Why would the City of Prince Rupert want to sell CityWest?

It seems that every time an election comes around, the issue of CityWest pops up.

It seems that every time an election comes around, the issue of CityWest pops up and how the City should completely sell off that asset and get out of the telecommunications business. This year is no different.

And every time someone brings that idea up to me, I can’t help but personally think what a horrible idea it is.

Let’s take a quick pro/con look at it, based on how I see the situation.

On the pro-side, the money from selling CityWest could be used to pay off debt or invest in infrastructure. As well Prince Rupert may more so have access to the technology that CityWest has to acquire while other national brands roll it out (the new iPhone, 4G wireless networks, that kind of thing). And, it could be argued, that selling CityWest may open a more competitive telecommunications market. Those, along with the City getting out of the telecommunication business, are the arguments I’ve heard for selling CityWest.

Now if CityWest were sold to a Bell or a Telus or a Rogers, here’s what I see happening. The executives who live in town – like the presidents and vice-presidents – would be let go as any company buying CityWest would have its own management team in some skyscraper somewhere. Likewise, the accounting department and finance department would be gone and with it those jobs as well. The customer service reps would be laid off too, as the larger companies provide those services off-site at a large call centre somewhere. They certainly wouldn’t need the large building on Third Ave, as a simple storefront would suffice. On the financial side of things, the City would be out about $1 million per year coming from the company, which if lost would require a high tax increase to cover.

So the trade off is a one-time infusion of cash and more convenient new technology against dozens upon dozens of high-paying jobs being filled by people who live in and spend money in our community. Not much of a choice there if you ask me…

So when people ask why the City hasn’t sold CityWest, my answer is ‘why would they?’ Why put dozens of people out on the street in a tough economy simply so people may be able browse or text faster?