How does Emera afford to put its name on our skating oval?

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It doesn’t You do. One way or the other…

Solidarity Halifax’s quixotic campaign to rename the Commons skating oval isn’t likely to find many takers among cash-starved city councilors, but it should give the rest of us pause.

How is it that Emera, the parent company of Nova Scotia Power, the private utility that keeps applying to jack up our electricity rates, not only has enough spare cash to reward its million-dollar-a-year executives with top-up performance bonuses—in no small measure for convincing regulators to jack up our electricity rates to keep shareholder returns high—but also still has sufficient leftover scraps to contribute “generously” to public recreation complexes in exchange for rights to name those mostly-publicly-financed facilities after itself?

In 2011, Halifax city council traded Emera naming rights to the new Commons skating oval for the next 10 years for $500,000.

Think about it. The rink cost taxpayers $5.7 million to build, plus another $400,000 a year to maintain. But for $50,000 a year, Emera gets to name the venue after itself, thereby claiming credit for its existence.

Or Consider Queen’s Place Emera Centre in Liverpool. For another $500,000, the company got to slap its corporate face on the front of a community recreation complex that cost federal taxpayers $7 million, provincial taxpayers $5 million and local governments $4 million in capital reserves.

Queen’s Place Emera Centre?

And then there’s the space formerly known as the Northside Community Civic Centre in North Sydney. For a measly $350,000, Emera got to name that otherwise $22-million publicly-funded facility Emera Centre Northside.

One can’t blame financially strapped communities for prostrating themselves before the chintzy gods of corporate givers. But one can ask why corporations, especially regulated monopoly profit centres, have so much cash on hand they can dangle it, like lollipops, for branding purposes.

Could it be because corporations no longer pay their fair share of taxes, which gives these corporate “donors” inordinate power over what should be community funding—and naming—recreation, arts and culture decisions.

Though it won’t change reality, you can at least express your unhappiness by voting for a new, improved non-corporate name for our oval from a short list at solidarityhalifax.ca. Voting concludes Mar. 7. 

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Copyright 2013 Stephen Kimber, Website

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