News

1. Weather

There’s weather today.

2. Stadium

Some $2.4 million in public money went to design this 25,000-seat stadium at Shannon Park, and a half a million dollars more to study building a 10-14,000 seat stadium at Shannon Park, and then another million dollars to study building a 20,000-seat stadium at Shannon Park. Now the city is being asked to look at another stadium proposal for Shannon Park.

Reportedly, last week the Maritime Football people delivered a “business case” for a stadium to City Hall. I’m presuming that councillors have seen that business case. I don’t know why the rest of us can’t see it, but that’s how this town rolls. It’s like that report on street checks: secrecy is demanded so that the politicians and bureaucrats can figure out a PR strategy before it’s released to the public.

[Update: city spokesperson Brendan Elliott says the city has not yet received the business case but is expecting it “in coming weeks. Following receipt of the proposal, municipal staff will need to assess it for several months before being in a position to present recommendations to Regional Council.”]

In any event, this is was a welcome tweet from councillor Waye Mason last night:

Four Reasons Taxpayers Should Never Subsidize Stadiums
Elected officials have been played by team owners and sports leagues. – @Bloomberg https://t.co/a3FfR6vBOQ

— Waye Mason 🇺🇦 (@WayeMason) January 8, 2019

Evidently, Mason has looked at the business case for a stadium, and is calling bullshit.

The linked Bloomberg article is a succinct opinion piece written by Barry Ritholtz, a Wall Street financier and the author of Bailout Nation: How Greed and Easy Money Corrupted Wall Street and Shook the World Economy.

Ritholtz’s four reasons are:

1. Competition: Sports and live music are incredibly successful and profitable businesses overall. These venues should be able to compete on their own for consumer dollars. If a venue can’t generate the needed revenue, that tells you that it is either poorly managed or not needed by the marketplace. In either case, the local tax base should not subsidize it.

2. Riches for the rich: Sports teams are extremely valuable properties. Why should nonowners subsidize businesses that can easily afford to build their own facilities? The taxpayer subsidies also distort the market calculus, destroying the signals that supply and demand are supposed to send. So not only do rich owners avoid the full cost of paying for their venues, but they also get all of the appreciation in the value of their teams. And by lowering the actual cost of operation, the subsidies make it much easier for rich owners to earn a profit.

3. Economic impact: The academics have looked at the data, 1  and there is little doubt: Stadiums add little or nothing to the local economy. It certainly isn’t worth giving away billions of dollars to these businesses. The return on investment for the public is nil. These wasteful subsidies have demonstrated little if any positive economic impact on the municipalities and states.

4. Priorities: Given the state of the nation’s infrastructure, one would imagine that there might be projects with higher priority for taxpayer dollars. Bridges are collapsing, tunnels are on the verge of failure, highways are not being properly maintained, rail lines are obsolete, the electrical grid is an antiquated patchwork and our ports are still vulnerable to terrorist attacks. This is before we even consider making our transportation system smart and capable of handling self-driving cars — or even just more efficient at traffic management.

That footnote in #3 is fun:

See this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, this, or this.

I could potentially be persuaded by an argument contrary to Ritholtz’s first point (it’s complicated), and as for #4, talk of terrorist attacks is alarmist and self-driving cars are a fantasy that won’t materialize in a meaningful way in my lifetime. But the larger argument is persuasive: we’ve got a lot of important public projects that are either delayed or never considered in the first place for lack of money, and here a stadium jumps to the top of the list.

Stadium backers are now devising their PR strategy to sell public financing of a stadium to the little people. The first step will be to try to convince us that it isn’t really public financing, and they’ll use a lot of confusing and downright false arguments about tax increment financing and economic impacts and multipliers and blah blah blah with the hope that people’s eyes will glaze over.

But make no mistake: the plan is to get taxpayers to pay for the stadium so that Anthony Leblanc can make tons of money. They’ll try to distort that simple truth, and they will be lying to you.

3. Yarmouth ferry

The Alakai. Photo: Halifax Examiner

“The provincial government remains ‘committed’ to moving a Nova Scotia high-speed ferry port in the United States from Portland, Maine to Bar Harbor, Maine in time for the 2019 sailing season,” reports Alexander Quon for Global:

Now the service is left without a home as negotiations between Bay Ferries Ltd., the Town of Bar Harbor and the United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) drag on.

