Local businessman and philanthropist Malcolm Jenkins gave full support to city council’s decision to build a new arenas and aquatics recreation facility in the southeast corner of Prince Albert.
Jenkins released a Facebook video on Friday encouraging residents to support the project. He also criticized an anonymous group of citizens for releasing a pamphlet questioning why council paid $6.5-million for a parcel of land valued by an independent appraiser at around $3.5-million.
Jenkins said it’s disappointing to see so much negativity around the project. He released the video to show not everyone in Prince Albert viewed it that way.
“It’s an overwhelmingly positive thing, and it’s a shame a few negative thoughts were thrown out there,” Jenkins said during an interview on Friday. “If everybody in town gets something delivered in their mailbox, all of a sudden that becomes fact or the news. Well, I think it needed an equal volume of noise on the other side to say, ‘hey, that’s all wrong and here’s why.’ That’s what we tried to do.”
In the video, Jenkins said there were always “the two or three per cent of naysayers” who would find something to oppose. He said it’s “pathetic” that someone would take a positive development and try and turn it into a negative, and called the pamphlet authors “anonymous twits” who were too cowardly to sign their names to their views.
Jenkins didn’t back down on those opinions during an interview on Friday, calling the group’s tactics “Trumpish” and unwelcome in Prince Albert.
“It strikes me as the sort of thing that Donald Trump might do, casting aspersions like that, but if you’re not prepared to stand up and say who the caster is, then you should be ashamed of yourself,” he said.
The Daily Herald emailed the group behind the pamphlet asking for comments on Jenkins’ remarks, but did not receive a response by press time.
City of Prince Albert administration recommended council purchase the $6.5-million property in southeast Prince Albert, rejecting two other possible locations in the process. One of those locations was a parcel between the Alfred Jenkins Fieldhouse and Victoria Hospital.
On Friday, Jenkins said the original vision was to create a health and wellness centre near the hospital, then build an indoor pool nearby a few years later. He said that plan was put on hold in favour of a more ambitious proposal. After looking at Signature Development’s proposal for a new entertainment district anchored by an indoor recreation centre, he thinks it was the right decision.
“(It’s) bigger and better,” he said. “I think it’s a super thing for PA. It opens up that corner of town.”
Jenkins added that he believes the entertainment district will make it easier for local businesses to attract prospective employees to Prince Albert. In the past the lack of facilities was a major deterrent. He said that’s changed in the last few years, and a new entertainment district, which includes two new ice rinks and an indoor pool, will help continue that evolution.
“It’s just generally good for Prince Albert,” he said. “I’m a merchant, so the more people you bring to town, the happier I am.”
A group calling themselves The Concerned Residents and Taxpayers of Prince Albert issued a pamphlet asking why the 18-acre parcel was not appraised before Mayor Greg Dionne and four city councillors voted in favour of purchasing it. The group also criticized council for giving the public just four days notice before voting on the purchase, and for not adequately considering alternative locations where the City already owned land.
Mayor Greg Dionne told the media he would not answer questions about the pamphlet as long as the authors remained anonymous. He challenged one member of the group to come forward and publicly debate him with the media present.
The 2020 municipal election is scheduled for Nov. 9.