No permits have been issued for new convention centre

The city and province are poised to establish Trade Centre Limited as management, despite blistering auditor's report.

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An observer might look at the gigantic hole in the ground between Argyle and Market Streets, feel the blasting for excavation and see the bulldozers loading up dump trucks to haul away the rock and think, “that new convention centre is really moving along.”

That observer would be wrong.

In fact, the city has not received a development application for the convention centre, says spokesperson Shaune MacKinlay. Like any other property owner, developer Joe Ramia is free to dig all the holes he wants on his land, but he can’t start building anything until he submits a pre-application for consideration, then a formal development application. That development application then will go before the design review committee, and finally before regional council, before anything can be built.

Oh, and Grafton Street, which no longer exists? Ramia has received a temporary encroachment permit from the city, the same permit a neighbourhood would need to close a street for a block party. Should the city reject Ramia’s development plans—an unlikely scenario, admittedly—he’d have to rebuild the street. Presumably Ramia will one day ask for a permanent encroachment, but first there must be a public hearing and then a ruling by council, before he receives it.

More problematic is the still-unsettled management of the new convention centre. Last June the city and province signed a memorandum of understanding stating only that a “public sector entity” will operate the convention centre, details to be worked out later. Both the city and the province say they’re in “negotiations,” but neither side will say who’s negotiating what.

Since the MOU was signed, Trade Centre Limited, the operator of the existing convention centre, was the subject of a blistering critique issued by provincial auditor general Jacques Lapointe, who said the organization exhibited “very poor” financial management practices and is in need of a “major overhaul.” Lapointe lambasted TCL president Scott Ferguson, who submitted undocumented expensive claims worth many thousands of dollars, including for unspecified entertainment costs.

Despite those problems, it appears that the city and province are poised to establish TCL as the “public sector entity” in charge of the new convention centre, with Ferguson continuing at the helm. And, no doubt, since the new convention centre will be larger than the existing one, TCL execs, including Ferguson, who last year was paid $174,494, will get big raises.

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