Open Letter to John Tory
An Open Letter to Toronto Mayor John Tory:
Office of the Mayor
City Hall, 2nd Floor 100 Queen St. W.
February 24th 2015
During this past week it has become clear that you are in favour of personally becoming an intrinsic part of a prospective deal to see the Canadian Football League’s Toronto Argonauts move to BMO Field after their impending lease at the Rogers Centre expires.
On TSN 1050 radio this past week you were quoted as saying the following:
‘’…I believe that the existence of a strong franchise in Toronto is important to the Canadian Football League…As much as people might say, ‘Oh the league can survive without Toronto.’ I don’t think … well it could survive but it would not survive in a strong kind of way without a strong Toronto franchise… In a better sized stadium… you get BMO Field renovated and have 23,000 to 24,000 seats there, it will sell out for CFL football, it will become a ticket for which there is a demand. It will become the place to be…What I can use is the mayor’s office … I would use my office to help the Argos in a positive, public-spirited way but I think we’re past the point where a lot of tax dollars can be used for that stuff…”’
As a season seat holder since year one of Toronto FC, as a member of the Voyageurs – the Canadian National Soccer Team Supporters Group, and most importantly as a taxpayer of this city who voted for you let me express to you personally my extreme displeasure in most of what you said above. I will point by point below try and help you see the light as to why on the merits of this alone it is the wrong thing to do.
But first since you are a politician lets us speak about the politics.
In your public comments about this issue not once did you mention the possible massively negative impact that this move would have on the stadium’s current tenant – Toronto FC. In fact you never mentioned Toronto FC at all. All that you deigned to mention was the club (the Argos) that formerly paid part of your wages as CFL Commissioner, and MLSE (partially owned by Rogers Communications – another entity you formerly were employed by as President and CEO of Rogers Media) being brought together in a deal partially involving a publicly owned asset.
If you truly believed all the things you (correctly) said about your predecessor during the recent Mayoralty campaign regarding conflict of interest, integrity, professionalism and of holding the office you currently reside in to a higher standard than before you would immediately commit to do the following:
Pledge to withdraw any and all comments you have made for (or against) a prospective deal between the Toronto Argonauts and MLSE surrounding a possible move by the Argos to BMO Field. And if asked going forward to comment to refrain from publicly doing so.
Pledge to recuse yourself from any lobbying or use of your office “…to help the Argos in a positive, public-spirited way…” to make this deal come true.
Pledge to recuse yourself from any and all meetings, lobbying or overt involvement in brokering a deal that has such a massive potential for real or implied conflict of interest.
To publicly pledge that no city funds or resources would be used to foster a deal.
To immediately recuse yourself from any City Council votes or committee meetings (Executive or otherwise) where this issue is debated.
To publicly pledge that your previous employment with two prospective parties involving the future of a city owned asset is a conflict of interest that does not allow you to become involved in this issue in any way whatsoever.
I understand on a personal level that you care about the Argos and their future. I can respect that. What I fail to understand here is that this push to help the Argonauts might spell the long term doom for another Toronto success story, Toronto FC.
Not of course the success on the pitch to date that we have all hoped they would become, Toronto FC has however been a success in the community and at the gate. The success of MLS Soccer in this city has been the primary catalyst behind the expansion of BMO Field, and the support of the Canadian Soccer community as a whole led to the deal being brokered to build the stadium in the first place as part of the FIFA Mens’s Under 20 World Cup held in Canada in 2007.
This success has been a huge part of MLSE deciding spending tens of millions of their dollars on a previous expansion, a current expansion for this upcoming season, and a future upgrade slated to be completed in 2016. The Soccer community in this city has indirectly led to this city asset – BMO Field – becoming massively more valuable now than when built – at no cost to the city since it was built. The original expansion also saw the installation of a real grass surface that has had a massive impact on the quality of the sporting spectacle on display at BMO Field. Current artificial turf technology is not to the point where it can be the same quality of surface as real grass is. 300lb Argonaut linemen playing upwards of 10-12 home dates per season threaten to make that surface not useable for soccer with the end result being a return to turf – significantly impacting the soccer experience. No CFL stadium currently has a grass surface. Edmonton was the last one to have grass and they removed it years ago due to the wear and tear from the CFL. And the less we say about how gridiron lines look on a soccer field the better.
Thousands of TFC season seat holders will likely walk and never look back if the Argos move to BMO Field. I simply ask you sir if is it worth your personal integrity and precious political capital to push for a deal to prop up a moribund franchise in the Argos that has a disinterested owner, no prospective owner on the horizon, that draws flies compared to TFC and which could long term destroy all that TFC has become over the past eight years?
The Argos are part of Toronto and I wish them and their supporters well. All I ask is that you as Mayor of this City remember that your personal involvement in this issue is a massive conflict that could see you destroy something built from nothing in the last decade to prop up a franchise that in over a century of existence has never paid a dime towards a home of their own.
Simply put its not worth destroying one to try and roll the bones on a long shot to save another.
Toronto FC Season Seat Holder, Voter & Toronto Taxpayer