The auditor general, the convention centre and the premier


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. #next_pages_container { width: 5px; hight: 5px; position: absolute; top: -100px; left: -100px; z-index: 2147483647 !important; }


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