We want answers; they offer hype

 I don’t necessarily oppose the new convention centre proposed for that gaping hole in the heart of downtown Halifax.

And I don’t completely subscribe to the too-tall, edge-of-the-wedge principal objections raised by the Save the View Coalition.


The preservationist group argues the convention centre’s twin 18 and 14-storey towers will obliterate much of the iconic Citadel Hill view of George’s Island, which is true, thus threatening our historic city’s world-renowned tourist-postcard calling card, which is significantly more debatable.

While I appreciate the battles earlier generations of activists waged to preserve as many views as possible from the Citadel, I personally like the idea of a tightly packed, eclectic downtown that mixes historic and modern, tall and squat, ugly and beautiful, commercial and residential in a funky, lively urban stew. With some great views.

It is the coalition’s back-up argument—that there is no solid business case for a huge new convention centre that will necessitate at least $100 million in taxpayers’ dollars to make happen—that gives me pause. And the dismissive, don’t-worry-be-happy Commonwealth Games-all-over-again response of convention centre boosters to legitimate questions that gives me more pause.

Those questions begin with those commissioned, fore-ordained-to-be-favourable consultants’ reports. While they acknowledge the key issue—declining numbers of major conventions coupled with ever increasing competition to land them—their conclusions either ignore or dismiss it.

Convention centre boosters organized a website forum, supposedly to discuss issues “relevant to the proposed new convention centre.” But when Coalition organizer Bev Miller questioned what she claims will be a $6-million annual shortfall between how much it will cost the province to borrow funds for the centre and how much in new tax revenues it will generate, her post was “removed by the moderator due to a violation of the Code of Conduct.” (It was later reposted, but only after Miller objected.)

Last week, convention promoters released a poll they claimed showed locals support their dream. But the questions—“Governments should invest in a new convention centre if there is a strong business case showing the centre will attract visitors to Nova Scotia, create new jobs, and generate economic benefits and tax dollars”—were clearly skewed to create the desired result.

Now chief booster Trade Centre Ltd. promises to release results of yet another commissioned study—this one on the economic impact a new convention centre will generate—before the developer submits his final plans July 19.

One hopes this report will be more honest—and helpful—than previous ones. We need answers, not spin.

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