Heywood Sanders wants real numbers from Trade Centre Limited | City | Halifax, Nova Scotia | THE COAST

Heywood Sanders wants real numbers from Trade Centre Limited

During my conversation with Heywood Sanders, he directed me to quite a few documents. Let's have a look at just one of them, and see what it tells us.

Last year, Sanders wrote a commentary for the Georgia Straight examining the promises made for the Vancouver Centre, and contrasted those promises to the reality.

I strongly suggest people on all sides of the Halifax convention centre proposal read the entire commentary. There are of course obvious potential arguments about whether or not a comparison of Vancouver's convention centre experience (or for that matter, any other city's) with the potential for Halifax's proposed convention centre---but those arguments have been pretty well presented by media outlets, I think.

What concerns me here, though, is simply the data. That is, the data that are available for Vancouver, but unavailable for Halifax.

First, from Vancouver, we have figures about the past (actual) amount spent by out-of-town visitors to Vancouver Centre in Vancouver, as well as the projected figures for same, versus what actually happened (page 14):

As you can see, the money spent by those visitors dropped considerably from 2006/07 to 2007/08, from $242 million to $225 million. Centre managers (through their consultants) had projected an increase to $259 million in 2008/09, but in reality, the money spent actually decreased further still to $192 million. But, rather absurdly, those managers and consultants expect that in 2009/10 the figure will nearly double to $356 million and, in 2010/11 will more than triple from this year's reality, to $616 million. I'd characterize that as delusional thinking, but that's not my main concern here.

Rather, the point is that, delusional or not, the managers of Vancouver Centre put real numbers out and make real predictions. Anyone with an internet connection can see them. Thanks to their commitment to transparency, we can look at the numbers and come to whatever conclusions we want, and argue about them, one side or the other.

Let's compare that to Halifax's Trade Centre Limited. Comparable information is simply unavailable on TCL's website. The citizen group Save The View requested economic impact studies and consultants reports that looked at these kind of issues, but when the reports that were delivered to them were completely redacted. Take, for example, this page, where similar information was listed:

This was a more or less random page from the reports---the four reports run about 300 pages, and about 80 percent of them are redacted. So far as I can see, each and every figure that would provide real information is censured.

The 17(1) in the image above refers to a section of the Freedom of Information Act, which reads:

17 (1) The head of a public body may refuse to disclose to an applicant information the disclosure of which could reasonably be expected to harm the financial or economic interests of a public body or the Government of Nova Scotia or the ability of the Government to manage the economy and, without restricting the generality of the foregoing, may refuse to disclose the following information:
(a) trade secrets of a public body or the Government of Nova Scotia;
(b) financial, commercial, scientific or technical information that belongs to a public body or to the Government of Nova Scotia and that has, or is reasonably likely to have, monetary value;
(c) plans that relate to the management of personnel of or the administration of a public body and that have not yet been implemented or made public;
(d) information the disclosure of which could reasonably be expected to result in the premature disclosure of a proposal or project or in undue financial loss or gain to a third party;
(e) information about negotiations carried on by or for a public body or the Government of Nova Scotia.

Under the Freedom of Information Act, TCL may or may not have the legal right to withhold the information (I'd argue: not) but, legality aside, I can't help asking:

Why is it that Vancouver Centre managers feel they can put the exact same information on the internet, for the entire world to see, but Halifax's convention centre managers treat the information as a state secret? What are they trying to hide? Will they tell us if their predictions fail? Have their predictions failed in the past? And, why should we trust them, when they refuse make their past and future predictions public?

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