News

1. Here’s the stadium lie: it will pay for itself

Anthony Leblanc. Photo: Halifax Examiner

There’s a big long Canadian Press article written by reporter Dan Ralph that quotes Anthony Leblanc at length about all things Atlantic Schooners, but mostly about his plans to play in Moncton while he strong-arms Halifax into building him a stadium.

Then Ralph gets to the numbers:

In October, Halifax council voted to take a closer look at a proposed 24,000-seat stadium. The preferred location is Shannon Park, a 38-hectare area of land on the east side of Halifax harbour that comes with an estimated price tag of between $170-$190 million.

But LeBlanc said a venue could be built for $130 million with improvements added in future phases. He pointed to Toronto’s BMO Field, which was originally built for $62.9 million in ‘07 and since has undergone $270 million in renovations ($120-million upgrade prior to the 2015 season, $150 million in renovations before 2016 campaign).

“We’re trying to just reduce the risk to everybody who’s involved.”

“Risk.” Funny word, that. Let’s be clear: Leblanc’s stadium risk is a big fat zero. So “everybody” includes everyone living in HRM, but definitely not Leblanc himself.

Besides that, look what happened: a stadium initially envisioned to cost $190 million financed up front has now morphed into a stadium that will cost a total of, what?, $400 million? ($130 million plus $270 million) financed in multiple stages.

But what jumped out at me was this:

But there’s more to it than just creating a sports facility. A stadium would simply be part of a much broader construction plan much like Ottawa’s TD Place, which is part of a bigger real estate project involving a host of other venues.

“Where there’s been a bit of a delay is understanding the elements of a larger mixed-use development around the stadium,” LeBlanc said. “That’s critically important to HRM because their contribution is based on an increase in property taxes around the stadium that wouldn’t there if the stadium wasn’t there.

“That’s really the piece we need to finalize. It really does need to be a robust mixed-use development.”

See, readers, this is your fault for not understanding that tax increment financing isn’t actually a raid on your tax dollars.

Let’s underscore the big lie:

“That’s critically important to HRM because their contribution is based on an increase in property taxes around the stadium that wouldn’t there if the stadium wasn’t there.”

Liar, liar pants on fire!

Leblanc and other stadium supporters will be pounding this lying drum incessantly for the next few months, the strategy being that if you repeat a lie often enough and loudly enough, it will be accepted as truth.

Let’s get back to basics.

There’s only so much capacity for property tax generation across the entire municipality. You can build a giant retail complex at, say, Dartmouth Crossing, and for sure it will generate lots of property taxes, but only at the expense of other retail areas in the city, like say, Penhorn Hall. Penhorn Mall once generated a boatload of property taxes, but since shoppers opted to go to Dartmouth Crossing instead, the mall has been torn down and the old mall property is generating hardly anything in property taxes.

It’s a bit more complicated than the one-for-one example I just gave. There’s usually a year-over-year increase in total property taxes, spread across the entire city. But while the underlying value of the property shifts from this area to that area, you can’t pull one area out and say it’s somehow special, that it behaves separately from the whole. New office construction in Burnside hurts the office space market in downtown, or new flashy condos on the waterfront lowers the demand for new suburban neighbourhoods. Like that.

So if we build a mixed-use development around the stadium, it will generate new property taxes, but only at the expense of other existing mixed-use neighbourhoods and potential new mixed-use developments elsewhere.

Let me pull out my wallet… Hey, I’ve got 40 bucks! Let’s go shopping. We could go to the Halifax Shopping Centre, maybe cruise the Apple Store to look for something that only costs 40 bucks. Or, we could go to that new sports bar a block down from the new stadium and drink 40 bucks worth of shitty beer.

But here’s what we can’t do: both. We can’t go to the Apple Store and spend 40 bucks and then go to bar and drink 40 bucks worth of shitty beer, because I only have 40 bucks. My 40 bucks can help translate into property taxes over at the Halifax Shopping Centre or over at the shitty sports bar, but not at both places.

