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Solidarity Halifax Announces Finalists in 'Name Our Oval' Contest

Names reflect activist, popular and Indigenous history of Nova Scotia

by Miles Howe

Members of Solidarity Halifax with an effigy of Emera CEO Chris Huskilson lurking in the background (Photo: Miles Howe).
Members of Solidarity Halifax with an effigy of Emera CEO Chris Huskilson lurking in the background (Photo: Miles Howe).

K'jipuktuk (Halifax) – Anti-capitalist group Solidarity Halifax announced Saturday the finalists in their “Name Our Oval” contest, in which residents of the Halifax Regional Municipality had been asked to send in suggestions on what to rename the highly popular skating oval currently known as the Emera Oval.

The six final names, which residents of the HRM are now being asked to vote for online, are: The Muriel Duckworth Oval, The Raymond Taavel Oval, The People’s Oval, K’jipuktuk Oval, The Viola Desmond Oval, and The Halifax Common Oval.

Solidarity Halifax's campaign appears to be based on a two-pronged argument. The first point is that further corporate incursions — in this case in the naming of a public space after a multi-national power company into the ever-receding Halifax Common — is not welcome. The Common, when granted for public use to the people of the Town of Halifax in 1763, was a 235 acre parcel of land. According to the group Friends of the Commons, today it measures about one third of its original size.

“The Common have already been taken over by more and more stuff,” says Mark Cunningham, member of Solidarity Halifax. “And this is what's left of the Common. The corporate world is just encroaching more and more on the Common, so it's important to keep it the Common. The names [we've selected] play into that.”

The second point of the “Name Our Oval” campaign is that Emera itself, as the parent company of Nova Scotia Power Inc., the for-profit service provider to the vast majority of Nova Scotians, is not a corporation that should be celebrated.

The pittance ($500,000 over 15 years) that Emera paid the City of Halifax for the right to name the skating oval in its honour should not cloud over the numerous questionable business practices – both in Nova Scotia and abroad – that Emera remains accused, and in some cases has been found guilty, of.

Most recently, Nova Scotia Power put up numerous legal barricades when confronted with allegations of inappropriate fuel purchases, a practice that is estimated to have cost rate payers $22 million. The company's stalling techniques resulted in the normally compliant Utility and Review Board fining NSPI $2 million.

Despite this economic slap on the wrist, and despite record profits of over $230 million in 2012, Nova Scotia Power will be granted rate increases of three per cent for each of the next two years. To those who have seen their power cut off in mid-winter, and to those who have watched their homes and environs polluted by Nova Scotia Power's antiquated coal-burning power plants, the irony of being expected to spend an otherwise enjoyable day skating on the Emera Oval must be troubling indeed.

“I think that the Emera Oval is inappropriate because Emera is profiting off of people and this is a public space,” said Holly, another member of Solidarity Halifax. “To name a public space after a corporation that survives off of the backs of people in Halifax is wrong.”

The names that Solidarity Halifax have selected for the public's picking are reflective of the area's rich history, in some cases celebrating lives led bravely, in others paying homage to the traditional Mi'kmaq name of Halifax, K'jipuktuk. Solidarity Halifax is asking HRM residents to vote here before March 7.

The contest winner will be announced March 9.

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