A letter written by Matthew Hladik, the CBP director for the area, addressed to the Bar Harbor Town Council and dated Dec. 11, details at least some of the concerns the border service has.

As a result, the customs agency is asking Bay Ferries to enter into an agreement that would see them foot the bill for refurbishing the terminal, as well as the salaries of the five to seven new employees.

CBP is also asking Bay Ferries to cover costs associated with bringing the vacant ferry terminal up to their standards.

No one is saying how much all of this will cost.

The Alakai life ring. Photo: Halifax Examiner

If you’re wondering, the boat — which, despite being called “the Cat” by Bay Ferries and having plied the Gulf of Maine for three years, still officially wears the Hawaiian name Alakai and lists its home port as Norfolk — is now tied up at a dock in Charleston, South Carolina, doing pretty much nothing, as far as I can tell.

The Alakai left Yarmouth on October 14 and arrived in Charleston two days later, docking at Detyens Shipyards. It hasn’t moved since.

Remember all the hand-wringing about finding winter work for the old Nova Star?

The Nova Star.

(Incidentally, the Nova Star is now happily plying the Baltic Sea, ferrying people and vehicles between Nynäshamn, Sweeden and Gdansk, Poland. The boat has been painted a spiffy white and bears the logo of its new operator, PolFerries. The crossing takes about 19 hours. A round-trip ticket for up to four people and a car, which includes a cabin berth “without a window” costs 3900 Swedish Kronas in the low season and 4760 Kronas in the high season, or about $548 to $706 Canadian.)

Winter work apparently isn’t a concern for the Alakai, although the question did come up at a March 20, 2016 meeting of the legislature’s Public Accounts committee. A snippet from the Hansard record, which included MLA Tim Houston; Paul LaFleche, the deputy minister at Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal; and Diane Saurette, a finance person at TIR:

MR. HOUSTON: Well then we have a longer discussion to have. You have a four- year lease on a boat [the Alakai]. You have no control over whether that lease is renewed after four years.

I want to move on and talk about winter work.

MR. LAFLECHE: Winter work? It’s over for the year, I’m going to Brooklyn . . .

MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. We’ll ask Mr. Houston to ask the question. Mr. LaFleche, please wait and then Mr. LaFleche you can answer the question. Mr. Houston.

MR. HOUSTON: If this summer run loses $15 million and Bay Ferries secures winter work for this vessel and gets a route where they make $20 million, does any of that $20 million benefit the taxpayers of this province?

MS. SAURETTE: Can you just clarify what you mean when you say “loses $15 million”?

MR. HOUSTON: If the summer run costs the taxpayers of Nova Scotia $15 million and then Bay Ferries identifies a winter route and takes the vessel somewhere and has a profitable run — makes $20 million, I don’t know — knowing that the taxpayers have paid $15 million, is there any possible benefit to the taxpayers of this province from that vessel being used on a winter run that’s profitable?

MS. SAURETTE: In terms of winter work, if the work is agreeable by the province and agreeable by the U.S. Navy, then we would allow winter work and it would go against the subsidy. So if there was a benefit, we would definitely reap in the benefit.

MR. HOUSTON: When I read the contract, the ferry service that we’re subsidizing, it is very clearly defined as a seasonal service to be operated between Yarmouth and Portland. That’s what we’re subsidizing. So is it the position of the department that there is another clause that somehow lets us claw back that subsidy should there be winter work? If so, can you point that out to me in the contract?

MR. LAFLECHE: We’ll have the lawyer figure it out and get back. There would be a negotiation.

MR. LAFLECHE: The next thing I want to address is this issue of the winter work. In the Nova Star situation, they actually proposed to us that we would subsidize ferry runs for other countries. In fact there were people out there who thought we should do that, which was crazy. We were going to lose lots of money subsidizing.

They never found any winter work, it was all hilarious. In fact we phoned the ports, they were supposed to have . . .

MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, I do apologize, we’ve run out of time there.

So no one is talking about winter work any more.

4. Yet another taxi driver charged with sexual assault

A police release from yesterday:

Police have charged a taxi driver with sexual assault in relation to an incident that occurred last year in Halifax.

At approximately 4:25 a.m. on September 17, 2018 police responded to a report of a sexual assault that occurred shortly after 2 a.m. in Halifax. A taxi driver drove two female passengers to a residence in Halifax and sexually assaulted one of the passengers, a woman in her twenties, while she was in the vehicle.

To protect the identity of the victim, we are not releasing the address where the sexual assault occurred.

