Globe Editorial: Dear Taxpayer: You are spending nearly $600 million to host 10 World Cup matches. Why?

BMO Field, home of the Toronto FC soccer club, in Toronto, on June 8.CHRIS HELGREN/Reuters

Late last month, with southern Ontario well into summer and its second stretch of unseasonably warm weather, Torontonians took to social media to point out a very Torontonian problem: the challenge of finding a source of running water in a city park. Or a working public toilet.

Furthermore, although the city has already experienced 22 days of temperatures above 23 degrees this year, most outdoor public swimming pools Y children’s pools they are still closed. Most will not be fully operational until June 30.

These are the kinds of mundane and necessary public services that require money and resources to operate and keep running. In a city with relatively low property taxes, high social needs and a long history of the province discharging more liability than cash, something has got to give. This is what it gives.

But at the same time, Toronto can supposedly afford to spend roughly $100 million, before cost overruns, to host five World Cup soccer games in 2026. Apparently, no problem, and hardly any questions or objections are raised. .

Last Thursday, FIFA, the private company that organizes the soccer World Cup every four years, named the cities that will host the next 48-team men’s tournament. As part of a joint offer from the United States, Mexico and Canada, 10 games will be played in this country, divided between Vancouver and Toronto. Each city is expected to hold five games.

According to a City of Toronto estimate from March, hosting five games will cost only $290 million, divided between the province, the federals and the city. Toronto will be on the hook for $93.8 million (before cost overruns).

So write a bill to city taxpayers somewhere north of $100 million. Perhaps a lot more: In 2018, Toronto estimated a cost of just $30 million to $45 million. That’s an inflation of more than 100 percent, in four years.

To govern is to choose. Is it really the best option?

Taxpayer resources are finite. The things a government spends on: will cost taxpayers an estimate $63.7 millionbefore cost overruns, to expand BMO Field – define all the other things you can’t afford to spend on.

We don’t want to mess with Toronto. Vancouver was awarded the other Canadian host site, in a comparable price before the markup.

But other places have made different decisions. Montreal was in the running until the provincial government said it was not interested. Expected costs had doubled in four years, and the press reports that FIFA has also mandated an “event vacuum,” meaning summer fixtures like the Montreal Jazz Festival may have to be rescheduled. Lacking a blank provincial check, the City of Montreal He backed out.

Even Vancouver was not until recently a bidder, for the same reason. In 2018, the provincial government of British Columbia rejected logic of throwing a lot of money at a handful of games. (He later changed his mind.)

Taxpayer subsidizing of professional sports, usually with free stadiums and tax breaks, is a popular pastime in the US. The US has a weak social safety net, but from the NFL and MLB to college sports, The US has a massive billion dollar social network. welfare system for billionaire owners and their millionaire employees. Taxpayers often lose, but rarely realize it.

The Canadian government has generally been more conservative when it comes to subsidizing professional sports; for example, the owners of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Raptors, and the Montreal Canadiens, built their stadiums with their own money and even paid property taxes, all of which are almost unheard of in the US.

But when it comes to international sporting events, Canadian faucets can really flow. The most extreme case is that of the 1976 Montreal Olympics. But consider also the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto: At $2.5 billioncosts 20 times more than Winnipeg 1999 Pan American Games.

Toronto estimates it will get $307 million in “GDP impact” from the World Cup. That means the city expects $307 million of additional economic activity as a result of $290 million (before cost overruns) in government subsidies. But only a small fraction of that will return to the city in the form of taxes. Taxpayers should not expect to break even.

So, water fountains and pools, or a unique five game football circus? Investment in public facilities like parks and community centers and hockey rinks, or in a professional sports stadium? We know what we would choose.

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