Should the Canucks be picking up the tab for celebrations?

Post by Gord Price in


Mayor Gregor's CBC Fan Zone turns into mayhem on June 15th

Where does “riot control” fit in when you’re budgeting for the arts?

Culture, says Tourism Vancouver, should be the priority for the next decade if Vancouver is to become a truly “world-class” city. Culture is what gives us a global brand that will keep people coming here, and staying around longer, spending more money when they do.

And because a city has to express its character in an entertaining way – since that’s really what culture is about as an economic activity – how much should civic government spend to cultivate a thriving cultural scene?

Civic-owned institutions like the art gallery, check. Grants for the major arts organizations and dozens of small companies, check. Public art, check. Policing and engineering services …um, not really.

For those services, the city bills out on a cost-recovery basis. Even non-profit events like the jazz festival have to cover the costs incurred, from policing to engineering, plus administration.

Yes, they get grants, but they’re still expected to put up a big chunk of change. If they can’t, they may not survive.

So two questions: is sport culture? And should it pay its way?

No doubt sport is a cultural expression – notably when the brand of the winning hockey team is inseparable from the identity of the city for months at a time. “We are all Canucks” is meant to be taken literally.

But should Big Sport pay for the costs incurred by its success? Specifically, are professional sports in the same category as, say, the Pride Parade?

Apparently not. While the Canucks and Lions may be profit-making entities, when it comes to the costs of handling the consequences of their success, Vancouver taxpayers pay.

Yes, the Canucks are billed for street closures around their stadium, but when it comes to closing Georgia Street for live sites and handling the traffic everywhere else in the city, city hall eats it. Hell, the Canucks didn’t expect to pay for the victory parade in the event they won the Stanley Cup.

Though the money spent on jerseys alone was likely greater than the ticket receipts of every arts company in town, the Canucks were not expected to divert a nickel to the city’s coffers. Nor does the city get any sales tax from the economic benefits that shower down on every bar and restaurant and cheerleading media outlet.

Property taxes don’t go up in the event the Stanley Cup comes to town; the team gets the silver and the civic taxpayers get the bill.

No one minded the public expenses, of course – least of all the mayor and councillors of every party, who donned the jerseys and didn’t question the expenditures, except to ask the province to chip in. (Answer: no way.)

When the team is winning and the sports jocks are amplifying the tribal spirit, no one in leadership wants to be called out for reinforcing the image of “No Fun Vancouver” – just possibly the most intimidating meme ever used to suppress common sense.

Who would have dared, in the heat of the playoffs, to have put out a public announcement: Don’t come downtown. No more street parties. Turn off the TV screens.

Until, of course, three hours after Game 7.

So what now for the future management of the playoffs? Will the public shaming by Facebook prevent another e-riot?

Or do we give the police chief a blank cheque, because we can’t afford the risk of burning cars and smashing glass?

Let’s assume Tourism Vancouver is right: culture means world-class status – and accept that sports means culture. Then where should the money come from to foster and promote a world-class cultural scene if Big Sport doesn’t pay, but everyone else does?

Do we divert resources that might go to fund the non-profit arts sector, which pays around minimum wage, to cover the ancillary costs for an organization in which every principal is a millionaire?

Doesn’t seem quite fair, does it?

But the city can’t really send the Canucks a bill for policing off-site events, can’t stop the media cheerleading, couldn’t prevent people from coming downtown to drink and celebrate and won’t likely get anyone else – region or province – to contribute. Nonetheless, the leadership – whoever is in power – would certainly have to pay the political price for another riot.

If Doug Keefe and John Furlong want to be really helpful in their investigation, they will tell us not just who was responsible for the last riot but who should pay to prevent the next one.

- Post by Gordon Price. He is Director of the City Program at Simon Fraser University. He also writes, teaches and consults on urban development and planning. He served six terms as Councillor for the City of Vancouver, from 1986 to 2002, as well as on the board of the Greater Vancouver Regional District (now Metro) and TransLink, the regional transportation authority.This column was originally posted on

Follow us on Twitter @CityCaucus. Follow Gordon on Twitter @pricetags.


Does anyone know how much the Canucks pay in property tax to the City of Vancouver. As well the owner owns the arena, how much tax did the arena pay as well?

I am thinking this should more than cover the cost of policing and traffic expenses.

As for the expense of closing Georgia Street on the live site-that was a lame brained idea the mayor had and the Canucks cant be stuck with that cost.

Then again, maybe if they were involved in paying they would have forced the city to schedule more than 300 cops for Game 7.

The Canucks DID handle their own policing. The held several well-run, well-secured, ticketed events in their private facility with no problems whatsoever. They did not invite thousands of people without tickets to come downtown. It's as simple as that.

