News

1. Stadium lobbyists aren’t registered as lobbyists

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.

Canadian Press reporter Judy Owen caught up with CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie at the Winnipeg–Edmonton game last night (Edmonton prevailed, 33-30), and Ambrosie went on about the possibility of a Halifax team:

“The conversations between ourselves and the Maritime Football group continue,” Ambrosie said. “We’re doing work on their business plan, giving them feedback.

“We’ve actually had them meet with several of the teams so they could get a broad array of perspectives. They came forward with their initial business plan, we had them meet with a group of our governors to give them some feedback. That process is underway.”

Members of Maritime Football Limited, made up of professional sports executives, are also meeting with local governments. The big issue is funding a 30,000-seat stadium in Halifax.

Well, indeed: funding is the big issue. But wait a minute… “Members of Maritime Football Limited… are also meeting with local governments”? That’s confirmation of what we already know, but let’s review.

Back in 2013, then-candidate, now Premier Stephen McNeil said he could support public financing for a stadium. And on February 22 of this year, Keith Doucette of the Canadian Press reported that:

“It’s no secret that we are having in depth discussions at Halifax Regional Municipality, in depth discussions with the province,” said [ Anthony] LeBlanc. “My hope and expectation is sometime within the next couple of months we will have something substantive to talk to you about.”

Although welcoming a potential CFL team as an “exciting opportunity,” Halifax Mayor Mike Savage has previously said the municipality wouldn’t be pushing the issue, so as not to put taxpayers at risk over the cost of building a stadium. Premier Stephen McNeil has also confirmed there have been meetings between provincial officials and the bid group, but offered few other details.

LeBlanc, who is the founding partner of the potential ownership group registered as Maritime Football Ltd., later told reporters that no financial commitments have been offered to date.

“One thing I can say that I’ve heard in particular from the mayor and the premier is it has to be private sector led. They are not saying that they won’t be involved in whatever way that will be, but it has to be private sector led.”

So Maritime Football has been meeting with provincial officials, but, you guessed it: neither Maritime Football Limited nor the CFL is listed on the province’s lobbyist registry. They appear to be violating the Lobbyists’ Registration Act, but as we’ve seen with Jean Chrétien, the Act and the registry can be ignored with impunity and no one will take any action.

City Hall doesn’t even have a lobbyist registration to ignore. I’ve long argued that it should have one, as Savage was once hired by the M5 Public Affairs consulting firm that lobbies city councillors; as I wrote in 2016:

You almost need a scorecard to keep track of the insider connections: The former Liberal MP who is now the mayor worked for the PR company that secretly lobbied the city to buy poison from a client, the same PR company that lobbies the province to sell off Service Nova Scotia and whose VP is a Liberal party executive and who sleeps with the Liberal premier’s chief of staff.

Damn right we need a lobbyist registry at City Hall.

But besides that, Maritime Football has been meeting in secret with Halifax city council to discuss a possible stadium. This matter has not been agendized, and no information has been given to the public.

It feels like the fix is on.

2. Cogswell

The Cogswell interchange, via Google Satellite View

Natalie Wong, a real estate reporter for Bloomberg based in Toronto, compares Halifax’s plans to tear down the Cogswell Interchange with Toronto’s inaction on the Gardiner Expressway.

It’s kind of a weird article, as Wong writes as if her readers know nothing about either Halifax or Toronto and she uncritically repeats all the local boosterism in Halifax. But she’s a young reporter, so I’ll cut her a bit of slack. She does make one point that’s worth considering, however:

By scrapping the jumble of overpasses and underpasses and redeveloping the area, Halifax joins cities like Boston and San Francisco that have removed the decades-old infrastructure to make their downtowns more inviting.

I don’t know much about Boston, but I lived in northern California when the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake destroyed and damaged much of the highway network in the Bay Area. Horribly, the double-decker Cypress Freeway collapsed in Oakland, killing dozens of people, and a section of the double-decker Bay Bridge also collapsed, leading to the death of a woman who had not been warned of the missing section.

