The Halifax Convention Centre is expected to lose $8.4 million this year.
That’s according to Event East’s 2021-2022 budget, submitted for regional council’s review on Tuesday almost half way into the fiscal year.
As the Halifax Examiner reported earlier this month, the deficit for 2020-2021 grew about $200,000 to $11.3 million from the budget.
This year, Events East, a Crown corporation jointly owned by the municipal and provincial governments, expects to be able to host more events. It’s budgeting $4.4 million in revenues this year, compared with little more than $200,000 last year. That’s still well under the 2019-2020 actual revenue of $12.5 million, and even then, Events East ran a $5.5-million deficit.
The two levels of government pay off the convention centre deficit on top of their annual rent payments to Nova Centre developer Joe Ramia. This year, the city’s share of the deficit is expected to be about $4.2 million.
Council approved the budget on Tuesday, but Coun. Lindell Smith questioned why there was no presentation from Events East during the meeting. There was a similar exchange last year, and Maggie MacDonald, director of regional recreation services said she’d arrange for a presentation at council’s next meeting.
The report to council contained no details of the budget for the city-owned arena formerly known as the Metro Centre, which Events East operates on HRM’s behalf.
A budget document posted on Events East’s website indicates the arena lost $3.1 million in 2019-2020, and Events East expects it to lose $1.4 million in 2021-2022.
The arena typically posts annual losses more in the range of $500,000.
Canadian Tire buying a city park
Council approved a motion Tuesday to allow a city park to be named after Canadian Tire’s charity arm.
The big box retailer’s charity, Jumpstart, is “dedicated to helping kids overcome financial and accessibility barriers to sport and recreation in order to provide inclusive play for kids of all abilities,” according to the staff report from civic addressing coordinator Gayle MacLean.
“The Jumpstart Playgrounds are a part of their overall Inclusive Play Project: a five-year, $50 million fundraising commitment from Canadian Tire Corporation that focuses funding efforts towards inclusive playgrounds, as well as accessible infrastructure and programming.”
MacLean wrote that Jumpstart “has initiated discussions with HRM for the purposes of determining HRM interest, including naming, site considerations, potential locations as well as timing for a future capital project.” It wants to spend up to $1.5 million, and requests that the new space be named “Jumpstart Playground.”
The municipality’s administrative order governing asset-naming policies only allows municipal assets to be named after people contributing to their construction. MacLean recommended amendments so that the administrative order will read, “an individual(s) or registered Canadian charitable organization may be recognized for a significant financial contribution to a building, park or park feature, where that contribution significantly benefits the community that the asset serves.”
Once a location is chosen, the proposed name will come back to council for final approval.
Councillor seeking sanctioned trail to popular waterfall
Coun. Pam Lovelace brought a motion to council on Tuesday hoping to legitimize a popular hike in her district.
The hike leads to Pockwock Falls, but the trail leading through private lands and there have been issues over the years including illegal dumping.
In response, Lovelace made the following motion on Tuesday:
That Halifax Regional Council request a staff report to:
1. Confirm municipal ownership of the historic Kemptown ROW (Right-of-Way) from Pockwock Road to Clay and Green lakes west of Wright’s Lake;
2. Outline the necessary steps to:
a. create a formal trail with trailhead from Pockwock Road to Pockwock Water Falls on the old Kemptown Road;
b. restrict the bait trapping and OHV (off highway vehicle) activity on this ROW; and,
c. protect and conserve this historic route for future sustainable person-powered use.
“What we have here is a very popular hiking trail and off-highway trail, and, unfortunately, there are no controls,” Lovelace said. “We don’t have a formal maintenance plan so anybody who is fixing up the bridges on this roadway, they’re doing so at the goodness of their hearts and not fully even aware of whether or not they’re on municipal property or on private property. So, what I’d like to do is put some controls in place, and ensure that we have sustainability and conservation of this very historic route, which, which was part of the old Annapolis Road, that was being built in the early 1800s.”
The motion passed unanimously.
Follow-up requested from fire department
Councillors are looking for an action plan from Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency after an audit found the department’s inspection program lacking.
As the Examiner reported earlier this month, Auditor General Evangeline Colman-Sadd and her team found the inspection program isn’t meeting the legislative requirements for the municipality. Too many inspections are happening years late, and follow-up is lax.
It was no surprise to Chief Ken Stuebing, who said he’s been aware of the issue since he started the job in 2017.
Council’s Audit and Finance Committee passed a motion recommending council ask the department for an action plan, due within 60 days, on how the inspection program will be fixed.
On Tuesday, Coun. Cathy Deagle-Gammon, who made the original motion at audit and finance, put forward an amendment to also ask for an update six months later.
That amendment, and the motion as a whole, passed.
Colman-Sadd’s office will also follow up in 18 months, as it does for all audits.