Targa study should shift gears

Brian Jones
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If the provincial government is in the mood to save some money, it could take Targa Newfoundland’s word for it that the annual road race brings approximately $16 million into the province’s economy.

For a week or more, several dozen drivers, their exquisite cars and their crews spread their wealth — in hotels, restaurants, stores, pubs, etc. A Porsche must be fun to drive, but a lot less fun to sleep in. So, plenty of money is spent during the event.

The Department of Tourism, Culture and Recreation has issued a request for proposals from consultants to conduct a study into the financial benefits of Targa.

It is a foregone conclusion: rich people visiting the province are good for the economy.

The main money issue that should be addressed is whether the provincial government should continue giving Targa Newfoundland $75,000 per year. It’s not as if the participants need help from taxpayers to obtain a hot lunch.

In all likelihood, with its $600,000 annual budget and 30 sponsors, Targa Newfoundland won’t be able to make a convincing case that it needs to dip its nozzle into the public trough.


Other concerns

Typically, the proposed study will ask easy questions that will give answers the government — and public — will like hearing.

But the study should shift into a higher gear, if you will, and broaden its scope to look at issues of safety and legality.

Ever since Targa Newfoundland was established a decade ago, the discussion has mostly been about money and economic benefits. Safely and legal issues have seldom received the attention they deserve.

Let’s start at the beginning: by what authority does the provincial government close 2,200 kilometres of public roads — intermittently over seven days — and hand them over for exclusive use by a private group?

What are the legal ramifications of this? Has the government absolved itself of legal liability if a member of the public is seriously injured or killed during Targa Newfoundland?

Or, if the government could be liable, has it purchased insurance as a precaution against potential lawsuits? If so, how much does that insurance coverage cost? Is that cost included in the $75,000 annual grant to Targa, or is it an extra expense?

Too many politicians in Newfoundland have fawned over Targa for too long. They should take a look at what has occurred in other jurisdictions.

Whichever consultant wins the contract to produce the report for the Department of Tourism, Culture and Recreation could start by summarizing the situation in Australia, where Targa has been controversial for years.

The East Coast Targa event ceased in 2005 after politicians in eastern Australia withdrew their support.

Targa Tasmania has been targeted by several councillors in Hobart, the island’s main city. In 2008, they tried to withdraw municipal support for the event, but were defeated in a 7-3 vote.

Closer to home, Targa is aiming to establish a race in Western Canada. Targa Canada West is scheduled to take place this spring in B.C. But last year, residents of Kelowna circulated a petition opposing the event, and the city council voted to not support the race.

In Newfoundland, some municipal leaders have questioned the glowing rhetoric that so often surrounds discussion about Targa. Several towns in the past few years have withdrawn permission for the race to be held within their boundaries, due to concerns about safety and unacceptable inconvenience to residents.

The government’s study would be more beneficial if the winning consultant is instructed to obtain information and input from these various other jurisdictions. That way, all the pros and cons of hosting a Targa event can be addressed and, presumably, presented to the public. The issue involves a lot more than just money.


Brian Jones is a desk editor at The Telegram. He can be reached by email at bjones@thetelegram.com.

Organizations: Department of Tourism, Porsche, The Telegram

Geographic location: Targa, Newfoundland, Australia Tasmania Hobart Western Canada B.C. Kelowna

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Recent comments

  • Margaret Lymburner
    March 10, 2011 - 11:37

    I love Targa! I think the benefits far outweigh the negatives. It brings not only money into our province but a sense of community. It gives us a chance to show off our wonderful province and its people. I volunteered at Targa 2010 and it was a great experience. It made me so proud to see the community of volunteers (Marystown) really come together. I was very impressed to see so many youth volunteering. It is a wonderful thing! My parents always told me, "If you have nothing nice to say, then don't say anything at all". If you do not enjoy the Targa event, then do not particiapte. Do not watch. But, please, do not ruin it for everyone else!