That’s the story over the entire city and everyone in it: we don’t miraculously have more money to spend because someone builds a shitty sports bar next to a stadium. And building a new shitty sports bar next to a stadium doesn’t miraculously increase the total amount collected in property taxes.

Property taxes are mostly a zero sum game (I realize there are demand-inducing elements to construction and so forth, but their effects are so minuscule that we can ignore them for this conversation).

The point is, we can’t section off Shannon Park and say, “hey! look! new property taxes! All those new taxes are extra new and extra clean money, like manna from heaven, that we can use to pay for a stadium!”

We can’t say that because necessarily the potential for property tax increases elsewhere in the city will be lowered. It’s all the same pot of money.

No matter how you obscure it, no matter what kind of financial shell games you use, shuffling the pea this way or that, hiding it with smoke and confusing people with mirrors, spending public money on a stadium necessarily means either spending less public money on things like parks and cops and firefighters and filling potholes, or increasing taxes. There’s no way around that.

But again: Leblanc and other stadium supporters are going to lie to us, loudly and repeatedly, with the aim of convincing us the lie is truth.

Don’t fall for it.

2. Jackson trial

Photo: Halifax Examiner

This item contains discussion and some description of alleged sexual assault.

This week, I’m attending a sexual assault trial at Supreme Court. It’s scheduled as a five-day trial; when I can’t be there, I’m having freelance reporter Amanda Jess sit in and take notes.

The trial involves sexual assault charges against Blake Jackson, a student support worker at Citadel High who was suspended from the position after he was charged. The accuser is a former Citadel High student; there’s a publication ban on any information that would identify her.

The former student was on the stand most of Monday and yesterday morning. She testified in graphic detail about the alleged assault.

Jess and I will have a full recap of the trial after it is complete. Jackson has the presumption of innocence, and there’s no telling where the trial evidence will lead. But there have been two things that have jumped out at me so far.

The first was when the former student was asked by crown prosecutor Sean McCarroll about events after the alleged assault. The former student explained that she kept the assault to herself, but eventually obliquely mentioned it to her then-boyfriend via text (the boyfriend will testify today), and then went on to say:

I didn’t tell him the full story. I told him something had happened with a teacher at my school.

I was embarrassed.

I was still in a relationship with my boyfriend.

I didn’t want to seem like a fragile something.

I didn’t want him to look at me differently.

At the time of the alleged incident, the former student was 18 years old. While the accusations in this case have not been proven in court, I imagine (I can only imagine) the former student’s confusion and conflicting emotions are representative of rape victims generally. A rape or sexual assault can’t be separated out from other relationships, attitudes about femininity, and self-worth.

The second thing that jumped out at me was recounted through Jess’s copious note-taking. I was so taken with it I met her personally to go over it and make sure she got it right. (I have no doubt she did, I was just being extra cautious.)

This occurred Monday afternoon, when the former student was being cross-examined by defence lawyer Thomas Singleton. The former student had testified that Jackson had ordered her to get into the back of his car, then joined her in the backseat; after groping and kissing her against her will, Jackson grabbed the back on her head and forced it to his crotch, and she was made to perform oral sex.

“Did he do anything to force you to open your mouth?” asked Singleton. This immediately led to an objection from McCarrol.

McCarrol argued that the questioning is problematic, and it gets into consent. Justice Christa Brothers noted that the question was uncomfortably reminiscent of the case in which judge Robin Camp asked a rape complainant why she “couldn’t just keep [her] knees together.”

Singleton moved on.

From Singleton’s questioning yesterday, he appears to be preparing a defence that questions the timelines of the alleged assault. A police investigator who pulled and analyzed phone records will testify for the crown this afternoon, and perhaps I’ll better understand Singleton’s defence during cross-examination. And of course Singleton will call his own witness (he hasn’t indicated yet whether Jackson will testify) and make a summation to Brothers, who is hearing the case without a jury.

We’ll have more on this as the case continues.

3. Blackface

Blackface at Brock. Image from CBC.

