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.
Copyright 2013 Stephen Kimber
With the pre-holiday spate of comment-worthy local news and the upcoming holiday absence of venue to vent my inevitable shocked-and-appalled-at-it-all spleen, today’s column will be an assorted stocking stuffer.
No charges in Home for Coloured Children investigation: I’m less shocked than I’d like. But winning convictions when allegations date back decades, involve children and include little documentary evidence is difficult, perhaps impossible.
That makes the ongoing class action suit—where the burdens of proof are different—even more significant for the victims, and a full public inquiry vital for all of us.
Who was responsible for creating the conditions that allowed such abuse to continue unchecked? What role did racism play in the lack of official oversight or interest when children came forward with allegations? What can we learn?
It’s time the provincial government did the right thing.
Swastikas, anti-Semitism and the Atlantic Jewish Council: A few protesters at a recent anti-war rally outside the Halifax International Security Forum carried posters with images of swastikas, equating Israeli attacks on Gaza with Hitler’s Nazis.
Atlantic Jewish Council Executive Director Jon Goldberg was right to condemn the comparison as anti-Semitism. “And any attempt to hold Jews collectively responsible for political actions of the state of Israel,” he added, “is anti-Semitism.”
Would that groups like the AJC were equally quick to condemn North American Jewish groups’ often knee-jerk invocations of anti-Semitism when anyone criticizes Israel for its attacks on Palestinians.
Province buys Bowater lands: The Dexter government has completed a complex deal to purchase 550,000 acres of former Bowater Mersey assets for $1, assume employee pension liabilities, resell a Bowater biomass power plant and transform the mill into an innovative clean energy centre.
It appears to be a smart long-term investment protecting our forests, providing employment and creating rural development opportunities. Win, win, win. Finally.
Savage speaks: Speaking last week to the Chamber of Commerce, new Mayor Mike Savage talked about everything from the role of universities in our economy to revitalizing downtown Halifax with an iconic legacy project to replace the Cogswell Street Interchange white elephant.
“This is not a building we’re talking about,” he declared, “this is a community. This is huge.”
Vision from a Halifax mayor?
Wow. No wonder Savage got a standing O.
Happy holidays to all.
One can understand Premier Darrell Dexter’s aggressive/defensive, head-in-the-convention-centre response to last week’s auditor general’s report.
That report—which damned the shoddiness of the business case Trade Centre Ltd. concocted to justify a new convention centre—called on the government to launch an independent review of TCL’s numbers.
Dexter was having none of it. TCL based its conclusions, he told reporters, on eight different studies “that came about independent of the Trade Centre by respected market analysis companies, so I have no reason to disbelieve those projections.”
Would the premier perhaps be referring to the independent report prepared by the executive director of Convention Centres of Canada, a convention industry-promoting agency, which—surprise—thought a new convention centre a spiffy idea? Or maybe he was thinking about that in-depth assessment prepared—in another respected consultant’s own words—“without the benefit of any primary research”?
In his analysis of TCL’s lack of analysis, Auditor General Jacques LaPointe points out “industry realities were ignored, including the over-supply of convention centre spaces in Canada, new competitors and the stagnant convention market.” TCL’s upbeat forecasts, he told reporters, “were not really consistent with much of anything.”
LaPointe’s conclusions are no shock.
In June 2010, four months before Dexter announced his government would contribute one-third of the $163 million public funds needed to build the centre, a citizen’s group called Coalition to Save the View—after studying four consultants’ conclusions—said almost exactly the same thing. So has almost anyone else who has looked at TCL’s self-serving numbers.
The problem now is that it’s too late.
Dexter has tethered a significant strand in his own re-election rope to what he calls “one of the largest building projects to take place in our city’s history.” More importantly, there’s a developer whose $500-million project hinges on a new convention centre. He’s signed contracts, broken ground…
Cancelling the project now—no matter what a truly independent analysis might ultimately conclude—would invite law suits and even more uncertainty about the future of downtown.
So the response is bluster. We already have eight studies, the premier says. Why would we want a ninth?
Instead, we will—eventually—get reality. By then it will really be too late.
Perhaps, in 20 or 30 year, we will call for proposals for what to do with the convention centre.
Shades of the Cogswell Street Interchange, yet another monument to the triumph of grand dreams over honest analysis.
The race for HRM mayor really began on February 6, 2012, when former Liberal MP Mike Savage—surrounded by a fawning, hopeful who’s who of 300 of the city’s most influential business and political makers and breakers—declared he would challenge long-past-his-best-before-date incumbent Peter Kelly.The campaign effectively ended two-and-a-half weeks later when Kelly—already mired in myriad self-made political scandals and suddenly facing personal allegations about his handling of a friend’s estate—reluctantly announced he would not reoffer.
For Mike Savage, the challenge suddenly became how to say nothing—but say it pleasingly blandly—for seven months: nothing to raise questions among voters, nothing to provide an opening for his opponents to attack, nothing to force him to act one way or another once this past weekend’s pro forma ballot-counting exercise was history.
