Over the past couple of months, we’ve had plenty to say about how other people spend our money.
Take the mid-April fire that caused significant damage at Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, for example. The world reacted with sorrow in the first couple of days following the blaze.
Then the repair estimates started rolling in, with some figures exceeding $1.1 billion (Canadian), and suddenly the grief gave way to anger, especially when the wealthiest people in both France and the United States started kicking in large contributions towards a restoration project estimated to take 20-to-40 years. Let the Vatican pay for it, we howled, ignoring the fact that the Catholic Church hasn’t had any stake in Notre Dame since 1905.
Then you have the two government projects that have emerged as favourite, and frequent, targets as the furor grows over Nova Scotia’s healthcare crisis and our often-closed emergency departments.
I’m talking about the $8.5 million spent on terminal improvements in Bar Harbour, Maine as part of the new contract to welcome Bay Ferries’ service from Yarmouth, a deal which will also receive an additional $13.5 million on provincial money. And I’m also referring to the mid-April announcement of a new facility to house the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia (AGNS) on the Halifax waterfront, costing a maximum of $80 million from the province along with $30 million each from the federal government and AGNS itself.
Never mind that the provincial budget committed an additional $200 million for health care funding in 2019-2020 as opposed to the previous year. Never mind that the expected doubling in AGNS visitation – from 64,000 to 120,000 annually – would put significant coin into our provincial coffers. We filled social media with anger, we repeatedly signed and shared on-line posts demanding (inaccurately) that the province spend the “$130 million” in art gallery funds on health care, and we fumed over yet another plum for Halifax.
Because, of course, we all know how “our” money should be spent. You can see it every time the federal government announces financial assistance for impoverished countries. We’ve got impoverished people here, don’t we? Sure, we don’t talk about them until foreign aid comes up, but they’re out there. Let’s help them first. Charity begins at home, after all.
Fine, then. Obviously, we’re willing to change the way we spend our money, to help those the government is allegedly ignoring when we don’t like the way it spends “our” money.
For starters, we could stop buying lottery tickets. The latest annual report from the Atlantic Lottery Corporation – posted on their Web site – confirms that the ALC raked in profits of $1.178 billion in 2017-18, a full $1.1 million higher than projected. The corporation likes to talk a good game about how it returns these monies to the four Atlantic provincial governments, but the same annual report lists that donation-figure at $419.2 million, less than half of ALC’s overall revenues. That leaves $759 million. Hmmm. That could pay for a lot of doctors, couldn’t it?
What about sports? I’m noticing far fewer people griping about a potential Canadian Football League team for Halifax – and the brand-spanking-new stadium that would accompany it – than those snarling about the new art gallery building. That couldn’t possibly suggest that we’re prejudiced against the arts but willing to throw our arms open to big-league sports. Of course not. Nova Scotians are much more sophisticated than that.
Oh, we don’t spend that much on sports. We don’t? Scalpers were selling tickets to Sunday’s Memorial Cup final featuring the Halifax Mooseheads at $500-to-$1,000 a pop. By contrast, the less-expensive regular-season Toronto Maple Leafs tickets go for $330-to-$445, while anybody trying to see the Toronto Raptors’ recent exciting third-round playoff series would be plunking down $360 for a seat at the Air Canada Centre.
Speaking of the Raptors, where was the outrage over the franchise buying rapper Drake a diamond-encrusted team jacket valued at over $700,000? Seriously? We’re agonizing about paying a few extra cents for gas because of a carbon tax strategy, and we don’t have a thing to say about a sports team blowing $700,000 on a publicity stunt?
Most baffling of all: We’ll spend this kind of money on gambling, sports, entertainment of any sort, at any opportunity or any time of day. I was floored when I realized, during my first crack at radio sportscasting, that Major League Baseball teams frequently play weekday afternoon games; which means, as an example, that on any random “work-day,” you can find nearly 45,000 St. Louis Cardinals fans willing to spend $200 on tickets, parking, souvenir caps, hot dogs and beverage-of-choice at Busch Stadium.
So, who’s willing to give all that up to set a good example for our elected officials?
I thought so.