News

1. P3s explained

Does the McNeil government’s announcement that the QEII New Generation project will be financed by a P3 (public-private partnership) arrangement leave you scratching your head in confusion?

It should. So many arguments are tossed out to justify the decision, but none of those are explained in detail or backed up by hard numbers.

Thankfully, however, Mary Campbell brings clarity to the issue.

In a short, readable, two-part series  in the Cape Breton Spectator, Campbell provides an analysis of the hospital P3 through the lens of “Aidan R. Vining, a professor emeritus at Simon Fraser University’s Beedie School of Business, and Anthony E. Boardman, a professor at the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business, who (often in collaboration with other academics and always with reference to other academic research) seem to have generated the bulk of the independent research on private-public-partnership (PPP or P3) projects in Canada.”

This is a must-read for anyone worried about P3 financing in general, and the hospital replacement project in particular.

I won’t overly quote from it, but one part jumped out at me:

On budget, on time?

It is true that the inflexibility of contracts and the financial risk transferred to the private partners have a powerful effect in keeping projects on track. However, the yardsticks by which the on-time and on-budget criteria are measured are typically flawed. The “start dates” of [P3]s are marked after the conclusion of a lengthy negotiation and project-planning process between a government and a private consortium, making project completions seem more efficient than they really are. Meanwhile, the estimated cost of a project has a tendency to increase during that preliminary process. In other words, the delay and cost inflation that so often characterize traditional PSAs [public sector alternatives] are not magically eliminated in a [P3]: they just tend to occur prior to the first shovel breaking ground, rather than incrementally over the course of the project’s construction. (Boardman, Siemiatycki and Vining 2016)

The QEII New Generation project illustrates this perfectly: the plan to upgrade what was then called “Capital Health” infrastructure (it’s now Nova Scotia Health Authority Central Zone infrastructure) dates to 2011 and the NDP government of Darrell Dexter.

The first step, announced on December 14 of that year, was to commission a “study to determine the most economical and efficient way to complete needed upgrades” to the Capital Health infrastructure. Two days later, the government announced it was also taking the “first step” in the “expansion and renovation” of the Dartmouth General Hospital, by investing in the preliminary design.

The Dartmouth General project was a government-led or public sector alternative (PSA) project, so the clock on it started running right there and then, in December 2011 — and as we know, seven years later, the work is still in progress.

But the clock won’t start ticking on the QEII Health Sciences Centre project until the construction contract is awarded, so the seven years that have already been spent on it and the time between now and the awarding of the contract won’t count.

The moving timelines — coupled with very questionable value for money calculations like the discount rate, which Campbell explains brilliantly and succinctly — are at the heart of the blurring of facts that are used to justify the P3.

Just read it:

To P3 or Not to P3: That is the Question (Part I)

To P3 or Not to P3: That is the Question (Part II)

As with the Examiner, the Cape Breton Spectator is subscriber supported, and so this article is behind the Spectator’s paywall. Click here to purchase a subscription to the Spectator, or click on the photo below to get a joint subscription to both the Spectator and the Examiner.
White space

2. Lafarge

The Lafarge plant in Brookfield. Photo: Media Co-op

The province yesterday approved tire-burning at the Lafarge cement plant in Brooklyn.

I’ll hand this over to Jacob Boon at The Coast:

Urgent changes at an unprecedented level never before seen in human history are needed to save the planet from environmental collapse. Nova Scotia has responded to this clarion call from the world’s leading scientists by paying a company to burn old tires.

The Department of Environment announced today it’s awarded industrial approval for Lafarge Canada to burn 350,000 scrap tires as fuel for the company’s Brookfield cement plant.

Lafarge will receive $367,5000 in public money to subsidize its efforts.

3. The People’s Arena

The People’s Arena

We city taxpayers ponied up $40.7 million and change to Ellis Don for the new four-pad arena in Dartmouth. Together with the land, it’s now assessed at $43.5 million. We — me and you — own it. We paid for it with our property taxes, which we either paid directly as homeowners and business owners or indirectly through our monthly rent payments.

But the arena will now be named for another fucking bank, because the fucking bank agreed to pay a measly $100,000 a year for 10 years for naming rights to the arena. That’s a million dollars total, or just 2.3 per cent of its value.

That’s right: you and I paid 97.7 per cent of the cost of the thing, but it’s going to be named for another fucking bank so the bank can get some advertising through every city press release and every newspaper that decides to use the name of the fucking bank every time it writes about the arena.