The Canucks and other sports teams have given Vancouver far more than most community organizations give to this city. It's time we showed them more respect.

No more than the Bruins should be. It is Gregor Robertson`s crew`s ill-advised decision to have 100K drunks with matches in the downtown core. No one read the report on the `93 riots. They should really be ashamed of themselves over this.

Great post..this should be an interesting topic...

On the list of contributions to the City.
1. monies raised by Rodgers Arena during away games, were donated to Canuck Place...

How much does the Canucks business enterprise pay to paste its flashing Go Canucks Go all over Translink buses?

Nothing? Certainly not enough.

That bus advertising space does not seem to be available to any other business enterprise.

A special sweetheart deal?

We are NOT all Canucks ...

Thanks to Gordon Price for raising that point. I find it very odd the COPE councillors have not.

Vision seems to be continuing Larry Campbell's rather desperate attempts to avoid being labelled "no fun city". So now we have mass drunkeness and brawling on Granville Street every weekend. That's "fun" for ya!

From the Vancouver Charter

"Mayor's duties
208. The Mayor shall to enforce law for government of city
(a) be vigilant and active at all times in causing the law for the government of the city to be duly enforced and obeyed;"

Who pays? If you can't afford it, don't buy it.

You can't ask the Canucks to pay. It was the city's decision to throw the party!

What if Kelowna had set up a live site and it turned into a riot?

Would it be appropriate to ask the Canucks to pay for that?

Canucks are not to blame. There were more than 100,000 roaming the streets during the game and I would guess that very few of the hoodlums who caused the damage actually attended the game. Even asking the question is a curious move by

successful sports teams build civic enthusiasm, but of course there are those like Mr Jones who could not care less. Translink was into the spirit of the community

I also call into question the integrity of this article and City Caucus' decision to run it. Mr. Price refers to the policing costs of public festivals which involve inviting thousands of people to the streets, and bring inherent crowd control risks along with the benefits. The Canucks never held any such public street gathering that required street closures...that was a decision by the City and the City alone. Their events were private, ticketed and incident-free.

Mr. Price then goes on to criticize the Canucks and other community sports teams by slandering them with the term "Big Sport". This despite the fact that, unlike the arts, these entities are self-sustaining and attract far higher numbers of paying customers to the downtown core.

This article reflects exactly the type of elitist thinking that has no place in a large, cosmopolitan North American city.

"unlike the arts, these entities are self-sustaining"

There's a lot of public inputs into professional sports. Here's one example: They draw their talent from players who usually build their skills in publicly funded sports facilities and through leagues that receive government funding via gaming grants etc. Without gov't money to create the large pool of prospects from which they can draw the best and brightest, the cost of identifying and training their workers (players, coaches, referees, etc) would probably be prohibitive.

Not only that, but who do you ask...Luongo?
Mayor Gregor Robertson and his gang of incompetents were caught with their pants down because they were paying too much attention at their reflection in the mirror.
Ballem, Robertson, Sadhum, Chu and the rest of them will have to pay...come this November!

I agree with what I think is the consensus here, this is on the city, not the Canucks. I look forward to the Keefe and Furlong report, which I hope is out before the election.

It's funny how when UFC comes to town, they are required to foot the bill for additional policing in the downtown core. Yet, both UFC events here have had very few related incididents.

The Canucks have been the cause of not one, but 2 large scale riots.

Without question they should foot some of, if not all of the bill.

Shaun, the UFC did not pay for additional policing in the downtown core. They only agreed to cover the additional policing within the arena.

To say that the Canucks are responsible for the riot is ridiculous. They are no more reponsible than the bar owners, the liquor stores, and anyone else who tried to make a dollar off the playoffs.

"Self-sustaining" means they are a net generator taxes for society, Chris. Between the taxes on the arena, the incomes, the popcorn, the parking, the charity funds they raise, you name it...almost everyone benefits.
Now you can try and argue the defintition of self-sustaining (cop-out) or tell me this,

How much does it cost to freeze a pond of ice in Ontario and Quebec in the winter?

Overall you've put together a comment even more riduculous, and non-thought provoking than your normal drivel.


Without public money, pro sports wouldn't exist. It has nothing to do with who benefits or definitions of 'self-sustaining'. The injection of public funds into sporting spectacles is literally as old as the Colosseum.

Now that's rich...even coming from you, Chris. Pro sports have always existed privately and thrived in North America from the mid 19th century onward. The reason cities invest in them is because other cities are willing to take them away. And the consequences of a successful team leaving a city are very real. Just mention the word "Supersonic" to many Seattleites, and they're visibly hurt by reference (They lost their beloved NBA team to Oklahoma City). Winnipeg suffered a severe economic recession when the Jets left. It wasn't because of the team itself. It was because their city became an afterthought on the North American landscape.