So in the aftermath of the earthquake, people were freaked out about the still-standing double-decker highways all over the place, and especially the Embarcadero Freeway, which ran along the waterfront. The Embarcadero may have even been the inspiration for Halifax’s planned Harbour Drive, which also would have run along the waterfront; the Cogswell  Interchange was built to facilitate that plan, but due to those pesky heritage people (we’re supposed to hate them, right?), Harbour Drive itself was never built, so instead of having a glorious freeway on the waterfront we have throngs of tourists and locals using the boardwalk.

Back in San Francisco, post-earthquake, there was much gnashing of teeth about the proposed removal of the Embarcadero (and even more with the Central Freeway, but no one remembers that). Removal would create a traffic nightmare! was the cry. But it was removed all the same and replaced with a simple pedestrian-friendly street-level boulevard that opened up the waterfront and led to an explosion in tourism and development.

More to the point of Wong’s article, in terms of traffic, when the Embarcadero was taken down, nothing happened. There was no traffic nightmare. People just adjusted how and where they commuted. Ridership on the ferries increased, people started taking the train more. People even — gasp! — walked.

Turns out, people are amazingly flexible when it comes to transportation. If you build one kind of transportation infrastructure (highways), they’ll use that. If you tear that down and build another kind of transportation infrastructure (transit, pedestrian routes), they’ll use that.

I don’t know exactly what would happen if Toronto tore down the Gardiner Expressway, but I doubt seriously it would lead to the traffic nightmares imagined, and especially not if the train network was extended. I do know that tearing down the Gardiner would open up everything south of the highway in all sorts of pleasant and profitable ways.

As for Halifax, tearing down the Cogswell is of course the right thing to do — it would have been done years ago had Andy Filmore not orchestrated the delay of demolition so Joe Ramia’s Nova Centre plan could move forward. It certainly won’t result in any increase in traffic; arguments about trucks downtown will continue, but there won’t be new traffic snarls as a result of taking down the Cosgswell.

I fear, however, that we’re over-selling the newly planned Cogswell district. Unlike San Francisco or Toronto, tearing down this highway feature won’t open up the waterfront because the waterfront is blocked by the horrendous casino and the dual parking garages for the casino and Purdys Wharf.

If we really want the Cogswell plan to be a success, we’ve got to tear down the casino and the parking garages. No one cares about the casino, so be gone with it already. It’s a blight on the waterfront. As for the parking garages, as with the highway itself, tearing down the garages won’t result in a traffic nightmare; people will just find other ways to travel.


Views

1. Modernist landscape and Dalhousie’s bunghole

Photo: Stephen Archibald

Stephen Archibald gets lyrical about the grove of trees that comprise the modernist landscape outside Canada Post’s Almon Street operation (accompany photos are at the link):

The low planters seem to “float” above the paved plaza.

In the leaf free seasons the quantity of trees has its own quality, distracting the eye from the long, low, building and an adjacent fenced parking lot.

And on a moist day, the lichens that covered the trunks, were plumped up and a striking colour.

Alas:

So you can imagine my dismay, when I noticed recently, that the trees have been removed.

Photo: Stephen Archibald

Archibald hopes that the trees were sickly and will be replaced. We’ll see.

In his “postscript,” Archibald mentions the badly cared-for modernist landscape outside the Dal library. It’s odd, because the Dal landscaping crew otherwise does stellar work (have you seen their wintertime sidewalks?). My guess is they just don’t know what to do with the library grounds.

Google Satellite View of the Library

I’ll leave it for others to debate the merits of the shrubbery, but for myself, I can’t understand the stretch of gravel on the west side of the building. Maybe that was part of the original design? Whatever, it feels like an incomplete construction site, especially since half the stairway leading up from the library is chained off because of the broken steps. It’s been that way for years, so I guess there’s no plan to repair them. And once you climb the non-chained section of the stairway, you have to walk around the gravel to get to a weird angled walkway that in turn takes you to an ugly and disorganized series of parking lots that stretch between Dal and King’s. None of this works. It’s dangerous — pedestrians and cars scramble for the same stretch of pavement. It doesn’t serve people well — even the smokers congregate on the concrete wheel stops in the parking lots. And it’s ugly. It feels like the bunghole of the University.

