And so do the taxpayers of Timmins:
A tourist attraction celebrating country-pop singer Shania Twain has officially become a $10-million money pit of taxpayer dollars.
The Shania Twain Centre in this northern Ontario community permanently closes its doors today, barely a dozen years after its grand opening, and will be demolished to become part of an open-pit gold mine.
You can't make stuff this up. It just wouldn't be believable. For those of you who are not up on their Ontario geography, the city of Timmins is located about seven and a half hours north of Toronto. It has a population of 43,165 and the current temperature is -34 celsius. I don't even want to know what the windchill is. The main industry is gold mining. The city's two most famous ex-residents are Myron Scholes (of Black-Scholes fame) and Shania Twain. In fairness it should be noted that Mr Scholes left Timmins at the age of ten to move to the bright lights of Hamilton. Shania left after graduating high school.
I'm guessing that's why Myron got the Nobel and Shania only got a Juno.
Apparently the city coughed up $5 million to build the Shania Twain Centre, while a provincial agency kicked in the rest. The Centre has run a $1 million loss over the last dozen years. The local authorities are blaming the closure of the centre on a lack of marketing and a failure of support from local residents. The centre never attracted more than 15,000 visitors in a given year. The property has now been sold to a mining concern for $5 million dollars.
So let's do some elementary math. There are 43,165 residents in Timmins. The original estimates were that 50,000 people a year would come to the Shania Twain Centre. So once everyone in town has visited the Centre once, why would they go back again? How many times can you gaze in awe at Shania's first guitar? How many people in Timmins like Shania Twain? This would mean that for the Centre to be a viable concern it would need to attract visitors from out of town.
To visit Timmins.
The nearest major towns are Kirkland Lake and Cochrane. The nearest major city is Sudbury. Recall that most people in southern Ontario consider Orillia to be the edge of civilization. Most Torontonians consider Steeles Avenue to be the edge of civilization. Who the hell is going to travel hundreds of miles to visit a museum about a country music singer? They do that for Elvis. But Elvis is Elvis and Graceland is in Memphis. Timmins is not Memphis. There are other things to do in Memphis. In Timmins it's the Shania Twain Centre and then it's the open pit gold mine.
There might be many laudable reasons to live in Timmins. There might be many very fine people in Timmins. But unless you intend on living in Timmins there isn't much of a reason to visit. At least Windsor has a casino. Sudbury has a huge nickel and a gigantic smoke stack. The business case for this cente was not well thought out.
I bring this story to your attention not to mock the good people of Timmins. At least not directly. Their political leadership has spent millions of dollars, which no doubt could have been better spent elsewhere, on a tourist attraction for a city that no sane tourist would willingly visit. Yes, I know Shania Twain is huge. But if Jesus had been born in Timmins I doubt the crowds would have been much larger. Say what you will, but at least Bethlehem is warm.
There is no private investment firm, excepting perhaps one seeking a massive tax write-off, which would invest $10 million in so ludicrous a project. Yet it seems, with something which for bureaucrats approaches insouciance, the provincial and municipal governments forked over a considerable fortune to build a musically themed white elephant. If government officials cannot figure out that Timmins is not a good tourist destination, what makes anyone think they're clever enough to run a health care system? Or a school system? Or a transit system?
Much of the Canadian economy is littered with white elephants and grossly inefficient public services. The Shania Twain Centre is a small fiasco in the larger disaster that is the modern Canadian state.