To whom is His Worship responsible?

“Obviously, my first duty is to the citizens of Edmonton, but at the same time, it’s unfair to my council colleagues not to be able to brief them on it, which we’re planning to do Friday morning. After that, I’d be glad to answer questions with the media.”

That, my dear friends, is a quote from His Worship Stephen Mandel, the Mayor of Edmonton, following his six-hour meeting Wednesday with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and Edmonton Oilers’ owner Daryl Katz in the NHL New York office.

Once again, His Worship has got it all wrong. Yes, he’s right when he says that his first duty is to the citizens of Edmonton. But he must have forgotten one minor thing: members of council are citizens of Edmonton, too. And so is he. What His Worship is proposing is offering preferential treatment to one (very minor) group of citizens, while gaining time to ponder what to tell the rest of us, the masses of the unwashed, and what to keep secret from us.

It would be acceptable only if His Worship were in New York on his own room and board, representing himself. Of course, in that case he’d have no business committing any public money to what is a very private undertaking.

The entire scenario stinks to high heaven.

Facing a shameless deadline from the Oilers’ owner, and an even more shameless (and potentially illegal) demand for a no-compete clause from Northlands, His Worship and his top civic bureaucrat hurry to Big Apple because NHL Commissioner wants to play God. The Commissioner, of course, is talking about money that isn’t his all along. This money isn’t his Edmonton council interlocutors’, either.

In fact, if Gary Bettman wanted to be so helpful, he should have come to Edmonton, rather than pretend he’s an emperor whose wisdom matches Solomon’s, and then some. Not only would it have been more polite (decent, even), it would have cost less, too. After all, Daryl Katz is Gary Bettman’s boss. Takes a certain level of gall to summon one’s boss into one’s office.

In enlightening us on his motivation, Gary Bettman tried to explain that it was pure economics that had been behind Daryl Katz’s demand.

Gary Bettman has got this one wrong, too. It’s been a business sense, mixed with a sense of entitlement. Why should I be paying for the whole thing if I could be entitled to having the taxpayers cover at least a quarter of it, if not more?

Business and economics do not mix easily. There are some major differences between these two, and one would have expected an NHL Commissioner to be aware of those differences. But maybe it’s asking too much. After all, as mentioned, the Commissioner is the league club owners’ employee. He’s got to whistle their tune.

And the Mayor’s motivation is simple, too. As American economist Thomas Sowell observed, politicians think in election cycles. Economists take a somewhat longer-term view.

So, we’ve got the three motivations behind this entire deal: greed, greed, and some more greed. In all three cases with an incredibly high level of egotism thrown in.

What should motivate us, the mass of the unwashed citizens of Edmonton, those to whom His Worship has a duty, but who will have to wait?

An answer to just one question: would our dear council members be willing to fork over from their own pockets the required $100 million, and whatever compensation Northlands would require if it were to agree not to compete with Daryl Katz’s new arena? And let’s make it biblically simple: Yes? No?

Oh, they can’t afford it?

You know what? Immorality of public funding for private enterprise notwithstanding, Edmonton can’t afford it, either. And if Daryl Katz has got a problem with it, congratulations, he’s got something we don’t.

Case closed.


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