We're lucky that the Canucks were given the go ahead to build their own arena...there were many cities that wanted them too.

Can't seem to remember the last time two cities duked it out over a chamber choir...

You might have a point if the publicly supported sports programs only benefited the professional sports organizations when in fact the opposite is true - very few enter these programs with the intention of going professional and even fewer succeed. It is no different from actors or musicians. Yes, the very few that go on to have professional careers probably benefited from publicly funded drama or music classes but the benefits of these programs were not limited to these few.

...and I want to add that I enjoy the arts (yes...and chamber choirs) and I think that arts facilities are worthwhile investments for the most part. But let's get away from the myths.


My contention isn't that only pro leagues benefit, but simply that without public monies, pro sports wouldn't exist. Take downtown Vancouver for instance. Could the teams that play GM Place/BC Place be financially successful without the civic amenities such as public transit that make it possible to move large groups of people?

Whether that's good or bad is another issue, but suggesting that pro sports are self-sustaining seems to me to be inaccurate.


By this logic, no business is self sustaining so your point is meaningless. What business does not benefit from the education their employees received that was paid for out of public funds? The weakness in your argument is to treat professional sports as a separate case and not just another business activity.


My original response was to a poster who differentiated sports from the arts and characterized sports as 'self-sustaining.'

Certainly every business benefits from public investments. No argument from me there, nor would I suggest sports should be treated differently than the arts, or manufacturing, or any enterprise that needs civic infrastructure to exist. The only questions are those of priorities and ROI. Realistically, whether it's 'worth it' or not is really a question of personal preference. I'd support Vancouver hosting the America's Cup and spending a reasonable amount of tax dollars to make it happen, because it interests me. Most people would consider that a ludicrous waste of money.

in the middle ages, the arts and sports had patrons - someone who paid the bills and allowed others to watch. Now those patrons are taxpayers.

The economic spin, and the enhancement of our quality of life appear to be worth it. Even the communists have state funded arts, culture and sporting endeavours.

The question is - who should get the support. Do you slice the pie in tiny pieces or do you invest in those that have the best chance of success.

Bullies and cronies at work, right now at City Hall. Hiring spree, only for American Hollyhockers. Who wants to bet on it?
Council meeting in session. All the clowncillorss are in. They should start selling pop corn and pop because it feels like a circus in here.

So Seattlites are "hurt" because the Sonics left? Who cares about their feelings - there was no significant economic impact. And the Jets left Winnipeg because the city was in economic decline already, plus the fact the low Canadian dollar made it hard for them to attract good players.

Fact: the Canucks and the NHL draw a substantial part of their audience from twentysomethings who are prone to drink too much and do stupid things. If your business attracts a demaging demographic then Yes, you should be willing to pony up some cash for policing. While the Mayor's naive actions undoubtedly contributed to this riot, that does not explain the 94 Riot which happened under the watch of Phillip Owen who was definitely not so starry-eyed.

I should point out (before somebody keelhauls me) that the America's Cup is hosted by the winner of the previous event, so Canada would have to win the cup before we could mount a campaign to host it.

I agree with what most are saying here; the Canucks shouldn't have to "pay" for a party they don't even hold. The most egregious rioters/troublemakers aren't even hockey fans. Never forget the fact that late in infamous game 7 the skytrains were FULL of drunken fools heading downtown, intent on causing trouble. By that time the game had already clearly been lost, but not the opportunity to riot.

The Canucks organization is responsible for the conduct of the patrons inside the building. Anything on city property is under city management and is the city's responsibility.

Having said all of that, it would show great corporate responsibility and commitment to the city that made him his record profit of $40-50 million if Francesco Aquilini stepped up and worked with the city to help plan and organize a better way to hold these public viewings of the games.

My idea is simple: Use fencing to block off a predetermined celebration area (the type of fencing that was used during the Indy would work perfectly) and charge a nominal amount for entry into the site.

Rioters aren't the type to want to pay for anything. They like free stuff (as we have all learned very clearly.) The gates would immediately keep the majority of the troublemakers away. The money would be used to pay for security, viewing screens, porta-potties, etc.

Anyone messing around outside the gates would have to leave the area. It's as simple as that. No loitering.

Ask any cop or security what makes his job easier, and he'll tell you it's simple things like this.

The rioters were not hockey fans. We've all seen the silly comments: Many of them were wearing $265 jerseys, so yeah they must have been fans. Huh? You mean dumb punks who don't know the first thing about hockey are barred from buying them? Give me a break. That notion is a fallacy to anyone with a brain. Some kid sells some weed and before you know it he's got $4k to spend and buys a Canucks jersey. Does that make him a Canucks fan? Those are the kinds of idiots we are dealing with here.