As a result of the investigation, investigators from the Sexual Assault Investigation Team arrested the taxi driver on November 27 at 1975 Gottingen Street in Halifax without incident at approximately 1 p.m.

Seventy-four-year-old Seyed Abolghasem Sadat Lavasani Bozor of Halifax was charged with sexual assault and was scheduled to appear in Halifax Provincial Court today.


Government

City

Wednesday

Audit and Finance Standing Committee (Wednesday, 10am, City Hall) — nothing terribly interesting on the agenda, but these are the sort of meetings where they add wild shit at the last minute because they think no one is watching.

North West Planning Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 7pm, Silver and Gold Room, Sackville Heights Community Centre) —  here’s the agenda.

Thursday

Environment and Sustainability Standing Committee (Thursday, 1pm, City Hall) — here’s the agenda.

The redesign exactly matches the ugliness of the original.

Design Review Committee (Thursday, 4:30pm, City Hall) — the committee members will take out their brand new giant rubber stamps, ink them up like nobody’s business, and happily pound the fuck out of their approval of that George Armoyan design for the old convention centre. In their post-stamping orgasmic delirium, they’ll smoke cigarettes old-school style, look each other in the eyes, think of the moment, and sigh.

Point Pleasant Park Advisory Committee (Thursday, 4:30pm, City Hall) — no discussion of the mucked-up icy paths on the agenda.

The secret duck pond. Photo: Halifax Examiner

Harbour East – Marine Drive Community Council (Thursday, 6pm, HEMDCC Meeting Space, Alderney Gate) — the committee will approve some changes to that development across from the secret duck pond on Linden Lea in Dartmouth.

Open House – Herring Cove Road Enhancements (Thursday, 6pm, Multipurpose Room, Captain William Spry Community Centre) — have your say.

Province

Wednesday

Public Accounts (Wednesday, 9am, Province House) — because the McNeil government doesn’t want the opposition to ask untoward questions, all the committee does anymore is look at the Auditor General’s reports. Ho-hum. This week, that means questions about the May 2018 report on Grant Programs.

Thursday

No public meetings.


On campus

Dalhousie

Wednesday

Biomolecular interactions at the cell surface: My journey from helpful hormones to the deadly plague (Wednesday, 4pm, theatre A, Tupper Medical Building) — Kyungsoo Shin, from Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute, San Diego, will speak.

Thursday

Dalhousie Libraries’ First Open Textbook (Thursday, 3:30pm, Biology Lounge, Life Sciences Centre) — launch of Environmental Science: a Canadian Perspective by renowned conservation biologist Bill Freedman (1950–2015).

This Changes Everything (Thursday, 7pm, Ondaatje Theatre, Marion McCain Building) — screening and discussion.

King’s

Thursday

Harvey Amani Whitfield

Slave Lives Matter (Thursday, 7pm, Alumni Hall) — Harvey Amani Whitfield from the University of Vermont will speak:

Dr. Whitfield will present several short biographies of Black slaves in the Maritimes, building on his current book project Biographical Sketches of Black Slaves in Atlantic Canada, which documents the lives of 1,300 enslaved Black people. While the focus of the lecture will be individual slave experiences, Dr. Whitfield will also cover the broader context of regional slavery, including the details of slave work, slave families, and slave-related court cases.

Info here.

Mount Saint Vincent

Wednesday

Two-Eyed Seeing (Wednesday, 11am, Multipurpose Room, Rosaria Student Centre) — Elder Albert Marshall, Cheryl Bartlett, and other Indigenous and Non-Indigenous “Knowledge Holders” present a workshop, free to Mount faculty, students and staff, $75 for public. Includes lunch. Register here. More info here.

Transforming Teaching and Learning Through Etuaptmumk [Two-Eyed Seeing] (Wednesday, 7pm, Multipurpose Room, Rosaria Student Centre) — Info: foodsecurity@msvu.ca


In the harbour

11:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, arrives at Pier 41 from St. John’s
13:00: Pag, oil tanker, arrives at Irving Oil from Saint John
19:00: Bomar Rebecca, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Palm Beach, Florida
21:00: YM Modesty, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Norfolk


Footnotes

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


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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. RE:
    “Design Review Committee (Thursday, 4:30pm, City Hall) — the committee members will take out their brand new giant rubber stamps, ink them up like nobody’s business, and happily pound the fuck out of their approval of that George Armoyan design for the old convention centre. In their post-stamping orgasmic delirium, they’ll smoke cigarettes old-school style, look each other in the eyes, think of the moment, and sigh”

    I am on the Design Review Committee and I don’t rubber stamp anything, nor have I seen anyone else not take the committee appointment seriously.

