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Brindi and the True Believers 

How the Brindi the dog saga is exactly like the proposal for a new convention centre in downtown Halifax.

When I heard last week that Brindi, the Jimmy Melvin, Jr. of the canine world, has been accused of attacking yet another dog, the first thing that popped into my head was: "This is exactly like the convention centre."

The Brindi saga isn't so much about the dog as it is about the dog's owner, Francesca Rogier. Rogier is a True Believer; she really, really believes in that dog.

True Believers are interesting character studies---they're a little ridiculous, a little beautiful, a little sad, because nothing can live up to the worship they bestow on the targets of their belief. And, the more total the belief---that is, the more blind---the more likely that the believed-in fails.

In Rogier's case, there was plenty of evidence---two previous attacks on neighbourhood dogs---that Brindi was problematic, but like a creationist contemplating dinosaur bones, Rogier explained away anything that contradicted the True Belief: The dog was just playful, it had been raised wrong, a good owner would bring out the best in it. And those who dared offer a competing narrative were obviously evil---part of the conspiracy, undermining the democratic process, malicious dog-hating heathens.

True Believers have a remarkable ability to win over converts and connect with fellow travellers who, in turn, lash out at those not reading from the prayer book. Hundreds of Brindi supporters from around the world have emailed me, assailing Nova Scotian barbarism and threatening a tourism boycott.

The path to canine nirvana, said Rogier and her supporters, was to believe more deeply in their narrative, to clap louder. If we would just ignore our rational assessments, common sense and previous experience and instead trust her True Believer experts, and let Brindi follow through with the ritual training, we would soon attain that wondrous canine-opolis on the hill, where owner and dog live blissfully with their neighbours, and the rest of us can fill our work days watching YouTube videos of puppies.

Similarly, backers of a new convention centre in downtown Halifax are True Believers. The convention centre is largely the project of the execs at Trade Centre Limited and a cabal of the closely connected in provincial offices and the Chamber of Commerce that make up the local managerial class---a group that can out-bullshit a televangelist.

Like Brindi, the cabal doesn't have a great track record. There was most notably the Commonwealth Games fiasco, when they were set to bankrupt both the city of Halifax and the province to the tune of $2 billion. But TCL also has lost so much money in its normal operations that the execs were hauled before the legislature to explain themselves. And then there's the backhanded payments to fellow True Believer Harold MacKay, who apparently has faith that if he shortchanges his vendors and buggers the taxpayer long enough, one day those Common concerts will be a financial success.

In a rational world, we'd smack them with a newspaper, rub their noses in their failures and shove them out the door, but in true True Believer fashion, their solution is to instead blame others for their failures and insist we believe more strongly in the narrative---to clap louder.

To reach Halifax Heaven, we're told, we must ignore our rational assessments, common sense and previous experience and instead sing to the hymnals written by bought-and-paid-for True Believer priests. And those who dare question the faith are obviously evil---impediments to progress, malicious academics, Halifax-hating heathens.

Like Rogier's network of angry animal lovers, convention centre backers threaten economic ruin---a collapsed convention industry, a downtown with tumbleweeds. But if we all get on the True Believer page, we'll live in convention centre utopia, with travelling businessmen cluttering up our streets, which will be paved with gold.

Next week, infrastructure minister Bill Estabrooks will likely announce that he has drunk the Kool-Aid, and that the province will support the convention centre.

We now have allegations that, all good intentions to the contrary, Brindi's attacked another dog. With the convention centre, we're going to eventually realize we've built a shiny money pit that sucks the life out of downtown.

It turns out, True Belief notwithstanding, that a dog is just a dog.

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