It’s a business truism that the best loss to take is the first one. Apparently, the panjandrums of the public purse in Edmonton have never heard that saying. After losing money on the first Indy, they went back to the public trough for more and are getting ready to do so again.
To date, we have plowed about $12 million dollars into the Indy, and now the fans of fiscal folly want to put another $3 million into it. And if I understand it correctly, that’s on top of $5.5 million worth of sponsorship and $1.5 million of free police, transit and other services.
The feds have backed out because they only wanted to help fund the Indy if it could be shown to be sustainable. We couldn’t do that, so no more money from them. I think that’s a smart move. I can’t help but wonder if our inability to make the Indy work had something to do with Ottawa's decision not to back Edmonton’s bid for the Expo.
At the very least, our inability to get the numbers for the Indy right allowed them to say with some authority that we underestimated security costs and the like. But having the feds say the Indy isn’t worth investing in is not going to stop our civic masters of moolah from keeping on keeping on. Apparently, we are all about beating a dead horse in this city.
The amount of money that has been wasted on the Indy can be put into sharp focus when you look at the kind of funding the city provides for festivals in the city. For 2010, the Edmonton Folk Music Festival received the princely sum of $130,000. LitFest received $12,000. The Heritage Festival got $55,000. And the Ice on Whyte Festival got a paltry $5,000. Given that the grant numbers did not change, the amount of money we put into the Indy would provide grants for our festivals for almost the next 14 years.
So here’s my question. Do the taxpayers of Edmonton really want the Indy? I know people go to it, but is it more worthy of financing than the Folk Festival or the Works? If you don’t think so, you might just want to send you councillor an email indicating that you don’t want them to approve any additional expenditure for an American vroom-vroom festival.