    Also – you got your facts wrong. The meeting features a preliminary presentation from Armco about their proposed development at the old convention centre. We are not voting to approve the design. That would come at a future meeting. ”

    Come to the meeting and see how the committee works for yourself, Tim. Metro and AllNovaScotia send reporters to our meetings.

    You can also apply to join the committee. It’s easy to do and there are spots for members at large to join. You don’t need to have special training as an architect or planner to city planner to join.

    1. I of course cannot serve on any public body while I’m a reporter. I’ll come to a meeting. My snark is because the committee has in the past approved every dog-awful project that has come before it, including the Nova Centre and Queen’s Marque. I long ago stopped thinking it was a meaningful check on anything. I’d be happy to be proven wrong going into the future.

    2. Judging from the horrid state of architecture in our bold new city, it’s hard not to see the Design Committee as a shill for developers. I assume the committee has no power and therefore cannot enforce design standards. The “market/developers” win every time.

      1. gordohfx – I think you’re reacting without taking any time to understand how the process works or what role and power the committee has. I am not a shill. Coming out and calling me a shill without knowing anything really doesn’t help the conversation. I wish you would join the committee and try to influence change rather than smearing a lot of perfectly fine people who all want to help out our city and volunteer our time to do so.

        https://www.halifax.ca/city-hall/boards-committees-commissions/volunteer-boards-committees

        See the above link and apply if you wish to affect change.

  2. Does any CFL team make a profit ? The wealthy owner of the BC Lions cannot find a buyer and his team play at BC Place as do the Vancouver Whitecaps.
    There will be no stadium.
    There are other financial problems at HRM to worry about.

    1. I hope you are right Colin, but it looks to me that we are past the “no” stage and moving into the “rah rah” phase where anyone countering the project will be passed off as simply a “nay sayer” trying to deny Halifax’s “world class” ambitions.

      1. There are not enough votes at the Council and there is not enough money for a new Spring Garden Road, $20,000,000; a new police HQ $50,000,000; a new bike ramp at the bridge $7,000,000, and money to solve the problems the council is not aware of because the staff never want to talk about the subject.
        I don’t hear many councillors out there cheering for a stadium
        I often wonder if Tim uses the stadium issue as click-bait.

  3. Ritholtz has a Bloomberg podcast called Masters in Business, and I’m pretty sure he did an episode on the folly of financing stadiums and similar municipal ego projects where the cost is public and the profits private. Of course, I can’t find it.

    1. I would also quibble with the applicability to the CFL of Ritholtz’s second point. While there may be a bunch of rich guys involved, several CFL teams (Winnipeg, Edmonton, Saskatchewan) are community-owned and in some cases (such as Winnipeg) anything but money makers. Recall that the Winnipeg Stadium fiasco began in an effort to bail out the community-owned Blue Bombers from a huge accumulated debt. Winnipeg’s experience is all the more reason to be skeptical about a CFL franchise in Halifax. If you can’t make money with a community-owned team in a city like Winnipeg with a bigger population and a long tradition with the sport what are the chances of doing that in Halifax? Without massive public subsidies I’d say chances range somewhere between none and none.

  4. The stadium is a done deal whether we like it or not. All the rich white men behind this boondoggle have constructed it in their own minds and have built a defensive wall off of which facts ricochet like spent bullets.

    1. Let them go ahead and build the stadium. There might just be some folks of a “darker hue” who ain’t gonna step to the gridiron in Halissippi. On that note, CAN. NOT. WAIT. for the forthcoming Scot Wortley (of Toronto fame) report on street checks in Nova Scotia.

      And expect a “man of colour” to soon MAGICALLY APPEAR on the staff of Maritime Football.

      Call me: Black 64 years, 24/7.

      1. The Halifax Rainmen didn’t seem to have trouble attracting players of colour. Why would a CFL team be different? Not trolling, genuinely interested in your perspective.

    2. There is sssssoooooooo much research and literature proving the folly of public stadium building it hurts the head.

      Yet the smart and successful grifters are gonna convince the yokels that watching your home team on TSN is gonna make Halifax world class.

      Sports has displaced religion as the opiate of the masses and there’s the rub.