Two-year wait for concert contracts | News | Halifax, Nova Scotia | THE COAST

Two-year wait for concert contracts

Coast asks FOIPOP Review Office to speed up the process.

The letter below is from me to the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Review Office, and is pretty much self-explanatory.

It relates to my freedom of information request to the city for all of the city's contracts with Power Promotional Events, the company that put on the concerts on the Common and which is central to the concert loan scandal.

There's more background here. June 1, 2011

To: FOIPOP Review Officer
From: Tim Bousquet, Original Applicant, Application No. 515, a request for records regarding contracts between the Halifax Regional Municipality and Power Promotional Event Inc.
Subject: Request to expedite the file based on Public Interest

I flied a FOIPOP request for copies of the contracts between HRM and Power Promotions in March, soon after the existence of the contracts became public knowledge. HRM agreed to release the contracts, but was required under the Act to notify third parties, presumably co-signers of the contracts. One of those third parties filed an appeal with the FOIPOP Review Office on May 4, 2011.

Today, June 1, 2011, I spoke with Mary Kennedy at the FOIPOP Review Office. She informed me that this issue would likely go to full review, meaning, realistically, that a decision would come down in about two years. I argued that there is an overriding public interest in making the contracts public; she said I could ask that the file be expedited for reasons of public interest, and then sent me the following questions to answer as part of my request to expedite the file. The answers follow each question.

Thank you for your assistance in this matter.


Tim Bousquet


has the matter been a subject of recent public debate?
Please indicate when and where this issue has been the subject of recent public debate.

Yes. The contracts are central to HRM’s concert loan scandal, an issue that first became public on March 15, 2011, when they were discussed before the Halifax Regional Council. As explained in a memo (see: from Cathie O’Toole, the city’s financial officer, city officials had improperly loaned Power Promotions money to help the company put concerts on the Halifax Common. According to O’Toole, the loans violated the HRM Charter and the city’s financial controls.

We later learned that $5.6 million had improperly been loaned to Power Promotions through a bank account for the city-owned Metro Centre that is managed by Trade Centre Limited, a provincial crown corporation. A O’Toole pointed out, the loans put the city at severe risk. In fact, Power Promotions failed to pay back the final $400,000 loan, a cost that will be absorbed by taxpayers.

The concert loan scandal has been prominent in all local media, including the newspaper I work for, The Coast (see It has also been covered in the Globe & Mail, the Canadian Press and by the national CBC. Since March 15, at every weekly meeting of the Halifax Regional Council, reporters have questioned councillors and mayor Peter Kelly about the scandal; it is often the subject of radio talk shows, as well.

As events have unfolded, one city staffer, former CAO Wayne Anstey, has resigned in wake of the scandal. As well, a Facebook page has been established calling for mayor Peter Kelly to resign because of the scandal, a call echoed by some newspaper editorials.

In short, the contracts between HRM and Power Promotions are central to an issue of great public interest.

does the subject matter relate directly to the environment, health or safety?
Please indicate how this matter relates directly to the environment, health or safety.

Not directly applicable.

would the dissemination of the information yield a public benefit by assisting public understanding of an important policy?
Please indicate how this information would yield a public benefit by assisting public understanding of what important policy.

At present, the public does not have a full understanding of the improper loans, how they came about, who was involved with them, what the terms of the loans were and the contractual obligations of all parties.

Release of the contracts will shed a great deal of light on these issues, and will help the public understand how and why city financial policies were violated.

do the records show how the public body is allocating financial or other resources?
Please indicate how the records would show how the public body is allocating financial or other resources.

The improper loans were made because the contracts existed. But beyond that, the city gave about $500,000 in “in kind” support to the various concerts for police and transit services, etc. There were, additionally, costs related to maintenance of the Common, both before and after the concerts; the contracts will presumably spell out which party was responsible for those costs, and at what terms. There is public concern that the same city officials who made the improper loans to Power Promotions were also subsidizing the concerts with hidden allocation of city resources for things like reseeding the grass in the Common, clean-up and garbage disposal, etc. Public release of the contracts will help the public understand the true allocation of city financial and other resources.

is the applicant’s primary purpose to disseminate the information in a way that could reasonably be expected to benefit the public or serve a private interest?
Please indicate how the information could reasonably be expected benefit the public and is not just serving a private interest.

I intend to put the contracts on The Coast’s website so anyone with an internet connection can read them. I have no private interest beyond my job as a reporter in receiving the contracts.

is the applicant able to disseminate the information?
Please indicate how you are able to disseminate the information.

I will post the contracts on The Coast’s website, and I will report on them. The Coast has a circulation of 24,000 for the paper edition, and over a million hits a month to its website. I will likely appear on radio talk shows as well, to discuss the contents of the contracts.

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