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.