This date in history
In the harbour
Forget about the costs of building a stadium, the costs of simply studying building a stadium are mounting. Let’s recall:
Back in 2006, Halifax had a delusionary dream of hosting the Commonwealth Games, including a design for a 50,000-seat stadium at Shannon Park, which would be converted to a 25,000-seat stadium after the Games. The entire Commonwealth Games bid fiasco cost taxpayers $8.5 million; of that, about $2.4 million went to architectural firm WHW, mostly for designing the stadium.
But, water under the bridge, whatever, let’s move on, you naysayers. So, council embarked on its next fantasy, hosting the 2015 FIFA women’s world cup of soccer. As I pointed out in February 2014, well before the latest FIFA scandals:
The idea of bidding on the FIFA event was beyond stupid. First, council had responsibly hired Grant MacDonald, director of Major Events & Community Partnerships at Trade Centre Limited, to advise it on the FIFA pursuit, and then council irresponsibly rejected MacDonald’s advice. “Based on timing constraints, Halifax [should] notify CSA that it will not continue as a Candidate Bid City,” reads MacDonald’s report to council. “Timelines do not allow for proper due diligence on venue feasibility, public input or funding partnerships.” …
Second, what rational government wants to deal with FIFA, arguably the most corrupt sports organization on the planet, and whose president tells gays to “refrain from sexual activity”? FIFA is an odious, repugnant organization, and Halifax’s political leadership was willing to jump into bed with it. This should give us pause.
But shush, you, naysayer!
[Council] would go on to form a committee to research the possibility of a stadium, and keep anyone who at all questioned a stadium off the committee. It would spend $93,000 for a stadium study, then $275,000 for a second stadium study. It would authorize $100,000 worth of staff time for chasing the stadium. And now, 15 months and nearly half a million dollars later, council voted Tuesday 22-1 that, yep, sure enough, just as MacDonald had predicted, a stadium is too iffy of a project at this time, and there’s no chance of any funding partnerships for the FIFA bid. The stadium dream is dead.
There’s a polite fiction that the stadium studies can be brushed off and used for some future stadium that will one day magically appear at Shannon Park, but at least one councillor called bullshit on that notion. “That’s just a fig leaf used to justify the expense of the studies,” said councillor Jackie Barkhouse.
Time has shown Barkhouse to be entirely correct. The stadium we spent a half a million dollars to study just a few years ago was going to be a 10-15,000 seat stadium. Tomorrow, council will consider ordering yet another study, for a 20,000-seat stadium, which will magically attract a CFL team, and bring prosperity forever, amen.
The latest staff report on the stadium is complete and utter bullshit. I don’t have time this morning to detail exactly how full of BS it is, but nearly every paragraph contains some whopper. Maybe I’ll find a couple of hours this afternoon to detail it.
But here’s my favourite part of the staff report:
Financial Implications are referenced with in a separate In Camera report dated November 2, 2015.
That’s right, having already spent upwards of $3 million just studying a Shannon Park stadium, we’re now going to spend still more money to study a Shannon Park stadium, but council won’t tell us how much more.
Understand that a stadium is the political goal of many of our elected representatives, the public opinion’s be damned. Councillor Darren Fisher, who represented the Shannon Park area, was council’s biggest stadium advocate, because…sports. No, that makes no sense, but that’s the intelligence level we’re dealing with here.
Fisher has just been elected as a Liberal MP, and I guess the idea is he, Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and mayor and former Liberal MP Mike Savage will sit in a hot tub and smoke joints together, and the next thing you know the federal government will kick down with some serious stadium money.
Who knows? That might even happen. But even if so, the city will bear the brunt of the costs of any stadium.
Look, citizens have the right to demand whatever trinkets and baubles they want from government. Bread and circuses forever, sure. A stadium won’t cost anywhere near as much as that money pit on Argyle Street, and at least we get some gladiators beating Roughrider ass twice a year or some such. Just, well, there are better uses for the money.
2. Byelection for District 6
Halifax council will tomorrow call a byelection to replace District 6 (Harbourview – Burnside – Dartmouth East) councillor Darren Fisher, who has moved on to the very backest of the benches in Ottawa.
Election Day is Saturday, January 23. Advance polls will be held on Saturday, January 16, 2016 and Tuesday, January 19. Internet and phone voting will be open from 8am on Saturday, January 16 through 7pm on Thursday, January 21.
So far as I’m aware, no one has announced for candidacy in the race. I predict a Trevor Zinck comeback tour.
“With the expected legalization of pot, a Nova Scotia activist is concerned about a Maritime marijuana tradition spreading — smoking marijuana cigarettes cut with tobacco,” reports Elizabeth Chiu. But that’s how we do it around here:
1. Andrew Younger
“Premier Stephen McNeil was right to fire Andrew Younger. He was wrong to wait until Younger’s escalating misbehavior left him no choice,” writes Stephen Kimber:
[Parliamentary] Privilege was never intended to protect a minister from personal embarrassment. Andrew Younger invoked it anyway.