For the life of me, I cannot understand why media operations that are dependent upon advertising revenue simply give away free advertising to a fucking bank by using the fucking bank’s name for the arena. Nothing whatsoever requires them — or me or you, for that matter — to use the fucking bank’s name for the arena.

Well, the Halifax Examiner, which doesn’t have any advertising revenue at all, but has some principles, won’t use the fucking bank’s name to describe the arena. Why the fuck should we give the fucking bank free advertising?

For us, the four-pad arena in Dartmouth will be called the People’s Arena. It belongs to the people, after all. We paid for it, we own it.

There’s a bigger issue here than simply the fucking bank.

Selling naming rights for pennies on the dollar (2.3 pennies for each dollar, in this case) is justified as leveraging the public investment — that is, by bringing increased value to taxpayers’ money.

In reality, however, selling naming rights does just the opposite: it devalues taxpayers’ money. When we rename a publicly funded facility in return for a tiny licensing fee, we’re saying that the public investment (in this case, 97.7 per cent of the cost) is worth less than the licensing fee (2.3 per cent). The public investment essentially becomes meaningless.

Much of the public distrusts governments and views taxes as an unjustified raid on their hard-earned money. You know the drill: governments can do no good and are always wasteful, taxes are always too high.

So it’s important to demonstrate that tax money paid actually brings valuable return. In this case, that’s a modern arena, used productively by thousands of people every day. That’s a great use of tax money! There’s real value in it, an investment that was worth making. We shouldn’t sell that investment short by simply giving away the name of it.

There is a not-insignificant part of the public that thinks that the fucking banks whose names are splashed on public facilities either paid for the whole thing or for the bulk of the facility. They certainly don’t know the fucking bank is only paying 2.3 cents on the dollar. And the unstated take-home message is this: the city can’t efficiently build and operate an arena, so it needed the fucking bank’s money.

Just the opposite is true, of course. The city — that is, you and me — paid for the construction of a decent facility, and pays for its operation (don’t get me started on the Nustadia contract, but still).

It’s a success story, and one we should be celebrating by naming it correctly. The fucking bank didn’t make this a success; we did.

It’s the People’s Arena, not the fucking bank’s arena.

4. Smiling Goat

Westwood Developments is suing Hebron Hospitality Group for $64,597.91, money Westwood says it is owed for unpaid rent and interest on space Hebron leased at 5466 Spring Garden Road.

Hebron Hospitality is Jagsprett (Kit) Singh’s company, which owned the Smiling Goat Cafes.

In its claim, Westwood says that it signed a lease with Hebron on August 23, 2016, but that Hebron went into arrears just three months later, in November 2016. “Westwood states that on two separate occasions it structured a payment plan with Hebron to pay off the arrears,” reads the claim. “Hebron defaulted on both payment plans.”

Westwood terminated the lease on May 4, 2018. Westwood is seeking $63,288.79 in arrears, plus five per cent interest calculated from the termination of the lease.

The claim has not been tested in court.

According to the Smiling Goat’s website, “we have started franchising our brand,” which seems to me like franchising out the brand of a fart, but nonetheless the website claims the Bishop’s Landing and South Park cafes are now being run by someone or someones else. Good luck, I guess, but why not just wait around for what would have been the inevitable asset sale?

5. Weed

The stoners at Weedmaps are out-performing city bureaucrats on the map front.

We’re six days out from legalization, and just four days out from the effective date of the city’s no-smoking bylaw, and still the city hasn’t published a map of the designated smoking areas.

Maybe they can contract out the map to Weedmaps.


Government

City

Thursday

Appeals Standing Committee (Thursday, 10am, City Hall) — nothing terribly interesting on the agenda.

HPPAC Meeting  (Thursday, 6:30pm, St. Andrews United Church, 6036 Coburg Road, Halifax) — Dexel Developments wants to build a nine-storey building at 6324 & 6330 Quinpool Road. If their architectural drawings are to be believed, they’re going to do away with car traffic and cyclists will be pedalling the wrong direction on Quinpool Road.

Port Wallace PPC Meeting (Thursday, 6:30pm, HEMDCC Large Meeting Room, Alderney Gate)

Friday

No public meetings.