It's a sad fact that many of the REAL fans are almost embarrassed to wear their jerseys and show their pride in the city's team after this debacle, but a fact it is.

Lock down those celebration areas tighter, charge an entrance fee, liaise with the team to make it a better experience overall, better security, sell food and non-alcoholic drinks, the whole nine yards. Do it again and do it right.

Don't let the rioters beat us down. The true fans still want that cup and they should be able to enjoy the journey.

How to watch the hockey game for free - indoors, at home, at friends, at a community centre, at a school (remember the Russian series... I was in class at the time and the world stopped)- all low cost to put on, all far more safe because they are smaller numbers and all family friendly. If you have $20, head down to the neighbourhood pub and enjoy a pint and some munchies with your buddies and scream your brains out. That's what I did and it was a blast.

If Surrey can do it - why can't we? Bigger and louder is not always better.

Oh please John: "The rioters were not hockey fans...". Of course they were.

Someone who isn't a hockey fan won't be making themselves look ridiculous by wearing a shirt with some other guy's name on the back. And at games 5 and 6 the mess left behind indicated those fans were not too concerned about the state of the city. Time for the Aquilinis to man up and acknowledge their product attracts a large element of undesirables, just as the bar owners on Granville have to contribute towards policing costs.

@ Chris – without splitting hairs further, I think the person was more making the point that in general pro sports teams directly benefit the economy in the form of sales taxes, property taxes, business taxes (direct and spin off), etc far greater than say an art gallery. Also, they don’t require the same amount of ongoing subsidies that people are used to hearing from the arts community. In your example, the public funding stops when the hockey player hits about junior; it is my impression funding for the arts never stops even at the “pro” level. To be clear, however, do I want a City that doesn’t contain both– personally no.

@ Chris Keam,

Agreed. And I will point out that local and provincial governments (meaning we, the taxpayers) have been more than generous to the pro sports here---the new roof and upgrades to BC Place being the latest example of to the tune of $500 million++++. I would dearly love to know what the Lions and Whitecaps pay back in rent or taxes.

Additionally, re: the Aquilinis and the City. What does GM Place pay back to the City? Is the fact that the brothers are developers and trying to do others deals with council colouring any ask that council might make of them with regards to the riot or seting up of "fan zones" that support the hockey team?

I agree that the City invited a lot of the problems on their own heads by not properly planning this "event around an event". But the pro sports teams in this town, who benefit from brand extension (all those Canucks jerseys, torching cop cars and attacking the citizenry!) should put their community money where their fans are.

Yes, they do contribute to local charities, but usually with fan dollars or donations and always with a tax receipt for a generous corporate write-off. I am personlly affronted that the Aquilini's have not even been seen to do the right thing and offer something-- financial assistance to the small shops that were attacked or hold an event for the public---something, anything to connect back to the city and to salve the wound.

I do share your concern over the roof despite the fact I am an ardent sports fan. I guess the one thing to keep in mind is that the full $500MM isn’t for the roof – about a third is for upgrading seats and concession. Part of the reason (size being the other) the Canucks built GM Place was because they couldn’t agree on dollar sharing agreement with the PNE for the concession. PNE wanted most if not all the concession funds. So, the consolation from BC Place retrofit would be PavCo owns it all and will take the lion’s share (pun intended) of food and beer sales. Add to that the fact BC Place prior to the reno was booked over 270 days a year and it is reasonable to think they can pay back the loan over the life cycle of the upgrades. Having said that, I do think it is a slippery slope when public funds are used to salt private ventures unless there is an arm’s length business case to do so.

As for the Aquilini’s – completely agree. They don’t “have” to do anything. However, they would have increased their public goodwill tenfold had they stepped up the night after the riot. If (and that is a big if) they do something now, it reeks more of shame than goodwill. Not that we taxpayers wont happily take their money…

"Someone who isn't a hockey fan won't be making themselves look ridiculous by wearing a shirt with some other guy's name on the back."

Apparently you're not familiar with the concept of peer pressure.

I'm not saying ALL of them weren't hockey fans. I'm saying they weren't hockey fans just because they were wearing the shirt.

Now get back to your granola bar and smoke a joint and relax.

Why should the Canucks pay anything? what did they do (apart from not win game 7) to incite the riots? Did the Canucks benefit financially from Mayor Gregor's giant TV's downtown plan and therefore have some moral obligation to pay some of that back? Of course not. To me, the idiot rioters should pay as otherwise, it's all city of Vancouver taxpayers who are footing the bill for police, cleanup, etc. through property taxes.

Check out!

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