2. Removing the past
There’s a development proposal for a new building at Brenton and Clyde Streets, pictured above, and so Stephen Archibald tromped around the area to see what’s there now. The new buildings will replace a three-storey brick apartment building — no great loss by my estimation, but Archibald finds delight even in that — and the houses below.
I’d probably be much more inclined to support new projects if they were at least architecturally interesting, but like most of the new stuff going up, I don’t find the proposed building particularly inspired.
I’ve mentioned before that there’s a fundamental dishonesty in architectural renderings submitted by developers. The one above shows an impossible view. The rendering also removes the interesting and detailed architecture of surrounding buildings so as to make the proposed building stand out in contrast — in reality, just the opposite will be true: the new building will pale in contrast to the existing buildings. Lastly, the developer’s rendering somehow magically whisks away the most obnoxious street feature in the neighbourhood, the overhead electric wires. For the record, there is no proposal to underground electric wires in the Brenton Street area.
3. Innovate this
John Wesley Chisholm takes aim at the word “innovate”:
Ivany Action: #1 #onens
Telling creative people to be Innovative is the advice equivalent of telling a musician to just write a hit song, or a gambler to simply win the lotto. Yes, it’s correct, but it’s also stupid and a little insulting.
Innovation is something Ivany really thinks we need to do. The only reason it doesn’t sound as stupid as it is is because neither the report nor action plan define, or even imagine, what innovation is. Like most political-speak, the word has no meaning beyond a shared belief that it’s a good thing… and goodness knows we all like good things.
I know of two possible definitions of innovation.
1/ Innovation def. #1 — In business products and services are constantly being improved upon. If you think about it, improvement can only come in a couple ways. You can offer more good stuff for more money — adding ‘options’ to the product — upselling. You can offer more for the same money — adding features and new models. You can offer less for less — the economy versions of products are often popular. Or, finally, you can offer more for less. Think about that. Offering more for less is disruptive, it’s radical, it’s innovation.
2/ Innovation def. #2 – The other way to define innovation is to oppose it to sustaining technology and ideas. Mostly in the world we make small improvements, tweaks, differences of taste, style and presentation — incrementalism. No matter what the marketing says, the new model of a car or other product is sustaining technology. Innovation radically resets customers expectations and behaviour. Innovation changes the ground rules for how competition and distribution is done. Innovation changes the economics of a business model.
The take away from either or both definitions should be clear. Innovation is VERY VERY rare. Innovation cannot be evoked. It’s similar to passion — we have the word but we have to be careful how we use it. Saying you’re passionate is like saying you’re cool — if you say it, it’s almost certain that you are not.
The latest thinking on this is called the Innovator’s Dilemma. It’s a system of deep data research that tries to explain why the world’s biggest and best run companies are terrible at innovation. It’s a provocative area of study. The summary point is that great companies are terrible at innovation. And so is government. Astonishingly terrible.
The good news is that lots of work as been done and it’s now pretty clear why we can’t simply conjure innovation. So maybe we could just stop with this unhelpful talk and move on to the more difficult but crucial conversation about capital and work out where our wealth is going.
Chisholm points us to this Wired.com article for more.
4. Cranky letter of the day
Just what country are we living in anyway? That question crossed my mind after hearing a CBC radio personality refer to Sophie Grégoire Trudeau as Canada’s new First Lady.
And, several weeks ago, a fellow reader suggested in a letter that the proposed Mother Canada statue should be situated in a more high-visibility location than Green Cove, such as Halifax. (After all, the Statue of Liberty was erected in New York Harbour (sic) as opposed to Maine, he pointed out.)
Can we not talk about our country, our politicians’ wives, our cities, our landmarks and our traditions without having to use these American terms, locations and occasions as a frame of reference? This isn’t the U.S.A. This is Canada, for those of you who need reminding. Let’s try to break ourselves of that habit, shall we?
S.M. Baker, Halifax
Police Commission (12:30pm, City Hall) — the commission will review the department’s operating budget.
No public meetings
This date in history
On this date in 1849, the Nova Scotia Government Telegraph was completed.
The history of early telegraph lines in the Maritimes is interesting. In the 1840s, the highest interest in telegraph came from Samuel Cunard:
Halifax was Samuel Cunard’s hometown and an intermediate port of call of his steamers bound from the UK for the US. The development of the way in which messages were transferred from Halifax is of interest. At first, they were carried by stagecoach across Nova Scotia to Digby, then by steamer across the Bay of Fundy to St. John, New Brunswick, from where they could be telegraphed to Boston. By January 1850 it was possible to telegraph direct from Halifax to Portland, Maine, from where messages were taken by rail to Boston, but a year later Portland could re-telegraph messages direct to New York.