Province

Thursday

Legislature sits (Thursday, 1pm, Province House)

Friday

Legislature sits (Friday, 9am, Province House)


On campus

Dalhousie

Thursday

Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Legacy Space Launch (Thursday, 9:30am, Killam Memorial Libbrary) — From the event listing:

The Legacy Spaces program is an opportunity for corporations, government, organizations and educational institutions to play an important role in their communities.

9th Annual Mawio’mi (Thursday, 11am, Studley Quad) — “a celebration of culture, diversity and heritage, with a traditional feast, vendors, drummers and dancers.​​” Rain location: McInnes Room, SUB.

Katherine Chi, Piano Masterclass (Thursday, 11:30am, Room 406, Dalhousie Arts Centre)

Mini Medical School (Thursday, 7pm, Theatre B, Tupper Link Building) — ​Mohsin Rashid will speak on the “Role of Endoscopy in Gastrointestinal Diseases,” followed at 8:15 by Thomas Murray talking about “Multiple Sclerosis.”

There’s Something in the Water: Environmental Racism in Indigenous and Black Communities (Thursday, 7pm, Ondaatje Hall, Marion McCain Building) — Ingrid Waldron will speak.

Friday

Testosterone: Regulating Women’s Hormones in Elite Sport (Friday, 12:10pm, Room 104, Weldon Law Building) — Jennifer Metcalfe from Yale University will speak.

CIHR Institute of Genetics Launch (Friday, 12:30pm, Foyer, Tupper Medical Building) — from the listing: “The Institute of Genetics will be hosting its Advisory Board; a group of prominent national leaders in healthcare delivery, knowledge translation, research and education.” ​​​

Tom Diamond, Acting Workshop for Singers (Friday, 3pm, Room 121, Dalhousie Arts Centre) —Info: jmailhio@dal.ca

Karly Kehoe

Historical Perspectives on the Integration of Black Refugees in Atlantic Canada, 1812-1830 (Friday, 3:30pm, Room 1170, Marion McCain Building) — Karly Kehoe from Saint Mary’s University will speak.

Nanabozho’s Sisters Opening Reception and Curator’s Tour (Friday, 7pm, Art Gallery, Dalhousie Arts Centre) — From the event description:

Nanabozho’s Sisters is an exhibition that acknowledges the history of Indigenous women’s contribution to the deployment of humour, irony, and satire within the visual arts. Nanabozho is a ‘trickster’ figure in Anishinaabe stories who can transform into any gender or animal form, and we often find ourselves laughing at their actions or admiring their bravery. Through the Trickster spirit all things that seem entrenched, held sacred, formalized, and organized can be disrupted, scattered, disorganized, and transformed. The Trickster spirit is released in this exhibition through the artistic strategies of masquerade, mimicry, parody, ironic reversals, comedic scenerios, anachronistic combinations, and satirical creations.

Spanning more than thirty years, the exhibition presents work by artists who explore representation and self-representation of Indigenous women and culture—using the Trickster’s toolkit. From The Rebel, a photograph by Shelley Niro depicting her mother lying across the top of a Rebel sports car in a typical fashion model pose, and Rebecca Belmore’s parody of tourist souvenirs in (High-tech) Teepee Trauma Mama, to Ursula Johnson’s self-effacing yet unflinching Between My Body and Their Words, these works use the transformative power of humour to undermine, and create alternatives to, colonialist stereotypes, and to honour and empower Indigenous women’s bodies—in all their lived glory.

King’s College

Linda Pannozzo

Science and the Public Sphere: What is Science Literacy and What is Its Public Value? (Thursday, 7:30pm, Alumni Hall) — a panel discussion with Daniel Cressey, Linda Pannozzo, Shelley Denny, Karen Traversy, and Ian Stewart. From the event listing:

The natural and social sciences are key to dealing with today’s many environmental, health, and social issues. However, many claim that the sciences are not being adequately used to address these issues. Why? Is this a problem of scientific literacy? Who should be responsible for generating, assessing, and communicating scientific information? What degree of scientific literacy is necessary for public participation in democratic governance? How can we encourage a broader notion of literacy that includes other forms of knowledge, e.g. local and indigenous knowledge, amongst both scientific experts and the general public? To address these timely questions, members of this panel will offer their insights drawn from their experience in science journalism, authorship, environmental management, and active public engagement.​

More info here.

Saint Mary’s

Thursday

Iced: The Story of Organized Crime in Canada (Thursday, 8am, Unilever Lounge, Sobey Building) — Stephen Schneider will speak. Ten bucks, but you get soggy eggs.

