictional or is intentionally put out there to solicit support from the general population . It just appears (whether right or wrong) that whenever someone does not do what Mr Williams wants to imply its personal thing. I thought it was rather rude to used SHE when referring to a horse. Yes a horse can be male or female but I think it would have been proper to use the term IT. If a subsidy is wanted put forth all evidence that it will benefit the whole population of NL not just St. John's. Then ius can be evaluated properly and a decision made but if that decision is still no then accept it dont make it a personal issue when there is not one ther. If the proposal is such a money maker then why is Govt money needed . In closing it is my opinion that if Govt does see this proposal as a benefit to all citizens of the Province then Govt upon giving the subsity shopuld be given a certain number of tickets to each game and these tickets be used to allow people from all over the province to attend a game if they so desire. A sort of lottery could be used to distribute the tickets. Mrs Dunderdale you again showed great leadership in making sure that before money is given out to private enterprise the investment will benefit all not just a priviledged few. As well if it is shown that the team makes a profit then the money whould be paid back each year. The problem here lies with the people who were supposed to give the information to Govt not the Govt and certain people should not make it look otherwise.

  • Joseph McGrath
    May 28, 2011 - 10:34

    I wote before and repeat just one more time."I am sad to see so many personal attacks against former Premier Williams .How quickly we forget the good work ,the hard political battles and the great efforts he made to put NL first in his dealings at all political levels.By the way it was done free of charge for 10 years and the man asked no thanks for everything he did for the good of the Province. If you think he made mistakes then fine point them out.If you think he does not deserve his personal finances then do as most do in NL and begrudge him.I see a former premier who has opted back to the business world with the same firey juices he used as our Premier and I say more power to him. He is a self made man who did not and would not use his professional abilities,his good name or any power of his former office to in any way hurt the Province he loves. So even if you do not agree with him at least treat him with the respect he has earned as former leader and Premier of this Province.I hardly think that is too much to ask. He has business ideas about hockey in the city so allow him the freedom and courtesy to express and explain them without slag shots at his back. You got something to say then man up and say it but personal attacks should be benched.

    • In Hindsight
      May 29, 2011 - 09:16

      For an appropriately balanced response on gov't subsidy for pro hockey teams see Premier of Manitoba re new/old NHL team...Mr. William's certainly put the no-brain in no-brainer...10 years of hot air and bluster, and counting!

  • bill
    May 28, 2011 - 10:07

    Danny...there is more than one "no brainer" here!! I think the Florida sun must have got to you...relax and enjoy your retirement. You are no longer Premier...someone else calls the shots now. I guess that is the problem!! Talking about horses...stop acting like the backside of that horse!!

  • Starr
    May 28, 2011 - 10:01

    Ok Ms. Dunderdale - I was so glad you were premier but this is very disappointing to see you playing cat and mouse games with DW. Call off the powertripping please.

  • unbiased supporter
    May 28, 2011 - 09:38

    First of all let me say that I am not from the St. John's area but am from Corner Brook. Do I believe that Danny Williams and the SJSE did not have full details for this venture, definitely not. We all know how successful Mr. Williams is by looking at his own financial ventures so why would he not insure that the presentation SJSE submitted was exactly what government required. Mr. Williams realized this proposal was going to be thoroughly scrutinized because of his prior position as Premier. Should govt. help fund this team? Certainly! Remember they provided a subsidy to bring in the Ladies Hockey Tournament in 2010. What spinoff did that create? How many more hockey and sporting tournaments have they supported? Telus Cup,Soceer,etc. I can assure you if you inquired with the business owners in St. John's these meagher tournaments did not generate much of an increase in their revenues. As a matter of fact for the Telus Cup and the Ladies National Tournament there was not as much business as the local hotels and restaurants had hoped. Every City or Town in NL would love to have an AHL team in their community but unfortunately Mile One is the biggest stadium in this Province. Having said that, the greatest population is there and hopefully they will support this venture through ticket sales etc. To bring in such a Team is very costly and the bottom line is can the City of St. John's along with investors be able to maintain the quality of product that people will expect for their money. There is no doubt that they will need a subsidy from government. With all the Sport and Community Programs that Government administers, they can always provide a subdsidy to the City under one of these Programs. Remember all Towns and Cities are eligible for these grants, etc. so if they can provide funding to all the communities of NL why can't they provide some funding to St. John's. Some of the negative comments I think is based on the mentality that Government and the people of St. John's think NL ends at the other end of the Overpass. This mentality needs to be put aside. St. John's and the surrounding area have the greatest population and that is fact. Some of the Programs administered Federally and Provincially are based on Per Capita and that is why it appears that the City reaps more of the benefits. Personally I believe Danny Williams is correct. The economic spinoff for local businesses that will filter back to government through Sales Tax is a no brainer. This will be an event that will be put on throughout the whole winter. People from all across this Island and some from outside the Province will visit the City and support this team. Like Mr. Williams said the advertising will provide an increase in Tourism. I for one travelled to St. John's many times to watch the St. John's Maple Leafs play. I am confident that there are many more hockey fans that would support this team. Terry French and Kathy Dunderdale - Do the Right Thing! Back this Venture!

