1. Stadium lobbyists aren’t registered as lobbyists
Canadian Press reporter Judy Owen caught up with CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie at the Winnipeg–Edmonton game last night (Edmonton prevailed, 33-30), and Ambrosie went on about the possibility of a Halifax team:
“The conversations between ourselves and the Maritime Football group continue,” Ambrosie said. “We’re doing work on their business plan, giving them feedback.
“We’ve actually had them meet with several of the teams so they could get a broad array of perspectives. They came forward with their initial business plan, we had them meet with a group of our governors to give them some feedback. That process is underway.”
Members of Maritime Football Limited, made up of professional sports executives, are also meeting with local governments. The big issue is funding a 30,000-seat stadium in Halifax.
Well, indeed: funding is the big issue. But wait a minute… “Members of Maritime Football Limited… are also meeting with local governments”? That’s confirmation of what we already know, but let’s review.
Back in 2013, then-candidate, now Premier Stephen McNeil said he could support public financing for a stadium. And on February 22 of this year, Keith Doucette of the Canadian Press reported that:
“It’s no secret that we are having in depth discussions at Halifax Regional Municipality, in depth discussions with the province,” said [ Anthony] LeBlanc. “My hope and expectation is sometime within the next couple of months we will have something substantive to talk to you about.”
Although welcoming a potential CFL team as an “exciting opportunity,” Halifax Mayor Mike Savage has previously said the municipality wouldn’t be pushing the issue, so as not to put taxpayers at risk over the cost of building a stadium. Premier Stephen McNeil has also confirmed there have been meetings between provincial officials and the bid group, but offered few other details.
LeBlanc, who is the founding partner of the potential ownership group registered as Maritime Football Ltd., later told reporters that no financial commitments have been offered to date.
“One thing I can say that I’ve heard in particular from the mayor and the premier is it has to be private sector led. They are not saying that they won’t be involved in whatever way that will be, but it has to be private sector led.”
So Maritime Football has been meeting with provincial officials, but, you guessed it: neither Maritime Football Limited nor the CFL is listed on the province’s lobbyist registry. They appear to be violating the Lobbyists’ Registration Act, but as we’ve seen with Jean Chrétien, the Act and the registry can be ignored with impunity and no one will take any action.
City Hall doesn’t even have a lobbyist registration to ignore. I’ve long argued that it should have one, as Savage was once hired by the M5 Public Affairs consulting firm that lobbies city councillors; as I wrote in 2016:
You almost need a scorecard to keep track of the insider connections: The former Liberal MP who is now the mayor worked for the PR company that secretly lobbied the city to buy poison from a client, the same PR company that lobbies the province to sell off Service Nova Scotia and whose VP is a Liberal party executive and who sleeps with the Liberal premier’s chief of staff.
Damn right we need a lobbyist registry at City Hall.
But besides that, Maritime Football has been meeting in secret with Halifax city council to discuss a possible stadium. This matter has not been agendized, and no information has been given to the public.
It feels like the fix is on.
Natalie Wong, a real estate reporter for Bloomberg based in Toronto, compares Halifax’s plans to tear down the Cogswell Interchange with Toronto’s inaction on the Gardiner Expressway.
It’s kind of a weird article, as Wong writes as if her readers know nothing about either Halifax or Toronto and she uncritically repeats all the local boosterism in Halifax. But she’s a young reporter, so I’ll cut her a bit of slack. She does make one point that’s worth considering, however:
By scrapping the jumble of overpasses and underpasses and redeveloping the area, Halifax joins cities like Boston and San Francisco that have removed the decades-old infrastructure to make their downtowns more inviting.
I don’t know much about Boston, but I lived in northern California when the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake destroyed and damaged much of the highway network in the Bay Area. Horribly, the double-decker Cypress Freeway collapsed in Oakland, killing dozens of people, and a section of the double-decker Bay Bridge also collapsed, leading to the death of a woman who had not been warned of the missing section.
So in the aftermath of the earthquake, people were freaked out about the still-standing double-decker highways all over the place, and especially the Embarcadero Freeway, which ran along the waterfront. The Embarcadero may have even been the inspiration for Halifax’s planned Harbour Drive, which also would have run along the waterfront; the Cogswell Interchange was built to facilitate that plan, but due to those pesky heritage people (we’re supposed to hate them, right?), Harbour Drive itself was never built, so instead of having a glorious freeway on the waterfront we have throngs of tourists and locals using the boardwalk.
