An $8.2-million ice rink set up on Parliament Hill over the winter was used by about 150,000 skaters, newly disclosed government documents show – averaging a cost of about $53 a person or $100,000 a day.
The free-to-use Canada 150 rink was initially unveiled for a three-week run on Parliament in December, along with a lengthy set of rules: there was to be no hockey, no tag, no carrying children, and no speed or figure skating. After media reports about the cost, Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly decided to keep the rink open an extra two months, until Feb. 25.
The rink was also supposed to host a peewee hockey tournament, which ended up being moved indoors because of extreme cold.
This week, in response to a question tabled in Parliament by NDP MP Peter Julian, the government disclosed the final statistics on the rink’s use: it was open for 882 hours of public skating (plus 133 for programming) and used by a total of 152,089 skaters.
The government response said the final bill was unknown. But the total cost, including the construction, tournament and two-month extension adds up to $8.2-million, according to the Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation.
That works out to about $53 a person, $9,300 an hour of public skating time or $100,000 a day.
Ms. Joly said in November that the rink’s boards, glass and netting would be given to a “vulnerable” community in the Ottawa-Gatineau region.
That has yet to happen, and Mr. Julian asked when the name of the recipient would be announced. The government response said the donation process was “ongoing.”
The Ottawa International Hockey Festival, which is responsible for selecting the recipient of the rink, said it was just finalizing the application forms, but had already identified at least 10 potential recipients.
OIHF board member Aaron Robinson said they would be looking for a group with “a solid plan or proposal in terms of how they’ll use the rink itself and how it’ll be accessible, and making sure that it’s used in the proper way.”
He deferred questions about costs to the government.
“This ice rink had the potential to be a fun and spontaneous experience for Canadians,” Conservative heritage critic Peter Van Loan said in a statement. “Unfortunately, because of the Liberal government’s fiscal mismanagement, costs were allowed to run out of control. Once again the Liberals have through incompetence taken an idea with great potential and turned it into a disappointment.“
“It’s unfortunate that the government is not being more upfront about the cost of this,” said NDP MP Pierre Nantel, his party’s heritage critic. “It’s good to see that many people were able to get on the ice and take advantage of the rink despite the extreme cold, but the government may want to think twice next time about building the Rolls-Royce of skating rinks on Parliament Hill.”
The rink was awarded the federal “Teddy Government Waste Award,” given by the Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation to the most wasteful government projects.