    • what now
      May 28, 2011 - 19:51

      finally...someone with objectivity outside the overpass...very good analytical, logical and unbiased commentary...thank you.

  • Don
    May 28, 2011 - 09:34

    Danny Williams, as a developer with great influence in Newfoundland, knows that all you have to say in public is that the project you are pushing will create jobs, be great for the economy and will generate more tourism and the money will flow from the Government in buckets. Meanwhile, chartered banks won't touch these projects with a ten foot pole. Feasibility studies and business cases prepared by independent professional accountants, actuaries, planners, environmental engineers and the like are just pesky little details that can be ignored or glossed over. The project is good and feasible because we tell you so. The media will promote it if we contact the right reporters and editors or if we send a few hefty advertising contracts their way and all will be well. By the time the real facts behind the project become known, if they ever do, the project will be too far along to be stopped, the public likes it and any economic or environmental damage will never be noticed. If the project results in legal liability for the Government let the Department of Justice lawyers clean up the mess or pay off the damage in an out of court settlement. The tax payer won't know what it cost them and most won't care anyway. If the project results in bankruptcy and an inability to repay Government loans, just write them off. If the project results in Government having to pay a subsidy in perpetuity to keep the project going, so what? As long as well connected political cronies make a buck and the tax payer covers their butt all is well. Stand up to the snake oil salesmen and slick willy developers Premier Dunderdale! Don't let your Government go the way of every other Government of Newfoundland which promoted cucumber factories, rubber tire plants and chocolate bar factories and the like which all went bust. Resist the developers who say that without a Government grant, tax break or subsidy we can't make this project work here. Well, if it isn't economically feasible and cannot generate enough revenue to be self sustaining it should not be approved in the first place. Premier Dunderdale has an opportunity to change the despicable way business is done in Newfoundland and Labrador and be a breath of fresh air in a very stale political environment or she can just knuckle under to the developer movers and shakers and fall in line as their new lap dog and yes woman. I suspect political insiders have been contacted about what can be done to get Dunderdale on side, how to punish her or how to get her out of the way. Premier Dunderdale has to decide if she is strong enough to resist pressure and intimidation or if she will just comply with the will of her former boss. It is your choice Premier! Standing up to bullies takes courage and is not without risk but as a wise man once said: "It is far better to die on your feet than to live on your knees."

    • Kim
      May 28, 2011 - 16:05

      The one with no brain is ms,Dunderdale.Danny Williams was and will continue to be the ONLY ONE who has the people of NL as first and foremost in mind.He has taken us from a HAS NOT province to a place to be proud of.A VERY SPECIAL THANK YOU TO DANNY WILLIAMS FROM MOST OF US NEWFOUNDLANDERS.YOU HAVE DONE SO MUCH FOR US.

  • David
    May 28, 2011 - 09:03

    Seriously, I think this whole thing is just a strategy for Williams to get his life back....there are so many mindless sheep who still want to genuflect in front of him as their savior that it interferes with his being able to buy groceries or park his car, and he's now tired of it. So he's just acting like a petulant brat to get peoiple to stop thinking he's the second coming and leave him alone. Shrewd move, Ferguson.

  • David
    May 28, 2011 - 08:57

    Williams as we all know, this province does have a long and intimate knowledge of "no-brainer" public policies and actions......please take your incrediblely viable, entirely sensible, socially beneficial dream to someone who wants such "no-brainer"ideas...we've had more than our share here, and we simply can't afford any more such "success" stories. I'm hoping against hope for someone to show up with a "brainer" idea someday....!!

  • james
    May 28, 2011 - 08:56

    will someone please tell danny williams go quietly into the sunset cause he don,t couunt

  • Steve
    May 28, 2011 - 08:54

    Mr. Williams, you are certainly a scary individual indeed. Maybe it is a good thing that you stepped out of politics. I can only imagine you being a business person , and someone is soliciting $500,000 per year in an investment and they hand you a sponsorship letter as if they were a boy scout troop looking for camp donations! It is quite obvious that you are a man that has extreme difficulty when you do not get your own way. Much like the proverbial school yard bully. Please just fade off into the sunset - you are no longer Premier of the province!

  • Willi Makit
    May 28, 2011 - 08:49

    Note the carefully chosen words ''It’s good for the province: the economic spinoff from that team alone has been calculated to be $10 million on an annual basis''. Note that Williams says ''spinoff'' and not benefit. Why? Because all a professional hockey franchise will do is redirect discretionary money spend by those living here to the franchise. The will be no outside money coming in. What the team or the hospitality industry gains, some other business will lose, and will guarantee money leaking from our economy. Those that complain that Republic of Doyle and other similar initiatives fail to recognize that those investments result in outside money being spend in NL. That's a huge difference from redirecting money from within NL to pay hockey players and airlines. It's a no brainer alright: this proposal seeks to profit from the province, not contribute to it.

