Volume 95, Issue 83
Tuesday, March 12, 2002
Hockey and opera worth puck all
Study says tax dollars wasted
By Emmett Macfarlane
Public funding of sports and the arts does not bring the benefits many people believe, according to a study by Western economics professor John Palmer.
In the study, Palmer researched the economic benefits of taxpayer funded sporting and cultural events held in Canadian communities. Palmer said he examined both the real estate value and the economic return associated with such funding.
Local economies are not better off with sports teams and cultural institutions, Palmer said. "People in Winnipeg and Quebec [City] have told me they may even be better off without professional sports teams.
"If you look at it from a job creation point of view, the argument tends to be bogus. If people are spending their money on sports, it means that they aren't spending it on something else," he said.
"So much of the money athletes earn ends up being spent outside of the community," he added.
Susan Eagle, Ward 7 city councillor, said it is hard to demonstrate savings from funding, but added there are many benefits to supporting sports and the arts.
There are negative costs associated with not funding arts centres and sports, such as poor health, Eagle said. "When we provide sports teams [and cultural institutions with money], we're providing an alternative for people," she added.
"Anybody can organize an arts program that won't [be profitable] but you can organize one that will," Eagle said.
Nancy VanSas, London Museum of Archeology program and events co-ordinator, said public funding is necessary to run their programs. "We have to have projects that benefit the community," VanSas said. "Each year we need to justify why we get the money."
The museum is an affiliate to the university, she said, noting it contains a teaching lab that contributes to public education. "We're just providing a different source of [information] base to the public," she said.
"We do generate money on our own," VanSas said, adding money from public and private donations generate significant funding for the museum.
Palmer said he thought the benefits gained through cultural resources were outweighed by the fact the money could be used elsewhere. "Civic pride is a benefit to some extent, but the money can be spent better," he explained. "I think you'd get better pride from having a good educational system or good landfill site."
Real estate values are affected positively by some cultural institutions, Palmer admitted. He said housing prices were $20,000 higher near theatres in towns like Stratford and Niagara-on-the-Lake.
Copyright © The Gazette 2002