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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Does Trade Centre’s involvement kill convention centre proposal?

Posted By on Thu, Mar 17, 2011 at 2:00 AM

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Trade Centre Limited president Scott Ferguson was fully aware of the city of Halifax’s back-door loan policy to Power Promotions, says Suzanne Fougere, Ferguson’s spokesperson.

But TCL had no reason to suspect the loans were improper, says Fougere. “We were given direction by HRM to release the funds from the Metro Centre account. In the case of this particular issue, Metro Centre was directed by HRM to release financial support for the promoter---it was done solely at the direction and authorization of the acting CAO.”

In addition to the improper loans, The Coast has learned that TCL lost an additional $89,903 on the Black Eyed Peas show, related to “event settlement”---the costs associated with Ticket Atlantic, TCL’s ticketing agency.

TCL had no responsibility to question the propriety of the loans, says Fougere. “In terms of what rationale they have for that financial report or what internal protocols they followed to provide us that authorization, that’s something you’d have to speak to them about. We received the authorization from the acting CAO, and they are the owners of the facility. We act at their direction as it relates to that facility.”

Still, according to a report written by the Cathie O’Toole, the city’s finance director, “further investigation is required around the Articles of Incorporation of Metro Centre Limited to examine whether the transactions are compliant.”

The particular issue of whether TCL had a responsibility in the loan matter is “something the auditor-general will examine in his report,” O’Toole tells The Coast. That report will be made public in early May, says auditor-general Larry Munro.

The concert scandal comes just as the city and TCL are together urging the federal government to provide $46 million in funding for a new convention centre in downtown Halifax. Under the proposal, the city and province would contract with TCL to manage the convention centre.

Many observers believe a federal election could be called as early as Monday, or possibly Tuesday, when prime minister Stephen Harper delivers his budget to parliament. Once an election is called, the federal government cannot make large expenditures like that proposed for the Halifax convention centre.

But with the city fully embroiled in an accounting scandal, and with TCL at least tangentially involved, if not more so, can the Harper government truly claim it has done “due diligence” in examining the business case for the convention centre? Time will tell.

For The Coast's complete coverage of the Common concert financing scandal, click here.

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