  • BR
    May 28, 2011 - 08:47

    Where are the business people in St. John's?? There must be somebody that sees a business oppurtunity here. Once we get the AHL in M1, set up senior hockey again and see if it works. I didn't see many at senior hockey last year until the Herder but it may work at M1.

  • Ed Hollett
    May 28, 2011 - 08:22

    @Ray Pardy; Please spare us all the old BS about government investing tax dollars in stuff like this. it was a load before and it doesn't get to be any less stinky a load when it gets repeated the umpteenth time. Here's an idea for you and the the gang behind this proposal. If it such a good investment, then this is the way to gol: sell shares in the franchise to raise the money they need to make it run. If people like you, Ray, think it is such a good idea, then you can spend the money and make it happen. And our tax dollars, meanwhile, will go to pay for schools and roads and health care like it supposed to. The provincial government will collect income tax and sales tax and other taxes like they do on everything else. And all you investors will create jobs and make money off the investment, like you should. It's a no- brainer, Ray, just like it is a no brainer that Nan and Pop's tax money should not go into this or anything like it.

  • John
    May 28, 2011 - 08:06

    If there is so little info to make a decision, government and/or Danny should put the application on the internet. That way, we the public would have the chance to check it out and make our own decision. Let one side or the other prove why the proposal was turned down. The St. John's Maple Leafs were here for 14 years. I'm confident that if a study/poll were done among the business's, that they would say that it was good for their business. These teams are made up of young people that want a good time or a nice meal after a game - again money put into the economy with more taxes for government. This application was definately rejected with a quickness unprecented for government, less than 24 hours after it was submitted. I've never heard of any government making any kind of decision that quickly, even if it was a poorly written proposal such as the calls for proposals (CFP's) for new businesses for central NL after Bowater left GFW which stated exactly what was required in the CFP, ALL of which were ultimatly rejected and sent back for more information. If the economic spin-off is even 1/2 of what Danny says it is, it's a no-brainer. That would be 10x the government investment in the venture. If I gave you a $10.00 dollar bill and you gave me a gurantee that I would get back $50.00 - $100.00, I would jump at the chance. This would benefit all the province as any taxes collected (food, lodging, entertainment, etc.) along with word-of-mouth advertising about how we, as a province treat our tourists. If it's good for the"Republic of Doyle," it should be good for other entertainment ventures. This is, after all, a show that is so popular without government handouts, that it was given an extension even before they got any money from government. Seems to me, that Mrs. Dunderdale is afraid to take a chance on something that would help our service providers in the hotel/entertainment sector during their off season. Maybe she's afraid of the political fallout during an election year or else it's as Danny said, she's holding a grudge of some sort against him.

  • john corkum
    May 28, 2011 - 07:48

    the goverment wont give money to bring a hockey team here but they will give Republic of doyel 1.5 million,the hockey would make stjohns and area a lot more money then a tv show.

    • Jerome R
      May 28, 2011 - 11:17

      How true you are!!!Entertainment dollars..How much does the republic of Doyle put into our economy???You are dead on.

  • Sick of this drama queen
    May 28, 2011 - 07:38

    It was a ''no brainer'' to expropriate Abitibi too, right Dan the man?

    • David
      May 28, 2011 - 08:59

      That no-brainer was no doubt concocted at the "no brainer" Humber Valley Resort over a plate of our famous "homegrown cucumber" sandwiches .... d'oohh!

    • bayburse
      May 28, 2011 - 09:27

      I love Mile One, any function I have attended there -- we have walked for miles because of lack of parking space. That building should have allowed for parking when it was built. Not everyone wants their tax dollars to go to a hockey team even when King Danny thinks it will be wonderful. I think private investors who are hockey fans should be approached. I totally agree with our present government members.

  • Wayne G. Caddigan
    May 28, 2011 - 07:06

    I am sure all lovers of hockey in this provience would love to have a hockey team for next year including myself. I think everyone has to come on side for a new franchise to work. It needs a sound long term business plan. St. John's does not need another hit and run hockey team that is going to quit on us after three or four seasons. Shame on you Mr. Williams for trying to create a problem where one did not exist. Sounds like a case of sour grapes to me. First get all existing committes on side and come up with a viable new ideas to get a team here and keep it here. Just because Mr. Williams thinks it is a great idea does not mean it is economic sound. A lot of further dicussion needs to be explored before we commit our provience to another hockey team with the aid of taxpayers money.

  • ray pardy
    May 28, 2011 - 06:55

    Premier Dunderdale has to realize this is not only a sports proposition , this is a business venture which will create many JOBS directly and indirectly in this area. It's just as important as investing money to IT Call centres to create employment or any other venture they decide to invest our monies into. If you want to revitalize the downtown core what a great way to begin by investing some funds and let's forget personalities or indifferences here and create some more employment, god knows it's badly needed.

  • MBC
    May 28, 2011 - 06:36

    It's outrageous that any organization would request $ 500,000.00 a year from my taxes without a business plan; only a letter??? Also, did they sent the same letter of request to ACOA and the City of St John's ?? I am sure if this is a good venture SJSE should have no problem attracking at least 10 corporate partners who would invest $ 50,000. each; pocket change for large corporation such as offshore companies.