The bunghole of Dalhousie University. Google Satellite

Which is too bad, because there’s the start of something quite nice behind the library — a garden with native plants and a water feature, which I believe was planted and is maintained by one of the environmental program. There’s a short walkway through the garden that connects to Lemarchant Street, but you have to hunt around for it, it’s that hidden.

Honestly, I think they should rip out all the ugly stuff — the steps outside the library, the gravel, the slanted walkway, the parking lots, and even Lord Dalhousie Drive and Castine Way — and start all over with a fresh redesign that extends the garden behind the library all the way to King’s College. As I wrote above in relation to the Cogswell, the parking lots could disappear and people would simply find other ways to travel. Nobody would miss them.


Government

No public meetings.


On campus

Dalhousie

Atlantic Radiotherapy Conference (Friday, 8:45am, Nova Centre) — Catherine de Metz, from Queens University, will speak. Contact: jennifer.lewandowski@dal.ca

Saint Mary’s

The International Conference in Intercultural Studies continues.


In the harbour

3:30pm: Atlantic Star, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for Liverpool, England
4:30pm: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, sails from Pier 36 for Saint-Pierre
4;30pm: ZIM Alabama, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for New York


Footnotes

Weird Morning File today.

Tim Bousquet

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

Join the Conversation

7 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. Building a stadium is such a ridiculous waste of money. There are a million other worthy projects …….. why must we always put our efforts into the sports Bread and Circus routine? What about a ‘world class’ arts centre? What about affordable housing? What about a decent network of bike lanes…..and I ‘m not talking about the 24 inch piece of road divided by a white line that is now considered a ‘bike lane’…..y’know…..the lanes we now have that if a driver looks at their cell phone for an instant the cyclist gets mowed down. I’m so tired of the emphasis on sports, sports, sports.

  2. The concrete and gravel wasteland between the Dal Library and Chemistry building has always puzzled me. It’s not hidden, it’s right next to the main quad – why not unleash Dal’s talented landscape crew on it? They ripped it up last summer and I had high hopes, but they replaced it with more, newer concrete.

    The only explanation that has occurred to me is that it is not empty space, it is actually the roof of a building. So you’re not just removing gravel, you effectively have to build and maintain a half acre rooftop garden, including soil, irrigation, drainage etc. So I imagine it’s a fairly expensive capital project at a time of constrained finances.

  3. Wildlife. On a recent trip to PEI, between Sackville and Amherst, I counted 7, that’s seven, dead young deer mashed at the side of the road and countless other small critters obliterated by our fast moving lives. For me, it’s heart-rending and embarrassing. Other neighbouring provinces and states invest in fencing to protect these beautiful creatures and the people who hit them.

    Why not Nova Scotia?
    It’s primitive.

  4. Some groups like to claim credit for killing Harbour drive, and they certainly helped, however having read the council minutes of the day, it sounds like there wasn’t a huge amount of support for the project. in short – council didn’t want to spend the money. Cogswell got built because Halifax Developments agreement with the city to build Scotia Square required it. there was also a desire to extend Cogswell down the hill from Brunswick to compensate for the loss of Hurd and Proctor Streets to the re-development.

    The complex story of how we got Scotia Square, and its spinoff developments is told at http://agbans.ca/2017/09/21/redeveloping-the-central-redevelopment-area/ harbour drive is told at https://halifaxbloggers.ca/builthalifax/2015/01/harbour-drive/

  5. The other ugly Dal area needing attention is behind the new Dalplex gym. Planting up the front doesn’t cover the wasteland behind it…. the wastland also hosts the landing pad of a truly huge, ugly, noisy air purifying system- during the quiet hours you can hear it in the backyards of Studley Street!

  6. The same kind of clandestine forces who brought us the Nova Centre are starting to muster to shove the stadium down our throats. Why won’t it go away? No business case can support it. A few well connected people stand to make a big haul of government cash on this.

    1. By my reckoning, the convention centre disaster is costing HRM residents more than $7 million a year for the next 25 years. The province will have to cover the same amount, so HRM residents are doubly hit.

      The old boys’ club made the convention centre happen. I expect they can make a new stadium happen, as well.