Editorial – Never easy

When Town of High Prairie Mayor Brian Panasiuk proposed helping the developer to make the Tim Hortons franchise a reality at its June 8 meeting, there wasn’t exactly a rush to the table to support it.

But they did! Unanimously!

Council agreed to spend about $5,000 to replace a culvert on 38 Street. Compared to the cost of the entire project, it was peanuts. We’re not privy to the cost of the project, but it is safe to say it’s well over $1 million.

The age-old question came to council before the vote. CAO Rod Risling warned council a precedent would be set. Help, him, help others.

“The flip side is we usually don’t do this for other developers,” says Panasiuk.

Indeed, council has a long history of refusing to help. Most of the time.

As in any development, Panasiuk was right when he said council’s support will show “good will” to the developer.

And, of course, the developer is not going to refuse any help. Any help keeps more cash in his/her pocket.

The “flip side” as Panasiuk suggests is clear. Why help Tim Hortons when it will directly take some business away from existing businesses? In essence, council is taking the tax money from some businesses to support their competition.

There is an argument to be made to support Tim Hortons. As the anchor tenant to the East Gate property, others stores will soon follow. Everyone likes to build stores beside high traffic areas, especially gas bars and convenience stores.

If there was ever a case to help, this is the one. More stores, more business tax revenue. More people, more homes, more residential tax revenue.

“It may make a difference on whether this will go ahead,” says Panasiuk.

There is another issue at stake here and it’s one far greater than $5,000. It’s called public pressure.

If Tim Hortons did not proceed after council refused to help, it would amount to political suicide with an Oct. 18 election coming up. Tim Hortons is a Canadian icon and most residents want to see one in town.

It is not 100 per cent wrong to support Tim Hortons and it is not 100 per cent right. For $5,000, council made the right choice. The town is in desperate need for new businesses and more tax revenue.

“I guess if it’s something we can do to spur this along. . .I’m in favour of it as long as it’s not too costly,” says Councillor Donna Deynaka.

– Chris Clegg

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