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.