Katz Group offered to help MLAs with PR
Citizen questions on arena deal could be sent to group
The Katz Group has been calling the offices of some Edmonton Conservative MLAs, asking they redirect phone calls from constituents about the Edmonton Oilers arena deal between the city and the group, CBC News has learned.
The phone calls were made Thursday to office staff working for at least five MLAs.
"I understand our constituency office managers have received a call from the Katz Group, advising that they're willing to assist the province in the individual constituency offices with communication," said Employment and Immigration Minister Thomas Lukaszuk, who represents Edmonton-Castle Downs.
The focus of the call was offering help if citizens had questions on the $450-million arena getting a provincial Municipal Sustainability Initiative grant.
No MSI money has been allocated to the arena yet, Lukaszuk said.
And while the city and Katz Group reached a framework agreement announced in May, they have yet to finalize it.
Moreover, no one can help a constituency office with its communications, Lukaszuk said.
The calls are sensitive because the deal to build a new Oilers arena downtown needs provincial and city money. A Katz Group spokesman denied that the company made the calls so it could directly respond to voter concerns, rather than through elected MLAs.
Liberal Hugh MacDonald, who represents Edmonton-Gold Bar, didn't get a call, but like Lukaszuk, he said the group should stay out of the the way. "I consider this a form of political interference."
Other questions have also arisen about the city-group deal. The group would not deny reports that the Oilers would consider playing in an arena on the Enoch reserve on the western edge of the city.
"We continue to believe that the best solution for the city and the Oilers is a downtown development and we remain committed to those negotiations. However, to the extent that we cannot be certain of the result of those negotiations, we are open to alternatives to find another long term home for the Oilers in the Edmonton region," group spokesman Steve Hogle wrote in an email to CBC News,
The May 18 deal would see the group put up $100 million, the city $125 million and another $125 million will come from a user-paid facility fee. The source of the remaining $100 million hasn't been determined.
The group also agreed the Oilers would play in the new downtown arena for 35 years.