Mi’kmaq Flag Raising (Thursday, 12pm, in front of McNally Main)

Mount Saint Vincent

Friday

Technology in Victorian Fiction (Friday, 2pm, Keshen Goodman Library) — Karen MacFarlane will speak.


In the harbour

05:00: Crete I, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Norfolk
06:45: Veendam, cruise ship with up to 1,350 passengers, arrives at Pier 20 from Sydney (11-day cruise from Montreal to Fort Lauderdale, leaving Atlantic Canada for the season)
07:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from Pier 36 to Autoport
07:45: Regal Princess, cruise ship with up to 4,271 passengers, arrives at Pier 22 from Saint John (seven-day cruise out of New York)
11:30: Oceanex Sanderling moves from Autoport to Pier 41
15:00: the French nuclear submarine sails outtahere
15:30: Veendam sails for Bar Harbor
16:00: San Alvaro, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Montreal
17:45: Regal Princess sails for New York
21:00: Crete I sails for sea


Footnotes

Nazis marching in the streets, people downplaying sexual assault, continued raids on the public weal, attacks on rationality and science, impending global climatic catastrophe… so, um, have a nice day.


The Halifax Examiner is an advertising-free, subscriber-supported news site. Your subscription makes this work possible; please subscribe.

Tim Bousquet

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

Join the Conversation

11 Comments

Only subscribers to the Halifax Examiner may comment on articles. We moderate all comments. Be respectful; whenever possible, provide links to credible documentary evidence to back up your factual claims. Please read our Commenting Policy.
Cancel reply
  1. Bait and switch in editorial content? Imagine my shock when I saw on Twitter that HRM Councilor Mancini was crowing about the new RBC Centre (formerly Dartmouth Fourplex). I was certain that I read it would be called the Fucking Bank Centre. Oh well…

  2. There’s a Japanese bank called “Fukuho Bank” (I’m not kidding.) If they put up the money, the stadium could be called “Fuku Stadium.” What could be better?

  3. This is off topic, but I wish the media could restrain itself from reporting on incidents like the graffiti on the war memorial in PPP. I’m sure whoever did it enjoyed watching everyone from Tim Bousquet to Mayor Savage talk about how senseless and awful the graffiti was – and that is the only motivation I can think of for the vandalism – or maybe they actually are serious and thought that vandalizing a war memorial was good praxis or whatever the kids say now. Of course, many in the media and politics surely understand this, but nobody wants to be seen as uncaring or sharing the vandal’s purported ideas, so the circle continues.

    1. You could say that about a lot of incidents. The role of the media is to report the news, not suppress it.

  4. We should set up a crowd fund to name the next HRM naming opportunity. Not that it should come to that… but it’d be worth doing it once to make a point. I’d kick in $20.

    1. I’m in for $100.
      Call a place ‘ TMAW Centre’ – Taxpayer money at work or ‘YTPFT’ – Your Taxes Paid For This.

  5. At City Hall,Newcastle I went to concerts by Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald with Ray Brown, Manitas y Plata, Oscar Peterson, Modern Jazz Quartet, Louis Armstrong, David Oistrakh, and the 1968 American Folk Blues Festival, and took a computer date to a Duke Ellington concert – ‘Who’s he ?’ she said when I asked if she would like to go. In Bristol performers appeared at Colston Hall, named after a slave trader and about to be renamed. The Manchester venue was Free Trade Hall.

    We should tell banks and corporations how much we appreciate their donations and how much we detest the purchase of naming rights.

    Perhaps HRM needs the money to pay the ever expanding work force,up from 5,768 to 6,199 in just 2 years according to a report independently prepared for HRM.

  6. Quite right.

    I still call that ugly place in Toronto “Skydome”, which was the name chosen in a public contest long before a-company-that-ripped-me-off-on-my-cable-bill-so-badly-that-I-gave-up-TV-entirely paid to change the name. Every media outlet should go back to the original name.

    1. Media should not use the commercial name of these venues as it provides free adverting, every time some news cast refers to the “So-and-so Centre”.

  7. Absolutely disgusting. How about the Monsanto Public Gardens or council meetings brought to you by Armco Developments?

    1. For $100,000 a year the Nova Scotia Federation of Labour could have chosen ‘Labour Centre’ or ‘NSFL Centre’, or ‘TMAW’ or pick any labour/union moniker.