2022 FHC AGM- Tuesday November 29, 6:30-8:45 Halifax Public Library

Dear Friends of Halifax Common,


Please join FHC for our 2022 AGM.

The meeting’s programme will focus on the draft Halifax Common Master Plan. That’s because
In February HRM Mayor & Council asked HRM staff to undertake more public consultation on the draft Plan, but apart from an on-line survey HRM staff has been silent. See details here: https://www.shapeyourcityhalifax.ca/halifax-common-master-plan
 
After a quick update on FHC work there will be five short presentations by FHC Directors about the draft Plan. The goal is to help you better understand the draft so you can complete the survey and or send comments to HRM Staff and Council. We also want to hear from you so there will be a Q&A.
 
Date: Tuesday November 29th, 2022
Time:  6:30 – 8:45 
Place: Halifax  Central Library, Room 301, Spring Garden Road
Presentations: Halifax Common Master Plan: a 5 part guided tour
Discussion: Have Your Say
 
Presentation Topics: Planning for the Common
  • Protecting the Common as a Whole – Judith Fingard
  • Reclaim, Expand & Balance Use of Public Green Space – David Garrett
  • Clarifying the Public Role in Shaping the Common – Lawrence McEachern
  • Return Public Use to the Wanderers Grounds – Peggy Cameron & Peggy Smith
  • A Common Vision, Purpose, & Policy  – David Garrett
Many citizens feel helpless these days. Being active and engaged is a good countermeasure. Please plan to attend, hear ideas, join the discussions and have your say. 
 
Very best wishes,
 
On behalf of
Friends of Halifax Common

HRM Pulls Switcheroo on Premier / Minister with Common’s Pool Building

Say one thing, do another.  In April 2021 HRM’s Jacques Dube asked the NS Government’s Law Amendments for permission for HRM to construct a building to support the new pool on the Central Common. FHC expressed concerns to Law Amendments then; drawings showed two buildings; the public had never been consulted on the design; and the Master Plan public consultation was on-going. Now it seems HRM pulled a switcheroo on the NS Government— there are two, much larger buildings placed in a different location than HRM requested.

Initial Central Common pool and buildings design near Cogswell HRM proposed. (3)

Pool buildings being built- larger and in a different location

FHC has written to Premier and Minister of Municipal Affairs as they both oversee Municipalities and authorize decisions made by the Law Amendments Committee. In this case Bill 103 was an agreement to a particular request from HRM. But HRM did not proceed as it presented it would. 

We believe this “Say one thing, do another,” is too usual a form of governance. It erodes public trust in government. We have asked the Premier and Minister what they have to say about this? And we have also asked if they are willing to propose a remedy the situation such as creating legislative protection of the Halifax Common?  

Read FHC’s letter here: Continue reading

Secret Agreement with Fossil Fuel Corporation to Extend Sponsorship

FHC has written to request that HRM Mayor and Council not approve a secret agreement with the fossil fuel corporation Emera to extend the sponsorship and naming rights of the Halifax Common’s Oval.  Below is the September 12, 2022 letter:

Skaters on the Halifax Common People’s Oval (photo: HRM)

Dear Mayor and Council, 

Friends of Halifax Common write to ask that you do not approve the secret agreement with the fossil fuel company Emera to extend the sponsorship of the Halifax Common’s Oval. 

There are several questions we propose you consider. 

The Halifax Common Master Plan is still undergoing public consultation. The matter of branding, advertising or sponsorship are subjects that should be vetted as part of this consultation. Should HRM Council be making this decision in secrecy and at this time?

No to Alcohol or Cigarette Advertizing but Fossil Fuel Branding OK? Naming rights is a form of advertisement. On public property it is a form of privatization, where companies gain access to the public viewer for private gain so as to buy positive affirmation or customers. What is viewed as appropriate or permissible advertising changes over time in response to societal values or even scientific evidence. Would HRM condone or permit alcohol, cigarette or pesticide advertising?

Today the ramifications of supporting and promoting fossil fuel companies on our collective future is much more in our collective thinking and decision making. Emera is the parent company of Nova Scotia Power Inc. one of the provinces leading polluters and greenhouse gas emitters. It is essentially a fossil fuel business that is negatively impacting human health and the climate crisis. France, Amsterdam, Sydney are jurisdictions that plan to no longer condone public advertising for fossil fuel companies. They are taking steps to regulate this. 

