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Why I Will Not Participate in the Nova Centre Consultations

Blog posts reflect the views of their authors.
Kelly, Dexter, Ramia and Mackay. Photo courtesy of Metro News, Jeff Harper.
Kelly, Dexter, Ramia and Mackay. Photo courtesy of Metro News, Jeff Harper.


Community ‘consultations’ on the new Halifax Convention Centre have begun.

In addition to a $164 million convention centre space, Nova Centre is set to include a luxury hotel, financial office towers and residential space in a prime downtown location. 

The approval of this new massive downtown development was controversial. Many doubt whether it will be economically viable. In a Coast editorial on July 19th, Tim Bousquet noted: "it's apparent that the city will lose at least $3 million a year, while $5 million is likely, and it's not out of the question that the actual number will be as high as $8 million."

Although I agree with Bousquet’s analysis, that is not why I refuse to participate in the consultation process for Nova Centre.

Here’s the thing; this whole ‘public engagement’ process that they’ve hired Tim Merry and his consulting company to facilitate is nothing but a public relations stunt to cover up the very one-sided demographic of who will benefit from the new centre.

The idea that a massive development project involving a luxury hotel, financial offices and high end residential space will somehow be open to grassroots arts programs and youth centres is beyond naïve. This absurd naivete is being touted by “love your city” types who throw around buzz words like ‘innovation’ and ‘engagement’ with a fervour that can only found in those who ignore decades of failure of development capitalism in urban spaces.

A Twitter quote from Tim Merry: "We're in the developers' living room. They've invited us here and I trust they are inspired to take our suggestions to heart."

Yeah, and when I speak reasonably with Stephen Harper and tell him all about why he should reverse cuts to the public sector, I trust that he will take my concerns to heart, too.

We needn’t look much further than Vancouver to see the effect of these high-end luxury developments on affordable housing.

Wake up, Halifax.

Financial offices and luxury hotels don't take kindly to drop-in centres and advocacy groups downstairs.

So for all of the pretend progressives who have great ideas for grassroots marketing and making cute hand-drawn signs, it’s like this: No, I will not come to your consultation. And, to be honest, I don't want to hear one more word from pretend 'progressives' who are cashing in on the Nova Centre 'consultation process'.

If you want throw your weight behind crooked development capitalism and pretend it's some sort of 'love your city' participatory process by using star-shaped sticky notes and hiring a spoken word artist to do the facilitating... Don't think you've got an ally in me.

Our food bank is broke. Youth programs are cut. Addictions services are being shut down. So to be honest, for all the facilitators who are turning a pretty buck off this consultation, you can take your Nova Centre and shove it up your "it's gonna happen anyway, so let's make it beautiful” bourgeoisie ass.

If this city needs jobs - let's hire back the youth workers and start funding the 'volunteers' running our food banks and homeless shelters.... Let’s actually promote ‘development’ that the community will benefit from - both socially and economically. If we are going to lose $5 million a year, think of how many youth workers and community arts facilitators we could hire for that much!

Tourists don’t come here to see youth homelessness against a backdrop of Dubai-style glistening glass and metal… They can go to Vancouver for that. They come here for old wooden ships, waitresses dressed as pirate wenches and bagpipes. They come here for culture - and we have much work to do in supporting the diversity of the culture that we do have, but consistently under-fund and marginalize.

And it’s not that I don’t support grassroots consultation processes and creative facilitation. On the contrary, I think it is one of the most important processes citizens in the city can undergo. For me, it means something.

To engage a single demographic in an orchestrated PR stunt, letting them believe that Joe Ramia and his development cronies will actually entertain the idea of having an after-school drop in centre in their luxury hotel is a crime against democracy. It is a lie. Consultation without a commitment to listen to the citizens is a PR stunt. And I believe too many Haligonians are being fooled into thinking that this process is legitimate.

The more people that participate in this ‘engagement process,' the more the city and its business class will use it for their own PR, lending weight to the myth that this process is ‘grassroots’ and ‘democratic’. I just can't consent to that.

Come on Halifax, let’s work toward something real. And let’s not waste our breath on empty promises and PR hype.

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I have my doubts about the

I have my doubts about the whole "not participating" idea. Sounds counter productive to me. How is this any different than people who choose not to vote and then complain about the outcome? The convention centre is being built - why would we, as a community, not engage with that process and try to change it? Being vicious on Facebook, complaining behind closed doors, and refusing to address the immediate nature of this issue is naive and cowardly.
And don't get me wrong, I'm totally "anti-establishment" and "damn the man" and all that, but what are we going to DO about the convention centre that is about to be planted on our doorsteps?

Thanks for your comment! I

Thanks for your comment!

I understand your sentiments, I think... But in this case the convention is centre design is almost 85% complete already. And, there is no guarantee or official commitment to take our input on the remaining, mainly aesthetic details.

When people provide input and they get ignored- they aren't likely to get politically engaged again. They may feel like it's pointless... And that is what worries me.

I totally agree with the

I totally agree with the sentiments backing your decision to not participate in the "living room discussions" (as in, I think the convention centre is a hideous waste of money and misappropriated energies), I just fear that people's ire is being misdirected (villianizing members of our community who probably believe that are doing good for their city, and not getting paid wads of cash to do it I might add).
Thank you for kindly responding! Yes! Open discourse! Radical agonism!

Food bank is broke?

The Metro Food Bank has lots of money, they just don't spend it on food.

Knowledge Cafe is NOT like voting

I like this article and agree with the conclusion.

"Girlhero" participating in this Knowledge Cafe is NOT like voting. Far from it... and even the organizers would be happy to make that clear statement.

NOT participating is the vote.

My analogy: If you happened across someone beating their dog with a stick you would say STOP IT. You would say stop it because it is FUBAR, it's hurting the dog and it diminsihes all of us. You would not be under any obligation to help or find a better way to pummel the dog. Likewise, not participating in the Knowedge Cafe scam is, in itself, the counter-arguement.

Speaking out, not freaking out, standing up as an individual and letting your opinion be known, especially when it runs counter to the path of the ruling elite takes courage whether it's done in the public sqaure, in the media or on a social network.

I appreciate what Ardath is saying and doing.


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