Friday, March 25, 2022

City provides a brief glimpse into Legacy Inc. workings and how they make use of dividends from it

With this years Budget Presentation providing for more than a few mentions as to how the City plans to use its Legacy Inc financial mechanism for a number of projects ahead, City Staff has provided a brief background presentation on the workings of Legacy.

The information release comes by way of an infographic  presentation that came with the release earlier this week of the plans to make use of Legacy Inc as part of the city's ambitions towards providing for parcels of land towards housing for the years ahead.

The three page Legacy relay, provides a bit of history on the financial instrument as well as to how the City champions the Legacy Fund towards infrastructure and other needs.

(click images above to enlarge)

The overview makes note as to how Legacy is accountable to the public, mostly through the Inspector of Municipalities. 

Though when it comes to how the workings and decision making for the financial instrument are considered through the year; we don't learn much about what form of oversight there is of the Legacy regimen by City Council and how it may engage towards such on behalf of the residents.

There have not been many public updates on the workings of the Legacy project since it was created by the Jack Mussallem council back in 2014, something which is evident through the sparse number of entries to the theme on the City's website page dedicated to the Legacy Inc

Since its creation, successive Council collectives have rarely made extensive mention of the city's go to fund, whether it be for important infrastructure projects or other items that they have put in place thanks to the funding available from the financial pool.

For the most part, residents only really hear of Legacy participation when some large purchase or lease arrangement is announced (such as yesterday's MacCarthy GM facility plans), or an infrastructure project os announced.

And while the new information release is helpful, a wider public presentation with the members of the Board for Legacy to explain the workings of the financial instrument might be something for Council to put forward  

As well, such a forum would offer Council members to outline how they approach the use of the dividends and what kind of process they use to determine if the plans that they put forward are the best use of those dividends.

The highest profile piece of Legacy Inc. is its stewardship over the Watson Island Intermodal Trade and Logistics Park which currently hosts Pembina Pipelines LPG terminal as well as Bollore Trainload and the offices of SGS which works with local grain operators.

The status of the Watson Island footprint however, much like Legacy itself has not been one that makes for much conversation by Council, nor has there been an update on developments and financials for the project in a while.

With the City making its use of the Legacy financial instrument a key element of this years Budget making and this being an election year, it could be a good opportunity for Council to provide for a wider update on their use of Legacy and to provide a deeper glimpse into how it works and how the city can provide more extensive information as to how they decide on how to allocate the funding from it.

As well, a public forum would offer the chance for the public (who in the end a really the shareholders for Legacy) to ask question about the workings of City's financial instrument and perhaps clear up any mis-conceptions as to how it has been put to use since its creation in 2014.

What few notes we have gathered from past council commentary on Legacy Inc. can be explored from our archive pages here.

More items of interest on the work of City Council can be reviewed here.


  1. The city information package doesn't mention the Legacy Fund been used for projects that are over budget to bail them out. That seems to be common practice. Rather than fiscal responsivity the mayor budgets to with the use of the fund as a backstop.

    The one drawdown that does not fit the explanation of the Legacy Fund is bonuses for staff and the mayor. I would like to know how much has been removed for bonuses and travel since the mayor took office. This information should be available without needing FOI. So much for the city's transparency.

    1. A good question. The mayor went to full-time and senior staff received pay top-ups supposedly as retention incentives to plan for LNG and "hyper-economic growth" that did not happen. Were those costs rolled back when LNG went away?

  2. This article captures the central problem with Legacy. Its dividends provide benefits, there's no doubt about that. But senior staff make the decisions and "report" to the council entirely in private without opportunity for public comment. Some privacy is needed for business reasons, e.g. lease negotiations, but that does not justify a complete blackout. Is there any reason why setting and allocating dividends cannot be discussed and decided in public?

    The decision-makers "report" to the council members, but what does that mean in practice? Can the council direct the staff when they are acting as board members? The board is comprised of staff, not council members, so probably not formally. Perhaps there is a point where the staff/board members act so independently that they would be in breach of their employment contracts, but that seems unlikely. The council members are more likely rather passive, receiving information that they do not share with the public. It's a City corporation, but operates like a private corporation.

    The backgrounder says that having Legacy allows the City to focus on core services while the company focuses on land development. But the same senior staff perform both functions. Wearing two hats does not improve focus. It would be different if there were board members who were not staff, who were selected for their business knowledge, which the Inspector of Municipalities permits so long the company operates in the municipal interest.

    The backgrounder says that if lease revenue from Watson went directly to the City "the minute" those revenues ended there would be a "massive" tax increase. That comes across as hyperbole, even scaremongering. Lease revenue ending under the current arrangement would impact Legacy's ability to distribute dividends that mitigate potential tax increases. Perhaps that blow would be softened by having other revenue sources, but then under the scenario of the City receiving revenue directly it would have the same revenue sources to fall back on. Legacy seems to operate as a reserve fund to provide financial stability, but the City is likewise authorized to establish reserve funds.

    Legacy was required for the purposes of receiving revenue from Lot 444, as the backgrounder points out. The problem is that after LNG ended Legacy transitioned to serving other purposes, but that happened without meaningful public discussion and little information flow.