This potential design for a West Coast Multiplex was drawn up in 2008. A 2008 business plan is being updated this year to reflect the changes the project has gone through since then.

Behest of the West: An ice rink by any other name

It’s safe to say the shine the West Coast once buffed into its proposed multiplex project has worn off.

Canada Day had us all thinking about back bacon, brewskies and hockey.

Say, we have an ice rink here don’t we?

According to Tom Connors, a man we all saluted last week, real Canadian girls don’t go on a date if you don’t know how to skate. If that’s true, our dating population is in trouble.

It’s safe to say the shine the West Coast once buffed into its proposed multiplex project has worn off and it’s becoming safer to say we could be headed for another referendum.

The 62 per cent vote in favour of the project in 2012 looks decisive, but the score was only 679-395. A difference of less than 300 voters five years ago in an area with as high a turnover as ours doesn’t provide strong enough ground to take the pounding the project’s received from both Tofino and Ucluelet’s councils this year.

Some of our local leaders were likely grumbling quietly prior to this, but the first public stone I saw cast came from Ucluelet’s Coun. Randy Oliwa last November. During an open meeting, he noted several years had passed since the referendum and asked if its result had an expiration date.

“Things change overtime, so if it has to become public than it should,” he said.

He was saying our communities should get another crack at that referendum question. It was the first rock of many and some were glad to see it thrown.

When the multiplex society suggested  construction on phase one, an ice rink, could start in 2017, the uniplex rumours were born. Members of both our municipal councils started hinting the referendum’s results were invalid because voters had thought the facility would include a swimming pool.

The uniplex idea is a myth. The multiplex’s phased approach was laid out before we all voted. It was going to be an ice rink first and a pool second; we knew that when we cast our ballots but our councils took the news as an opportunity to cast shade.

Tofino’s issue isn’t with the phased approach, at least it shouldn’t be. Their issue is that since 2012, the community’s ability to use its local school’s gym has crumbled and this change to the recreational landscape brought a change in priorities.

Tofino’s councillors have openly doubted their constituents would be cool with paying for both a gym and a multiplex. Ucluelet’s councillors have openly questioned what would happen to the multiplex if Tofino backed out. The conversations from both sides have opened the door for locals who opposed the multiplex to rehash their concerns.

Familiar harrumphs have been relaunched at the referendum’s voting requirements. Any British Columbian who had lived on the West Coast for a month could have voted. Considering a large chunk of our economy is fuelled by a transient workforce, some have suggested votes were cast by folks traveling through with no tax dollars in the game.That could be a fair gripe, but those making it need to consider that the referendum was held on Nov. 24. That’s not exactly a time we’re flush with passers-by who have been perusing our paradise for over a month.

If you’re worried about renters not carrying their weight, rest assured their landlords have oodles of time to notify them their rent is going up. Even if everything goes perfectly with the multiplex’s new and improved business plan in the coming months, they still need to fundraise roughly $6 million to build the thing. We only agreed to cover its operating costs. If just those whose taxes would be affected should have been allowed to vote, we all should have signed 10 year commitments to this Coast before voting.

The multiplex will hit residential properties with a tax increase of roughly $0.25 per $1,000 of taxable land. Businesses will be hit with $0.33 per $1,000. These numbers are easier than they look. To inspire you, I did my own math. My home is worth roughly $400,000. That means I’m looking at roughly $100 a year when a skating rink arrives at some point and a swimming pool at some point after that. If paying $8 a month means some local kid gets a chance to become the next Elvis Stojko or Hayley Wickenheiser, then I’d say that’s money well spent.

A gym would cost the average Tofitian homeowner roughly $60 a year. Add that to the $100 multiplex charge and you get an annual $160 bill to provide our kids with athletically diverse healthy lifestyles.

Let’s not go through another referendum.

 

Andrew Bailey is the editor of the Westerly News. You can find his weekly column ‘Behest of the West’ on page 4 of our print edition every Wednesday.