KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – A year ago, nine Halifax city councillors and the mayor – after a positive report from city planning staff — committed $20 million to help build a CFL stadium for HRM. A private company, Schooner Sports and Entertainment (SSE), proposed a 24,000 seat stadium.
Many economists have warned that the impact of these projects on communities is minimal, and are often a real obstacle to sensible — and useful — development in local neighbourhoods. In fact, regardless of how you look at it, there is little to no evidence that public investments in stadiums generate net economic benefits. “NFL stadiums do not generate significant local economic growth, and the incremental tax revenue is not sufficient to cover any significant financial contribution by the city,” said Roger Noll, an economist and senior fellow at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.
One year later, Covid has delayed financing and building the stadium, and much more. As for the $20 million agreement by Halifax Regional Council, last year’s council was largely swept aside in this year’s election. Five of the ten councillors who voted for the stadium are no longer on council. The four men and one woman who voted yes to the stadium, have been replaced by five women councillors – who are unlikely to endorse using taxpayers’ money to build a CFL stadium.
At least that is how it looks now, in late December 2020.
So how is it, a mere two days after Christmas 2020, that Gary Drummond, a founding partner of SSE, is aggressively talking up the stadium to have it ready for games in 2022. “We’re more optimistic than we’ve ever been, probably on the stadium itself,” Drummond confidently told a CBC reporter.
How is it that after a Christmas season that boasted Nova Scotians’ highest reliance on food banks of any previous Christmas in recent memory; a Christmas that revealed that hundreds of HRM residents who are homeless have an urgent need for affordable housing; a Christmas which saw the rate of child poverty in Nova Scotia rise almost 2% from last year, so that nearly 1 in 4 children live in poverty, while one in two children who live in lone parent homes live in poverty – how is it that Drummond and his cronies still think the public purse should pay anything toward their stadium?
David Fleming, a Canadian economist, insists that using public money for stadiums helps “billionaires pay less for a service they can afford.” Fleming says a stadium “…is an unnecessary privilege rather than a necessity.
Can anybody honestly say that in the wake of the world changing due to Covid, thousands of jobs disappearing possibly forever, and poverty nipping at the heels of many in Halifax that no better use of $20 million could be found? Wouldn’t improved city infrastructure, affordable housing, accessible mental health services benefit local people more?
Haligonians learned something when the Canadian bid for the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Halifax was abruptly withdrawn in 2007. The provincial government blinked when presented with a $1 billion plus price tag for the games. Though three levels of government first agreed to share the cost, when Nova Scotia’s then Tory government bailed, the bid was dropped.
Have we learned nothing from the construction of the biggest white elephant, the Nova Centre? Three levels of government ponied up more than $169.2 million to build the new Convention Centre which was sparsely booked even before Covid and now stands empty. But taxpayers are continuing to bail it out — this year to the tune of $11.2 million. Can we not face the fact the city “fathers” – in their rush to help their developer and ‘downtown’ friends — made an outrageous error that will cost Nova Scotians – from cleaning ladies to lawyers — hundreds of millions of dollars over the 25 years?
Don’t say the politicians were not warned then, and don’t say they are not warned now.
Judy Haiven is on the steering committee of Equity Watch, a Halifax-based organization which fights bullying, racism and discrimination in the workplace. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org
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