“Dalhousie University’s leadership is facing mounting pressure to take a clear stance on blackface, with a group of law professors asking the school’s top academic administrator to confirm it violates the code of student conduct and personal harassment policy,” reports Brett Bundale for the Canadian Press:

In a letter to the Halifax university’s provost on Tuesday, 28 members of the law faculty said they are concerned with statements about blackface made by the school’s new interim president, Peter MacKinnon.

El Jones has spelled out this issue in great detail for the Halifax Examiner, here.

On January 28, the Dalhousie Faculty Association wrote a letter to Lawrence Stordy, the chair of the Board of Governors. It read in part:

The present case is an illustrative one. There are scholars on this campus — undergraduate students, graduate students, and faculty — with expertise in Critical Race Studies, Black Canadian Studies, Indigenous Studies, and other relevant fields. Scholarly material on these subjects, such as that cited by El Jones (Nancy Chair, MSVU) in her cogent analysis for the Halifax Examiner, is taught in classes in a number of different programs and is cited in our students’ graduate theses as well as faculty publications.

The same day, reports Bundale, the group of law profs wrote its letter; Bundale quotes from it and interviews El Jones.

Yes, it’s 2019 and we’re still arguing over whether blackface is wrong.

Image from NYMag.

Right in the midst of the Dal blackface mess comes the Ralph Northam blackface mess. Which made me think: could I have done something like that?

See, I grew up in Norfolk, Virginia, in a lower-middle-class neighbourhood about five miles from Eastern Virginian Medical School, which Northam attended. Northam is four years older than me.

Understand that Virginia was a totally racist society. In 1958, the year before Northam was born and five years before I was born, the city of Norfolk closed the public school system rather than integrate. Schools remained closed for about a year.

When I was a child, there were thick lines between black and white people. Even though they constituted half the population, I can’t recall that I actually knew any black people in anything beyond a service relationship: they pumped the gas into the car, or worked at the grocery store. In my all-white world, the n-word was tossed around casually by some people I knew — other children, and adults.

I’m a long, long way from that world now. By the time I was 18, I was working alongside Black people and getting to know them as people. But I still check myself all the time to acknowledge that a lot of horrible shit was placed in me. Still, one can grow past one’s past, behave as a better person. It’s true.

So I wondered if this was something maybe I could’ve done when I was a kid. But then I thought about it some more, and realized, first of all, no, it wasn’t. Even stupid kid me, at 14 years old or whatever, growing up in a totally racist environment, knew this was wrong.

I was fortunate, in that my mother in particular was of that strain of Catholic Democrat who took the civil rights movement seriously, and she instilled at least the theory of equality in her children. Of course there are all sorts of institutional racism, unthinking attitudes, micro-aggressions, and so forth that require hard work to identify and counter, and I’m certain I haven’t always risen to the challenge.

Still, I knew blackface was insulting and wrong.

And then I think about Northam. Wikipedia tells me he grew up in Onancock, across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel and about an hour up the Eastern Shore, and that he “graduated from Onancock High School, where his class was predominately African American.”

I don’t know what Northam’s high school was like, but if it was like mine, students mostly self-segregated, Black people hanging at one end of the cafeteria, white people at the other. Sports was the great integrator — my track team was equally black and white — but otherwise, not so much.

But Northam’s world took a different turn than mine. By 1984, I was basically a loser, still trying to find my way in the world, dropping in and out of school, working stupid no-future retail jobs.

Northam, on the other hand, was not just in college, but in med school, the elite training ground.

Eastern Virginia Medical School was only five miles away, but it was a different world entirely. It’s in a neighbourhood called Ghent, then and now an upper-class, mostly white urban neighbourhood. There were hip bars, and of course students at the medical school would hit the bars after classes, still wearing their surgical greens. There was a national fashion in the 1980s of going to bars in surgical greens, and it started right there in Ghent, in the bars near Eastern Virginia Medical School.

