EDITORIAL – Why holding one big referendum on new facilities would fail

An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.

THE IDEA THAT THE TRAIL OF MEGA PROJECTS is littered with the bones of failed dreams in Kamloops is something of a myth.

It’s true that taxpayers are reluctant to spend money on them. Some projects — such as a combined complex in Riverside Park, and a performing arts centre — have failed but several others have succeeded: the Tournament Capital Centre and McArthur Island upgrades, for example.

The City’s Recreation Master Plan identifies dozens of potential new and upgraded facilities, including indoor fields, a pool, curling rink, courts, and parks and trails. All that’s on top of the still-dreamed-of PAC. The wish list is into the hundreds of millions.

Can you imagine all of those projects — or even several of them — ever being approved all at once in one referendum? No way.

Yet one City councillor is mulling over a referendum on the entire plan. As he puts it, fund the RMP “in a purposeful and timely manner.”

Mike O’Reilly, running for re-election, shouldn’t be judged on this idea alone. He’s looking ahead on building the city. But think about it.

There are several major reasons the O’Reilly plan can’t fly. One is that by the time a lot of the facilities would be built over a 10-year-plus span, the costs would be way out of line with what was approved.

Another is that priorities change. A decade from now, Kamloopsians may have much different ideas on what the City needs. A lot of the projects in the master plan are blue sky aspirations, not anything with business plans attached.

Besides, there’s no way of predicting how much federal and provincial funding would be available for each project; therefore, no way of knowing how much local borrowing would be needed.

Referenda need to be targeted at specific amenities. One thing at a time. If a multi-facility referendum failed, which it likely would, every one of those facilities would be doomed for many, many years.

I’m Mel Rothenburger, the Armchair Mayor.

Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and a retired newspaper editor. He is a regular contributor to CFJC Today, publishes the opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at

About Mel Rothenburger (9481 Articles) is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

1 Comment on EDITORIAL – Why holding one big referendum on new facilities would fail

  1. Lastly but not least, how can we talk “sustainability” and climate change mitigation strategies and then go on and talk about millions and millions worth of recreational facilities? To my way of thinking we are potentially going totally against where we should be heading. I cringe to the thought the councillor mentioned in this piece may get to be on council again.

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