Last Friday, Nova Centre developer Joe Ramia announced that he would fail to complete the project by the “substantial completion” date of January 1, 2016. Instead, confusingly, he said Nova Centre would be completed by September 30, 2016, but the convention centre part of it wouldn’t open until January, 2017.
Originally, the convention centre was to open a year earlier, on January 1, 2016. In fact, Trade Centre Limited, the crown corporation that operates the convention centre, had made a big deal out of 2016 date, and announced these conventions for 2016:
— Canadian Respiratory Conference, April 2016, 650 delegates
— Canada’s Venture Capital and Private Equity Association, May 2016, 600 delegates
— Canadian Library Association, May 2016, 1,500 delegates
— Canadian Orthopaedic Association, June 2016, 600 delegates
— ARMA International, June 2016, 375 delegates
— Canadian Society for Chemistry, June 2016, 1,000 delegates
— International Training Conference, July 2016, 600 delegates
— Catholic Women’s League of Canada, August 2016, 800 delegates
The province and city paid a collective $2 million for the promotion of the new convention centre. Much of that promotion was related to producing a website, but it appears the money was also used to underwrite travel for salespeople booking conventions at the new centre. So, despite TCL’s assertion to the contrary, at least some of that money was completely wasted.
Regardless, how can Ramia simply change the completion date for Nova Centre? Monday, I received the Agreement in Principle between Ramia and the province related to Nova Centre and the convention centre. One of the conditions of the agreement spells out the opening date of the convention centre:
There it is, in black and white: the convention centre was to be completed by December 31, 2015.
Of course, the agreement allows for amendments:
“This agreement may only be amended by an instrument in writing signed by duly authorized representatives of each of the Parties.” So, I asked the department of Transportation and Infrastructure and Renewal, which is overseeing the project, for that written amendment.
Via email, department spokesperson Brian Taylor got back to me:
You’re correct in your assessment that an amendment is needed if the terms and conditions of the agreement in principle change. We’ve only recently learned of the new date. It was shared publicly at the event on Friday. Staff are working on a new, refined agreement with the developer that will include the new date and project milestones.
In the meantime, the project is progressing well. We expect to have an updated agreement with the developer in place early in the new year.
That’s right: Ramia unilaterally announced a delayed opening of Nova Centre and the Convention Centre, without consulting the other party of the agreement.
People are always going on about how government should be “run like a business.” You know how a hard-nosed businessperson would handle this? He’d say: “look, you agreed to a December 31, 2015 completion date. You either finish it by then or you don’t get paid.”
The governments are theoretically in the driver’s seat here. Ramia has building permits to construct a convention centre, a hotel, and an office tower. He can’t repurpose those buildings without city permission. And if he doesn’t complete the buildings on time, by December 31, 2015, then the provincial and federal governments don’t have to pay him. He’ll have a nice big convention centre, and presumably will want to rent it to someone, so maybe the province could then agree to a lease.
But, no. Instead, the governments will roll over. The city will mouth a bunch of nonsense. And the province will retroactively amend the agreement Ramia has already announced he will break.