And we’re talking 1984 here, not the Jim Crow years. The civil rights movement of the 1950s was nearly ancient history for young people by 1984, the school closures of 1958 an embarrassing stain on the state’s reputation. An awful lot of progress (not nearly enough…) was made through the 1960s and 1970s, and any semi-literate white fool like myself in my lower-middle-class neighbourhood five miles down the road understood that blackface was an obscenity. Certainly, without question, Northam knew it was an obscenity, and that’s precisely why the photo ended up in his yearbook: to demonstrate his elite status, being above the expectations and standards for behaviour of the little people.

And that’s why white college students continue to wear blackface today.

4. Valor

Why the long face?

Valor the stolen horse has been found. There are no details about where or why or how.

5. Whale sanctuary

The Whale Sanctuary Project issued this release this morning:

The Whale Sanctuary Project’s proposal to create a sanctuary for beluga whales being retired from entertainment facilities on this province’s Atlantic coast has ignited the imagination of Nova Scotians.

And in response to requests from the town of Shelburne, a meeting there has been added to the schedule. It will take place February 9th at 1 p.m. in Parish of Christ Church Hall.

“We’re very appreciative of the warm welcome and hospitality in each community we have visited” said Dr. Lori Marino, President of the Whale Sanctuary Project. “We’ve been asked many questions, heard legitimate concerns, and have been given invaluable advice.”

The project’s team launched its outreach on Nova Scotia’s Atlantic coast with meetings in Dartmouth and Liverpool packed to overflowing as residents gathered to hear details of the proposal for a seaside sanctuary for beluga whales being retired from entertainment facilities. The exchange of helpful and constructive ideas continued in Port Hawkesbury.

“At each of these meetings, we explain the need for a beluga sanctuary,” said Charles Vinick, Executive Director of the Whale Sanctuary Project. “And we talk about our goal of joining with a community to identify a sanctuary site, what’s involved in creating the sanctuary itself, and what will be the benefits to the community that partners with us.”

The schedule for the rest of this week is:

  • Sherbrooke, Wednesday Feb 6th, 6.30 pm at the Fire Hall, 91 Old Hill Road;
  • Sheet Harbour, Thursday Feb 7th, 6.30 pm at the Royal Canadian Legion, Branch 58,23566 Nova Scotia Hwy Trunk 7;
  • Shelburne, Saturday Feb 9th, 1 pm at the Parish of Christ Church Hall, 128 Hammond St.Following these meetings, the Whale Sanctuary Project looks forward to hearing additional recommendations and continuing dialog with communities that see a whale sanctuary as an exciting prospect for their region.CONTACT: You can contact Executive Director Charles Vinick directly by emailing charlesv@whalesanctuary.org.

Government

City

Wednesday

Budget Committee (Wednesday , 9:30am, City Hall) — consideration of the budgets for departments of Parks & Recreation and Planning & Development, and of the Library.

Public Information Meeting – Case 21859 (Wednesday, 7pm, Sackville Heights Community Centre) — Crombie Developments (the Sobeys) wants to build three apartment buildings between Sackville Drive and Old Sackville Road, north of 685 Old Sackville Road.

Thursday

Environment and Sustainability Standing Committee (Thursday, 1pm, City Hall) — Lily Barraclough, who is the Youth Leader with iMatter Halifax, wants the committee to “discuss the environmental impacts of offshore drilling and the role that HRM can play in mitigating them.”

Province

Wednesday

Public Accounts (Wednesday, 9am, Province House) — it appears the Liberals are going to allow some discussion of the Auditor General’s report.

Financial Management Controls and Governance (December 2018 Report of the Auditor General – Performance, Chapter 2); and Financial Audit Work Results (October 2018 Report of the Auditor General – Financial, Chapter 1)

IWK Health Centre: Dr. Krista Jangaard – President and CEO; Ms. Karen Hutt – Chair, Board of Directors

Thursday

No public meetings.


On campus

Dalhousie

Wednesday

BRIC NS Student Seminar Series (Wednesday , 1:45pm, Room 140, Collaborative Health Education Building) — Martha Paynter will talk about “Perinatal health outcomes of criminalized women in Canada.” Brianna Richardson will talk about “Parental Prevention of Newborn Pain: Exploring educational strategies for promoting parental involvement in infant procedural pain management​.”

