Pandas in Toronto: city caught between wanting cute things and wanting to cut spending

Pandas in Toronto: city caught between wanting cute things and wanting to cut spending

Rent boy: a panda can cost up to $1 million per year (Image: popofatticus) 

In a time of tightened belts and mayoral candidates trying to out-parsimony one another, it’s kind of surprising to see the city sign up for another huge expenditure, but Giorgio Mammoliti (whose antics we kind of miss) really wants Toronto to have a panda. He and the Toronto Zoo’s special panda acquisition team are heading out to the wilds of China to get the city its own Ling-Ling. We’re holding out hope that Mammoliti will personally wrestle the panda to the ground before earning its love with delicious bamboo treats, but the reality will probably be less exciting.

The Globe and Mail has the mundane reality:

The project gained momentum late last year when Prime Minister Stephen Harper threw Ottawa’s formal support behind a proposal to bring the creatures to the Toronto Zoo, the Calgary Zoo and the Granby Zoo, in Quebec.

A staff report to the zoo board said the Chinese are eager to begin in-person negotiations in October, when Canada and China celebrate the 40th anniversary of formal relations.

The trip is tentatively booked for Oct. 12 to Oct. 14, less than two weeks before the election.

In order to save the city some cash, Mammoliti is paying for his share of the trip out of pocket. If the plan succeeds and Toronto does get a panda, the cost is going to be substantial. The zoo will have to shell out to build appropriate accommodation for our furry guest, and then there are the panda rental fees (yes, panda rental fees), which can be higher than $1 million a year. All this to get one of nature’s cutest creatures, which we’ll then have to share with Calgary and Granby.

Sure, there’s all this work the city needs to do on subways and whatnot, but if people want more transit spending, they need cute animals. Like Catbus.

Giorgio Mammoliti to join zoo staff in China for panda negotiations [Globe and Mail]
• Zoo cuts back on China panda trip [Toronto Star]
• Zoo mulls another costly panda mission [Toronto Sun]
The politics of procuring a panda bear loan [National Post]