It was a classic front-runner’s campaign. And Savage executed it perfectly.
Now the hard part begins.
Savage’s first—and most crucial—task will be to convince 16 independently elected, beholden-to-no-single-agenda, motley mix of urban and rural councilors to work together for the common good. Given that 13 of the 16 are holdovers from the last fractious, sorry lot, it will not be easy.
The good news is that getting along has been Mike Savage’s strong suit. Unlike his late father John—the progressive and principled but sometimes bull-headed former mayor and premier—Mike Savage is personable, easygoing, a man more naturally inclined to traditional brokerage politics than to the ideological, confrontational style currently in vogue in North America.
One can imagine—hope—Savage will even find ways to harness the expertise and enthusiasm of his main mayoralty rivals, Tom Martin and Fred Connors, in his new administration. We—and he—would be well served.
But Mike Savage’s litmus test will come when he is finally forced to show himself on specific issues—on United Gulf’s proposal for a views-busting 48-storey twin-tower downtown highrise, on the court battle over the former St. Partick’s-Alexandra school property…
While it is good Savage did not inherit his father’s single-minded rightness about all things, we can only hope John Savage’s progressive and principled genes made it through to this generation.
We shall see.
With nominations closing tomorrow and the municipal election 40 days away, it is time—past time—for the campaign for mayor of the Halifax Regional Municipality to begin in earnest.Even if one quibbles with the fine print of the latest poll from a research company whose CEO is a supporter of candidate Mike Savage—and which shows him with the support of 67 per cent of decided votes in a field of five—it’s hard to argue with its broader conclusion that the mayoralty race is Savage’s “to lose.”
When he first announced his candidacy in February, it seemed more than enough that the affable former federal MP was not the widely loathed incumbent mayor.
But then Peter Kelly dropped out.
And Mike Savage remains little more than Not Peter Kelly.
We know the platitudes. Mike Savage wants “to make HRM the most livable, entrepreneurial and inclusive community in Canada.” He believes “HRM needs to celebrate arts and culture,” and “needs to get on with implementing good plans.”
But how does that translate into policy?
Does Savage favour cutting the commercial tax rate in downtown Halifax to spark development there? By how much? How would he make up any lost tax revenue?
Yes, the white elephant Cogswell interchange-to-nowhere does represent “one of the most exciting opportunities to imagine the future of our downtown core,” but how does Savage himself imagine it?
What about the urban-rural divide in HRM? Short of undoing the 1996 amalgamation his late father engineered as premier, how will he overcome that?
With the exception open government and transparency, on which he has been specific, finding the solidity in Savage’s positions is a like poking jello before it’s set.
There are, of course, reasons politicians steer clear of promises. Mayors under our system don’t have real power to implement policy. Perhaps more importantly, front-runners rarely ever allow themselves to be trapped by specifics if they don’t have to.
It’s up to us to make sure Savage has to be specific. With at least nine debates scheduled between now and election day, we need to know what Mike Savage stands for.
We don’t need another Peter Kelly.
What are we to make of the latest tongue-clucking, finger-pointing, eye-rolling, so’s-your-old-lady response to last week’s auditor general’s report on the ongoing, never-ending screw-ups at the intersection of Halifax Regional Municipality, Metro Centre and Trade Centre Ltd.?
Following up on last year’s cash-for-concerts scandal—let’s not revisit that—Halifax A-G Larry Munroe discovered a murky, virtually undocumented 2006 deal in which the provincially-operated Trade Centre hijacked Metro Centre’s box office operations.
Previously, Metro Centre contracted TCL to handle its ticket sales for a management fee. Under the new deal—never signed off on by HRM council—TCL handled almost all Metro Centre ticket sales and handed HRM 40 cents per ticket.
Munroe says the box-office fixing switcheroo cost the city hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The ink was barely dry on his report when the don’t-blame-me’s began.
Fred MacGillvray, who was TCL’s boss at the time, claimed he was above it all, fingering for any fault his then-underling and now successor Scott Ferguson.
Ferguson told Metro reporter Alex Boutilier the changes were “signed off by both the municipality and both by our board,” but, when pressed, had to admit, “I’m recognizing, Alex, that there was not a specific agreement signed with HRM and Trade Centre Ltd.”
Darrell Dexter—who wasn’t even premier at the time—jumped into the fray to blame the city. “That’s their problem,” he said. “They allowed that position to develop.”
Mayor Peter Kelly, who was one of three council representatives on the board—How many HRM councillors does it take to screw things up? However many there are...—claims he doesn’t recall “any discussion... that HRM had agreed to transfer the asset to Trade Centre Ltd.”
Fellow board member and councillor Russell Walker, however, remembers voting on a deal but neither he nor any of the HRM representatives thought it important enough to inform council.
And so it goes.
First things first. Let’s reopen the contract that never was and negotiate a better, fairer deal so the city can, in Munroe’s words, “share in the upside.”
Second, let’s elect a city council that actually pays attention for a change.keep looking »