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Risk is sticking point in convention centre negotiations

City looking to shield itself from potentially unlimited operating subsidy

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There’s still no deal between the city and province for financing the proposed new convention centre. Halifax council rejected a “compromise” offer from the province Tuesday, and sent staff negotiators back to the province with a counter offer.

Council met in secret for over five hours Tuesday, the bulk of the time discussing the convention centre (councillors also discussed committee appointments; see adjoining story). Afterwards, councillors would not disclose the specifics of either the province’s offer or the city’s counter-offer, but on background, several councillors say that the sticking point is the potential risk to the city.

The province wants the city to assume half the operating costs of the new convention centre, including half the operating subsidy. Presently, the city’s subsidy to the existing convention centre is limited to about $570,000 annually, adjusted into the future for inflation; under the province’s proposal, the city’s risk becomes potentially unlimited, should the convention centre fail to perform to expectations. Some councillors want an absolute cap on that potential risk, and such a proposal is likely contained in the counter-offer to the province. —Tim Bousquet

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