The Gendered Realities of Working in Development (Wednesday, 2pm, Room 303, Dalhousie Student Union Building) — panel discussion with Smadar Lavie, SOSA; Didhi Tandon, Oxfam Canada; Naima Imam Chowdhury, the COADY Institute; Hala Nadar, Dalhousie; Rachel Borlase, The Romeo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative; and a live mural drawing by Brave Space.

The Future of Radio (Wednesday, 3pm, in the auditorium named after an oil company, Richard Murray Design Building) — sounds like the academic equivalent of advertorial:

For 50 years Nautel has earned a reputation as a world leader in the design and manufacture of high power, solid state RF products for radio broadcast, navigation, sonar, and industrial applications. On Feb 6th, they’ll be on Sexton Campus for a presentation on their company and how they’re planning to change the future of broadcast radio.

Visualizing and Quantifying Microscopic Biological Tissue Arrangement with Nonlinear Optical Active Molecules (Wednesday, 4pm, Theatre A, Tupper Medical Building) — Danielle Tokarz from Saint Mary’s University will speak.

Can The United Nations Be Saved? (Wednesday, 7pm, McInnes Room, Dalhousie Student Union Building) — Stephen Lewis, Canada’s Former Ambassador to the UN, will speak.

Thursday

Maternal Health Outcomes of Incarcerated Women (Thursday, 9am, Cineplex-OE Theatre, IWK) — Martha Paynter will speak.

Challenges of International Work (Thursday, 6pm, Room 1007, Kenneth Rowe Building) — info here.

AI, Automatization and Social Transformations (Thursday, 6:30pm, Room 127, Goldberg Computer Science Building) —Ross Boyd from the University of South Australia will speak.

Biodiversity Conservation and Sustainability Through Reconciliation (Thursday, 7pm, Ondaatje Theatre, Marion McCain Building) — Eli Enns, from the Indigenous Circle of Experts and the University of Victoria, will speak.

Saint Mary’s

Wednesday

“From Old Quebec to La Belle Province: Tourism Promotion, Travel Writing, and National Identities, 1920-1986” (Wednesday , 1pm, Room 135, Patrick Power Library) — Nicole Neatby will talk about her new book.

Thursday

Jasbir Puar

Existence is Resistance: Carceral Capitalism in/and Palestine (Thursday, 5pm, Room 265 in the building named after a grocery store) — Jasbir K. Puar from Rutgers University will speak.

King’s

Wednesday

What can policy makers learn from the history, sociology and philosophy of science (Wednesday, 12:30pm, Senior Common Room, Arts and Administration Building) — Miriam Poldosky, Director of Science policy at the Canada Environmental Assessment Agency, will give an informal talk. Bring your lunch.

Thursday

Don Juan Comes Back from the War (Thursday, 7pm, Room 406, Dalhousie Arts Centre) — talk by Jure Gantar, followed by a performance in the Murray Studio. Tickets here.


In the harbour

03:00: CSL Tacoma, bulker, arrives at National Gypsum from Baltimore
06:00: Grande Halifax, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Valencia, Spain
06:00: CLI Pride, cargo ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Rotterdam
10:00: Ice Point, oil tanker, sails from Tufts Cove for sea
10:30: Atlantic Sea, ro-ro container, arrives at Fairview Cove from Liverpool, England
11:30: Grande Halifax sails for sea
11;30: CLI Pride sails for sea
12:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, arrives at Pier 41 from St. John’s
17:00: Oceanex Sanderling moves to Autoport
17:30: Atlantic Sea ro-ro sails for New York


Footnotes

I’ll be on The Sheldon MacLeod Show, News 95.7, at 2pm.

Thanks to Suzanne Rent for filling in for me yesterday. I hope to have more guest writers for Morning File, maybe once or twice a week moving forward, so I can free myself to work on other projects. I just find my time is stretched too thin to write Morning File every morning.