In June 2022, 34 Canadian health organizations representing 700,000 health workers across the country asked the government of Canada for a comprehensive ban on fossil fuel advertising – including ads for gasoline, fossil fuel utilities, and gas-powered vehicles https://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/canadian-doctors-call-for-tobacco-style-ban-on-fossil-fuel-advertising-in-canada-867532772.html  Does extending a secret contract to Emera to greenwash a corporation at this time positively reflect the values that HRM purports in its commitment to be a climate change leader?

Public Concern Over Secrecy To be clear despite misinformation by some, Friends of Halifax Common has never been against the Oval https://halifaxcommon.ca/tag/the-oval/  and FHC did not engage in the 2011 public discussion about the first agreement with Emera and Molson. But as this is some time ago, are you aware of the public concern that the decision was made with a “secrecy that came to be seen as emblematic of a growing lack of transparency at city hall?”  https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/halifax-mayor-on-thin-ice-in-outdoor-rink-controversy/article4197223/

Or did you know that in 2013, Solidarity Halifax a volunteer citizens group, led a popular contest to un-brand and re-name the Oval because of how unsuitable both the process and choice were? https://solidaritykh.org/2013/02/renaming-our-oval-whats-in-a-name/

The Oval was built with public money, on public land and a comparatively small amount of corporate money. Can you consider honouring the sentiment of the 1763 land grant and keep the name as the Halifax Common Oval and the Oval as a short form?

Unless extending a secret agreement with a fossil fuel company to brand a publicly funded recreational facility on the Halifax Common is the legacy you as HRM Mayor and Council want to leave, we hope you can re-consider the process and the outcome.

Yours truly, 

FHC Directors

 

Todd Veniotte & FCH: What’s Wrong with the HRM-Emera Secret Deal?

"EMERA" Oval

LOTS! HRM Mayor & Council ignored all FHC’s good reasons why making secret deals with any fossil fuel corp is bad news. So now Emera, NSPI’s parent—gets naming rights (along with some very cheap green washing) to the Halifax Common’s Oval. Can someone remind those HRM decision makers we’re in a climate crisis? And that decision-making for the Halifax Common shouldn’t be secret deals?

Here’s the FHC letter…

September 12, 2022

Dear Mayor and Council, 

Friends of Halifax Common write to ask that you do not approve the secret agreement with the fossil fuel company Emera to extend the sponsorship of the Halifax Common’s Oval. 

There are several questions we propose you consider. 

The Halifax Common Master Plan is still undergoing public consultation.
The matter of branding, advertising or sponsorship are subjects that should be vetted as part of this consultation. Should HRM Council be making this decision in secrecy and at this time?

No to Alcohol or Cigarette Advertising but Fossil Fuel Branding OK?
Naming rights is a form of advertisement. On public property it is a form of privatization, where companies gain access to the public viewer for private gain so as to buy positive affirmation or customers. What is viewed as appropriate or permissible advertising changes over time in response to societal values or even scientific evidence. Would HRM condone or permit alcohol, cigarette or pesticide advertising?

Today the ramifications of supporting and promoting fossil fuel companies on our collective future is much more in our collective thinking and decision making. Emera is the parent company of Nova Scotia Power Inc. one of the provinces leading polluters and greenhouse gas emitters. It is essentially a fossil fuel business that is negatively impacting human health and the climate crisis. France, Amsterdam, Sydney are jurisdictions that plan to no longer condone public advertising for fossil fuel companies. They are taking steps to regulate this. 

In June 2022, 34 Canadian health organizations representing 700,000 health workers across the country asked the government of Canada for a comprehensive ban on fossil fuel advertising – including ads for gasoline, fossil fuel utilities, and gas-powered vehicles https://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/canadian-doctors-call-for-tobacco-style-ban-on-fossil-fuel-advertising-in-canada-867532772.html  Does extending a secret contract to Emera to greenwash a corporation at this time positively reflect the values that HRM purports in its commitment to be a climate change leader?

