City of Ottawa profiting from the arms industry

Send your letter to Ottawa mayoral candidates: Commit to end CANSEC

Today Canada’s largest arms show opens in Ottawa. CANSEC has grown tremendously over the last few years because of the war in Afghanistan and steep increases in military spending.

But it has also grown with the help of Ottawa City Council, which rejected a 20-year ban on the show from city premises and allowed it to be held in the city-owned Lansdowne Park, located in the heart of Ottawa along the Rideau Canal.

Ceasefire.ca obtained a copy of the rental agreement, which revealed that the City of Ottawa is pocketing nearly $113,000 in proceeds from the arms industry through rental fees.

I hope that you will join with residents of Ottawa in sending letters of protest to the Mayor of Ottawa and the other two leading candidates in this
year’s mayoral election. Urge them to reject any future application by CANSEC, ensuring that their arms show will not be held on city property ever again.

Here is an article from the Ottawa Citizen:

Defence trade show paid almost $113,000 to rent Lansdowne
Parking expected to put added $20,000 in city coffers

By Andrew Duffy, The Ottawa Citizen June 1, 2010

OTTAWA – The City of Ottawa has collected more than $112,000 in rental fees from a defence equipment trade show being staged at Lansdowne Park, documents reveal.

The two-day CANSEC 2010 trade show, which critics call “Canada’s largest weapons bazaar,” begins June 2. It is closed to the public.

A copy of the rental agreement, obtained by the Citizen, shows the city will provide the major buildings at Lansdowne Park to the Canadian Association of Defence and Security Industries (CADSI), the organization that stages the trade show, for seven days.

The city has already received $112,780.50 under terms of that rental agreement.

It stands to make up to $20,000 more in parking fees.

Steve Staples, president of the Ottawa-based Rideau Institute, said the city should not profit from the arms trade.

“How would people in Ottawa feel if they knew that their parks and the summer programs for their children were paid for by proceeds from the arms industry?” Staples said. “I think it draws into question the decision to allow the show to go ahead when you see the city is pocketing more than $100,000 from an arms show.”

The Rideau Institute is a non-profit research and advocacy group that has opposed the Afghan war and large-scale defence spending.

Councillor Eli El-Chantiry, however, said there’s nothing unethical about the city taking rent for the CANSEC show.

“These are legitimate businesses,” he said, noting many already pay municipal taxes in Ottawa. “And what’s the alternative, give it to them for free?”

El-Chantiry said that since Ottawa is home to the Department of National Defence, it has a responsibility to host military trade shows.

Such exhibitions, he said, help ensure that Canadian soldiers have the equipment they need to fight in places such as Afghanistan and help to equip the city’s emergency responders.

City of Ottawa spokesman Barre Campbell noted that council last year endorsed CANSEC’s move to Lansdowne Park.

In June, council voted not to revive a 20-year ban on arms exhibitions at municipal facilities and instead passed a motion that recognized the importance of “national” trade shows in Ottawa’s economic strategy.

Councillor Alex Cullen had petitioned the city to reaffirm a longstanding ban on arms trade shows on city property. That ban had been in place since 1989, but city officials last year decided it no longer applied to Lansdowne Park since ownership of that property had been transferred several times between local governments.

That legal interpretation opened the door to CANSEC’s move to Lansdowne. The trade show’s organizers wanted to use the site while awaiting the construction of the new, provincially-owned Ottawa Convention Centre.

The Rideau Institute’s Staples said the city has allowed “dollars to trump values.” The defence trade show, he argued, should be held at the airport’s military hangar rather than on city-owned property in a residential neighbourhood.

“I think the show is becoming a bit of a blight on the city’s reputation,” he said.

The CANSEC show includes weapons and weapons systems, but the vast majority of exhibits feature defence technology, such as battlefield simulation software, organizers say.

Canada’s defence and security industries generate more than $10 billion in annual sales and employ more than 70,000 Canadians, according to the association that represents 700 defence contractors.

Ottawa alone is home to 220 defence-related companies that employ an estimated 10,000 people.

Richard Sanders, co-ordinator of the Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade, called the city’s rental income from the CANSEC trade show “a pittance” compared to the profits made by defence industries. “It’s also a pittance compared to the amount of death and devastation caused by the wars these companies are fuelling,” he charged.

Protesters plan to hold a rally outside Lansdowne Park’s main entrance on the first day of the trade show.

In peace,
Steven Staples, Ceasefire.ca

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