Frederick Newton Gisborne was the most prominent builder of Nova Scotian telegraph lines, and was something of a visionary, conceiving of a trans-Atlantic line:
Despite the efforts of Gisborne and his associates, the BNAETA line from Quebec had only reached Rivière-du-Loup by 1849, when Gisborne left to join the Nova Scotia Telegraph Co. at Halifax to superintend the Nova Scotia government telegraph lines. These were the only lines then operating in the province. He immediately began to experiment with methods of laying telegraph cables underwater.
In 1851 he was investigating the connection with Newfoundland and a transatlantic cable, and in 1852 resigned his Nova Scotia post to concentrate on this enterprise. One possible first stage he apparently visualised was to connect Cape Ray, Newfoundland with Cape North, Nova Scotia ; another was with Prince Edward Island and from there to New Brunswick.
That year, Gisborne contacted Joseph Howe, the provincial secretary and a member of the Commisssion established to oversee the operations of the province’s telegraph system, with a plan for submarine telegraphic communication between Newfoundland and the North American continent at Halifax . The Commission backed Gisborne who was despatched to St. John’s to secure support there for the project.
While in Newfoundland Gisborne successfully contracted for a land-line from St.John’s to Harbour Grace and Carbonear. Gisborne returned to Halifax with the astonishing additional proposal to connect Newfoundland with Ireland by a transatlantic cable, an idea that was rejected out of hand as impossible and Gisborne was dissuaded by the Commission to make any attempts to seek capital for it.
Tuna (11:30am, Biology Lounge, 5th Floor, Life Sciences Centre) — Laurenne Schiller, from the Vancouver Aquarium, will speak on “Shortcomings in the international management of tuna stocks and the influence of private eco-labels on public governance.”
Senate meeting (4:15am, Theatre A, Sir Charles Tupper Building) — here’s the agenda.
In the harbour
Octavia, container ship, arrived at Pier 41 from New York this morning; sails to sea this afternoon
East Coast, oil tanker, Saint John to Imperial Oil
Adriatic Highway sails to sea
Fritz Reuter sails to sea
Nothing to say.
From the HRM stadium report:
“There is likelihood that the lands of Shannon Park which could be purchased by HRM are contaminated
given the proximity of the adjacent power plant, and past records indicating that the adjacent fields may
have previously been used for the disposal of spent fuel.”
This should be enough to stop them from buying this land for anything at all. There’s a reason the King’s Esso station on Quinpool (aka the fenced in gravel lot) sits empty. http://halifaxmag.com/features/derelict-gas-stations-blight-halifax/
Just think of the economic spin-offs for bars and resturaunts in the area around Shannon Park a stadium would create.
If the new federal government is going to be handing out infrastructure money (I believe it will be hence the projected deficits) then in HRM it better be for a new hospital and, if there is anything left over, funding to improve our public transit. We do not need a stadium and it doesn’t even appear to be much of a wanna have either.
I was born and raised in a CFL city. If there is ANYONE out there who thinks that having a CFL team is a ticket to prosperity, I have news for you: it isn’t.
Everytime I hear someone mention how great a STADIUM would be for the city, I want to just point them towards this piece from John Oliver: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xcwJt4bcnXs
C’mon folks…be bold! Lock arms together and march towards world class! Perhaps if the goal is a CFL franchise they should have to do a pre-sell of 10K season ticket holders to gauge interest. It wouldn’t be enough to cover the costs of operating a team but it would show that not enough people here are that interested in shelling out that kind of $ for CFL. Anyways it appears I’m a naysayer so will…as Tim said…shush now.
Investing public money in a sports stadium is a dumb idea and a bad economic investment….it’s one of the few things most economists agree on…..
Let’s first spend money on getting snow clearing sorted.
What a ridiculous and disgusting waste of money. This council needs to be strung up by their short and curleys. Stadiums are the biggest black hole of black holes when it comes to public funding.
London Ontario, the same size as Halifax, is looking at investing $150 million on an LRT (with the balance of a $1B being picked up by the feds) and here we are as a city doing everything we can to dissuade rail transit with self serving reports from council based on predetermined notions – and then at rhe same time, dicking around with a stadium, giving a 3rd rate upper Canadian football league the prowess to claim they are a ‘coast to coast’ football league. If the CFL wants to play nation builder, let them do it on their own dime.
Then there’s the suggestion we turn Shannon Park into Halifax’s newest ghetto for thr poor. This is a horrible zlocation for affordable housing, assuming the city would get involved with something that is provincial jurisdiction in the first place (the first problem). There’s one bus route and it is next to the Industrial park in the middle of nowhere. If you’re going to concatenate all the poor people into a ghetto, itself a discredited 1950s era ideal, at least put it somewhere with a grocery store and services and transportation options. Jesus… a planning and social nightmare waiting to happen.
Why is Halifax seemingly forever doomed to repeat every boneheaded failure in municipal governance from the past 75 years as if it is going out of style? What is it about this place that attracts the most conniving opportunists to run for office whose legacy is white elephants and not projects for the common good?