Progress? Who's whining now?

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On Wednesday, local radio personality Bobby Mac launched a new Facebook group “for those of us who are tired of those whining people who don’t want any progress in this great city of Halifax.” Its name? SCREW THE VIEW!!

By Saturday morning, STV had 163 members.

“We are tired of the groups that stop progress in this great city of Halifax,” he explained. “We want new buildings. No one goes up Citadel hill for the view. They go for the fort, and for sex at night.”

Acknowledging Bobby Mac probably knows more about sex on Citadel Hill than I do, and even accepting his dubious proposition no one goes there for the view, let’s analyze his most serious argument: whining, save-the-view-of-the-harbour-flotables crazies are preventing “progress”—by which I assume he means a forest of high rise office towers on the slopes of the Citadel.

Really?

Last year, Dalhousie’s Planning and Design Centre released a map showing 23 major downtown development projects, all of them approved, but almost none built or under construction. Who’s to blame for that? Heritage groups? Developers? Or perhaps the economy, stupid?

The convention centre? Despite the whinging from the all-things-ancient lovers, the city and province eagerly approved the proposed project and shoveled buckets of our cash in its direction. The first real delay came because Ottawa took its time to say yes.

By the time it did, the economy had gone to hell in a handcart. The developer is still scrambling to find financing and tenants to make the project viable.

Speaking of which, the whiners—who also raised Economics 101 questions about the convention centre—appear to have been right about that.

Consider this from the Dec. 31 Wall Street Journal, hardly a preserve of loony preservationists. There’s “a nationwide surplus of empty meeting facilities, struggling convention halls and vacant hotel rooms,” the paper notes. “How have governments responded to this glut? By building more convention centers, of course, financed by debt backed by new taxes and fees on already struggling taxpayers.”

Uh… Perhaps Bobby Mac’s next Facebook group will be to whinge about how all our tax dollars are being wasted on a white elephant.

Now that would be progress.

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Copyright 2012 Stephen Kimber, Website
  1. Thank you, Stephen. Halifax has had a very long history (over 100 years) of panic-boosterism, which recently was termed “groupthink”. This affliction causes business “leaders” to push for the wrong product at the wrong time with the promise that it will “save us”. ie, Commonwealth Games, Scotia Square, the WTCC itself and “tall buildings downtown”. This affliction spreads quickly to the wanna-be business leaders and soon all the tinkling cymbals are clanging and crashing together.

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  2. Well said. Unfortunately hucksterism is a very poor substitute for actual economics. The economic case for the proposed Halifax Convention Center failed to add up even a year ago, and since then prospects have gone from bleak to dismal.

    The larger shame is what drives such delusions to begin with: short term “conventional” political thinking coupled to developer ambition and hyperbole. Each time this is allowed to proceed, actual economic development opportunities are squandered. Dinosaurs (of various kinds) are built, that sink into their foundations, despite unending taxpayer transfusions.

    There are much better ways – and we know what they are. Let’s do them.

    http://www.policyalternatives.ca/publications/reports/convention-centre-nova-scotia

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