The only big HRM event this summer – political infighting

It is a cruel word where your loyal scribe goes on vacation, and then all hell deliciously breaks loose in the world of massive expensive concert promotion in Halifax. Few things could compel me to put down the Corona and get off the beach in Pugwash to write a few words, but the situation between HRM and the Trade Centre Limited (TCL) is one.

TCL, headed by Fred MacGillivray, is the Provincial/Municipal organization with the wide open mission to provide “economic benefits by bringing people together in Halifax and Nova Scotia” and the goal “to be the best events destination in North America within 15 years.” It is unclear if the goal is for Halifax, or the Trade Centre, to be that best event destination.

TCL operates Ticketatlantic, Events Halifax, the Metro Centre (though this is owned by the Municipality), and Mr MacGillivray is the Chair or president of every bid and games committee that the region ever puts together, from Commonwealth Games to Culture Capital proposal.

The not very arms length not-for-profit Events Halifax has been in the news much as of late. It is responsible for scooping up Federal and Provincial money and funneling it into event projects that benefit Halifax, if your definition of benefiting Halifax is “events that take place in the Trade Centre and Metro Centre.”

Many frustrated Halifax based festivals and promoters have been told “if you want ACOA money then go to Events Halifax” and then in turn been told “if you want Events Halifax, you need to move your event into the World Trade Centre.”

Events Halifax task is “to identify events that are available to a host city and determine if Halifax can be that city.” So it was only natural for Mayor Kelly to approach them, as one of the lead partners in last summer’s Rolling Stones debacle, about the possible events he had hoped to bring this summer.

Mayor Kelly was frustrated that Events Halifax had not secured another concert for the Commons this year, so, according to news reports, he went to other private sector concert promoters and requested their help and assistance. These efforts resulted in possible concerts by the Who and Justin Timberlake.

According to news reports, the Mayor then went to Events Halifax to brief them on what was underway, and shortly thereafter, an Events Halifax partner, Montreal based Gillette Entertainment Group (owners of the Bell Centre and the Habs) put in near identical offers on the same dates for the same bands in Halifax.

Now, Halifax has two agencies and two promoters both flailing around on the world stage, looking like rank amateurs. Here they are, competing with each other, trying to convince top flight talent to come to a tertiary market where the one major concert to date, the Stones, sold 40-50% less than its nearest competing market, the more established, forward thinking Moncton.

How could this have happened? Major cities do not work like this. Big cities have good, quality, cheap facilities and sometimes tax credits, and the private sector does the heavy lifting. Halifax has the Mayor’s office competing with a crown corporation through private sector proxies and fighting over it in the media.

You have to feel sorry for the Mayor. Clearly he forgot that when briefing civil servants at arms length agencies about municipal plans for events, it is wise to get the staff to sign non-disclosure agreements, so you can guarantee that they keep their big mouths closed.

How could this happen, and how come these people have not have been fired? As a joint provincial/municipal organizations TCL and Event Halifax represent both governments and are responsible to neither. The Haywood Report in 1992 said that joint responsibility means no one is clearly responsible. He was talking about municipal services and I would argue this is one.

Why does the Province of Nova Scotia run Halifax’s World Trade Centre, and an organization called Events Halifax? These are municipal affairs. A clear chain of command with municipal elected officials at the top is what is required. TCL needs to be reigned in, and Events Halifax rolled into HRM, or Destination Halifax, the HRMs tourism agency.

Waye Mason is music and festival promoter, business consultant and activist in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

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