Again, I’m rushed because I had to get to the courthouse for the Jackson trial. I’ll catch up one day….


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Tim Bousquet

Tim Bousquet is the editor and publisher of the Halifax Examiner. Twitter @Tim_Bousquet Mastodon

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  1. for the love of all that’s holy, Halifax does not need a publicly-funded football stadium. The minute I read on Twitter that the price dropped, I knew they wanted to sell it to the public, still aglowing from the east-coast Superbowl win. Thanks Tim, you nailed it.

    To the proponents of the proposed project, put your money where your mouths are. Not a good investment for you? Naw, I didn’t think so….Not for us either.

  2. There can be good reasons for building a stadium, none of them economic. I’d love to see a discussion of the intangible benefits vs what we want to pay for them. Does the Neptune Theatre get any public money? If so, how is that subsidy calculated?

  3. I been talking to some brothers. Set against the backdrop of African Heritage Month, the boring-ass Superbowl and the soon to come CHOCOLATE MILK report on street checks (now 4 to 1 — blacks “queried” compared to whites). Our TAX DOLLARS still at work.

    What say a former wide receiver for the CFL? “I have heard some things that indicate there are problems with racial profiling, slurs. A time when Black people were transported in dump trucks. If Halifax really wants a CFL franchise they need to address those issues. For Black players from the U.S., race is always a big topic. If there are problems that affect some of team, it will trickle down to everyone.”

    First and ten. STAY TUNED.

  4. Was there not a plan for the redevelopment of the Shannon Park site already with significant public input? Seems like there would have been some serious tax revenue from that plan without all the $150 million bullshit. At this point can there be any doubt that there is a group of insiders at city hall who desperately want this to happen?

    Mr Leblanc seems to be doing the old neoliberal shuffle. Privatize the profits and socialize the costs and inevitable losses to the taxpayers.

    Come June I’ll be enjoying the Halifax Wanderers playing some of the real football on the Wanderers grounds showing Mr LeBlanc how it’s done.

    1. HRM must make sure they don’t fall for the NDP mess of the Regina stadium :
      ” In an earlier statement to the Free Press, Friesen said the former NDP government “devised an overly complex and confusing plan to mask expenses and apply property tax revenues from the former stadium” to repay the loan. “It was a deliberate plan to understate the actual financial obligations of the province to the project. As a result, over $100 million of costs to date have been written off by the province,” the minister said.
      https://www.winnipegfreepress.com/local/stadium-loan-repayment-plan-failure-costs-manitobans-more-than-100m-489143541.html

  5. “We’ve kind of put a line in the sand,” [LeBlanc] said. “We want this thing either on its way or we’ve decided to pack up and go home by the end of June… Look, it’s not a threat by any means. At some point you’ve just got to say, ‘This thing is going to happen or it’s not,’ … and I think June is that timeframe.”

    Love being not threatened. Just makes a city feel all warm and fuzzy.

  6. My favourite part of the stadium story this morning is that they hadn’t thought of the staged building approach until the mayor suggested it.

  7. The part that caught my eye was the reference to Leblanc meeting with CAO Dube every 2 weeks. Tie that in with the capital budget reductions proposed by Dube and it is quite clear that Dube is trying to convince council to free up room for spending on a stadium. The $1.4 billion deficit in the pension fund for teachers rules out any provincial money.

  8. Great coverage on the stadium bullshit. Those claims of spin-off economic benefits to a municipality if a stadium or arena is publicly funded are always bullshit. If the proponent can put up private money and make an honest dollar running a football club, then far be it from me to stand in his way. If he wants to take the risk, then he can take the profit. But people don’t pay taxes to enrich sports entrepreneurs. God knows there are enough public needs that need funding before a football stadium.

  9. Note how Maritime Football web site is down… and suddenly they are calling themselves
    Schooner Sports and Entertainment.
    Pretty easy to see this is a load of bunk. They are desperate for public money.
    Good work Tim!