  • keith smith
    March 08, 2011 - 18:01

    In Boat Hr.West Targa becomes a community event.Last year the Trailer Park Boys, The injured soldiers etc.were a big hit for this tiny community.Not often in remote areas like this do we have the opportunity to cater to celebrities.In the past Targa seems to bring the community alive with excitement and fun.We have come to know it as Targa Weekend captivated with a live band and adult dance on Saturday night. We are proud of the participants(contestants) remarks about our communities and remarkable scenery.

  • Martha Vail
    March 08, 2011 - 13:21

    As the co-driver of car #503 (a Porsche, interestingly enough), I'd like to share some thoughts in this debate. First, Targa could indeed be a significant opportunity for economic development if Newfoundland's various played it right. For example, our team spent a week before and after the race vacationing in Newfoundland and I know many other competitors consider the race as one part of a longer holiday in your beautiful province. (Thank you to the Monastery Inn and Spa for sheltering us during Hurricane Igor.) Ever since I returned to Colorado, I've encouraged friends and family to plan a trip, because Newfoundland is an incredible, not-yet spoiled and not-so-far off the beaten track place for adventure travellers. But there doesn't seem to have been much market research done for tourism in NLD; no coverage of Gros Morne in the travel section of the Denver Post or articles about the fantastic sea kayaking. Right now, the link to www.newfoundlandand labrador.com is down. Come on--how are people who might want to visit and spend their money supposed to find you? Secondly, Newfoundlanders struck me as incredibly generous people; none of the racers takes for granted the use of their roads or the hospitality of the communities. Yes, the racing was great, but the breakfast in Harbour Mille served by its gracious women and the lunch in Brookfield with the fantastic kids at the school and the little ones in the nursery waving us off at the start are what really stand out in my memories of Targa 2011. The incredible number of volunteers for the event is also something we were awed by and grateful for. That's why I, and many other racers, contributed to Hurricane Igor relief efforts. We all worried about the safety of the bystanders, and of private property. Everyone competing in the Targa division has a competition license, which means we care a lot about the safety of observers, of our cars and of ourselves. If public safety and protection of property are a concern, work with race organizers to create stronger safety measures. As a navigator, I didn't see much during the stages themselves, but in reviewing our film since I've seen several instances of kids in out-of-bounds areas, close to course run-offs. If communities are concerned, where are the parents and law enforcement? Thirdly, I'm not rich--I scrimped and saved and worked overtime to realize my dream of racing in Targa Newfoundland. My co-driver and I have been invited to give presentations about our race by car clubs all over Colorado, and so many people say it's their dream, too. That's what the reputation of this race is. It's unique in this hemisphere--a hemisphere full of racers who are hoping to someday have an opportunity to compete in a race that's on its way to being legendary. Maybe the residents of Le Mans didn't like the racers or the public investment in track improvements in the first ten years, either. $75,000 is, in itself, not an inconsiderable amount of money. But it's a very cheap investment with a good chance of substantial return. Travel and tourism generate sustainable and grow-able revenue--even during recessions.

  • Mike
    March 05, 2011 - 10:32

    Never did understand it either...why does it need $75,000 in Government money . Come on guys, have some pride, if you drive a Porshe and ship it all over the world , why not chip in $1000 each and avoid the indignity of accepting Government money

  • John Smith
    March 04, 2011 - 14:37

    I am a big fan of organized motorsports, and have travelled around the world to attend events. This is not organized motorsprts. This is a group of wealthy individuals, who travel around the world looking for people who are stupid enough, or desparate enough, to let them drive through their communities at speed. Here they found both. This activity should be banned. If people want to watch a race go to a track. No track? Build one.

  • cant believe it
    March 04, 2011 - 09:59

    never did get this? can t believe somebody; watching; pedstrian; a local not killed yet; ONLY JUST MATTER OF TIME I WOULD SAY seen this cars go flying over peoples lawns yards flying all over the road; its just MADNESS: the heights of foolishness; absolutely BONKERS; it just unbelieveable that this crowd of children are allowed to come in to this province and drive like IMBICELS; maniacs all over rural back roads

  • Robert Taylor
    March 04, 2011 - 09:37

    What bleeding heart B/S. The province should forget the study which is a waste of money. The benefits from Targa NL are very significant. I would suggest the indirect marketing benefits are most important. But there is always someone trying to put a negative spin on this unique event.