Back in San Francisco, post-earthquake, there was much gnashing of teeth about the proposed removal of the Embarcadero (and even more with the Central Freeway, but no one remembers that). Removal would create a traffic nightmare! was the cry. But it was removed all the same and replaced with a simple pedestrian-friendly street-level boulevard that opened up the waterfront and led to an explosion in tourism and development.
More to the point of Wong’s article, in terms of traffic, when the Embarcadero was taken down, nothing happened. There was no traffic nightmare. People just adjusted how and where they commuted. Ridership on the ferries increased, people started taking the train more. People even — gasp! — walked.
Turns out, people are amazingly flexible when it comes to transportation. If you build one kind of transportation infrastructure (highways), they’ll use that. If you tear that down and build another kind of transportation infrastructure (transit, pedestrian routes), they’ll use that.
I don’t know exactly what would happen if Toronto tore down the Gardiner Expressway, but I doubt seriously it would lead to the traffic nightmares imagined, and especially not if the train network was extended. I do know that tearing down the Gardiner would open up everything south of the highway in all sorts of pleasant and profitable ways.
As for Halifax, tearing down the Cogswell is of course the right thing to do — it would have been done years ago had Andy Filmore not orchestrated the delay of demolition so Joe Ramia’s Nova Centre plan could move forward. It certainly won’t result in any increase in traffic; arguments about trucks downtown will continue, but there won’t be new traffic snarls as a result of taking down the Cosgswell.
I fear, however, that we’re over-selling the newly planned Cogswell district. Unlike San Francisco or Toronto, tearing down this highway feature won’t open up the waterfront because the waterfront is blocked by the horrendous casino and the dual parking garages for the casino and Purdys Wharf.
If we really want the Cogswell plan to be a success, we’ve got to tear down the casino and the parking garages. No one cares about the casino, so be gone with it already. It’s a blight on the waterfront. As for the parking garages, as with the highway itself, tearing down the garages won’t result in a traffic nightmare; people will just find other ways to travel.
1. Modernist landscape and Dalhousie’s bunghole
Stephen Archibald gets lyrical about the grove of trees that comprise the modernist landscape outside Canada Post’s Almon Street operation (accompany photos are at the link):
The low planters seem to “float” above the paved plaza.
In the leaf free seasons the quantity of trees has its own quality, distracting the eye from the long, low, building and an adjacent fenced parking lot.
And on a moist day, the lichens that covered the trunks, were plumped up and a striking colour.
So you can imagine my dismay, when I noticed recently, that the trees have been removed.
Archibald hopes that the trees were sickly and will be replaced. We’ll see.
In his “postscript,” Archibald mentions the badly cared-for modernist landscape outside the Dal library. It’s odd, because the Dal landscaping crew otherwise does stellar work (have you seen their wintertime sidewalks?). My guess is they just don’t know what to do with the library grounds.
I’ll leave it for others to debate the merits of the shrubbery, but for myself, I can’t understand the stretch of gravel on the west side of the building. Maybe that was part of the original design? Whatever, it feels like an incomplete construction site, especially since half the stairway leading up from the library is chained off because of the broken steps. It’s been that way for years, so I guess there’s no plan to repair them. And once you climb the non-chained section of the stairway, you have to walk around the gravel to get to a weird angled walkway that in turn takes you to an ugly and disorganized series of parking lots that stretch between Dal and King’s. None of this works. It’s dangerous — pedestrians and cars scramble for the same stretch of pavement. It doesn’t serve people well — even the smokers congregate on the concrete wheel stops in the parking lots. And it’s ugly. It feels like the bunghole of the University.
Which is too bad, because there’s the start of something quite nice behind the library — a garden with native plants and a water feature, which I believe was planted and is maintained by one of the environmental program. There’s a short walkway through the garden that connects to Lemarchant Street, but you have to hunt around for it, it’s that hidden.
Honestly, I think they should rip out all the ugly stuff — the steps outside the library, the gravel, the slanted walkway, the parking lots, and even Lord Dalhousie Drive and Castine Way — and start all over with a fresh redesign that extends the garden behind the library all the way to King’s College. As I wrote above in relation to the Cogswell, the parking lots could disappear and people would simply find other ways to travel. Nobody would miss them.
No public meetings.
Atlantic Radiotherapy Conference (Friday, 8:45am, Nova Centre) — Catherine de Metz, from Queens University, will speak. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
The International Conference in Intercultural Studies continues.
In the harbour
3:30pm: Atlantic Star, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for Liverpool, England
4:30pm: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, sails from Pier 36 for Saint-Pierre
4;30pm: ZIM Alabama, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for New York
Weird Morning File today.