Public Concern Over Secrecy
To be clear despite misinformation by some, Friends of Halifax Common has never been against the Oval (https://halifaxcommon.ca/tag/the-oval/)  and FHC did not engage in the 2011 public discussion about the first agreement with Emera and Molson. But as this is some time ago, are you aware of the public concern that the decision was made with a “secrecy that came to be seen as emblematic of a growing lack of transparency at city hall?”  (https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/halifax-mayor-on-thin-ice-in-outdoor-rink-controversy/article4197223/)

Or did you know that in 2013, Solidarity Halifax a volunteer citizens group, led a popular contest to un-brand and re-name the Oval because of how unsuitable both the process and choice were? (https://solidaritykh.org/2013/02/renaming-our-oval-whats-in-a-name/)

The Oval was built with public money, on public land and a comparatively small amount of corporate money. Can you consider honouring the sentiment of the 1763 land grant and keep the name as the Halifax Common Oval and the Oval as a short form?

Unless extending a secret agreement with a fossil fuel company to brand a publicly funded recreational facility on the Halifax Common is the legacy you as HRM Mayor and Council want to leave, we hope you can re-consider the process and the outcome.

Yours truly, 

FHC Directors

News 95.7 Todd Veinotte re Wanderers Grounds Privatization

News 95.7 Todd Veinotte and FHC director Peggy Cameron. FHC director talk about why the Wanderers Grounds must remain public. It’s been used to full capacity by amateur players for many sports- all ages, any gender. COVID showed us there are more and more demands on the little remaining public space on the Halifax Common. There isn’t any room to share  any field with a private developer. HRM can work to manage the developers’ need for a permanent 10,000 seat stadium and for $20 million by finding a better location.

The Wanderers Grounds was used to full capacity by amateur players until HRM Mayor & Council gave it over to a private developer for his profit for $2400/game.

FHC Letter to Mayor: Private Permanent Stadium on Public Land is Foul Play

FHC call on you to confirm to developer Derek Martin that his request to make his private “temporary” pop-up stadium on the public Wanderers Grounds permanent and for $20 million of public money are both not going to happen. Mr. Martin needs to purchase his own venue with his own money, not continue to make a profit by privatizing the public field. No level of government should be considering giving him public money for his private stadium. Here’s why:

The Wanderers Grounds was used to full capacity by amateur players (1) until HRM Mayor & Council gave it over to a developer for his private profit @ $2400/game.

Amateur Players: A 2017 HRM staff report states that the Wanderers Grounds was used to full capacity by amateur players (football, lacrosse, rugby, touch football, ultimate frisbee and soccer) averaging 325 hours/year and near its limit. [1] These players book the field and pay HRM for its use. Any limitation in the amateur player use was simply due to the field not being well maintained. The Wanderers Grounds is one of the few remaining amateur playing fields on the Halifax Common. HRM intends to add 35,000 residents to the Centre Plan area. Less than 20% of the Halifax Common is public space. It is not appropriate to privatize the Wanderers Grounds for a for-profit private business deal.

Private Use for Private Profit: HRM Mayor & Council contracted the Wanderers Grounds to the developer for his private profit initially for $1200 and then for $2400/game, without any public consultation. This contract has never factored in the value of the land itself. As an example, around the same time as the privatization began a similar city-owned central property, the former St Pat’s High School sold for ~$32 million.

Better Options: FHC wrote to you when the developer put forward his business plans suggesting HRM use a better process to determine both the location and the developer. For example, an RFP with specific criteria to be evaluated. https://www.halifaxcommon.ca/tag/wanderers-grounds/page/2/

FHC also met with the developer Derek Martin in 2016 to suggest better options than privatizing the Wanderers Grounds including: partnering with the Universities to improve their sports field venues; finding central locations with available land: ie Burnside, Dartmouth Crossing, Exhibition Park or the Stanfield Airport.

Misleading the Public: Mr. Martin stated at the meeting with FHC that he intended to take over the Grounds as a permanent location. He named his professional team the Wanderers Club. The pretext of a “pop-up” stadium to be removed seasonally fell apart after one season. HRM revised the contract taking out this requirement. Martin’s recent public claims that his proposed use is consistent with historic uses of the property is simply not accurate This is not just from the professional/amateur point of view but also from an exclusive use point of view. Mr. Martin’s denial that his use has been exclusive are also not accurate. Two FOIPOP’s done by FHC show that Sports Atlantic has almost entirely excluded amateur players other than a very few sponsored events. [5]

HRM Public Consultation: The 2017 HRM staff report confirmed HRM’s commitment to include questions on the eventual desired use of the Wanderers Grounds as part of the Halifax Common Master Plan public consultation [2]. Just ahead of any public consultation HRM permitted the temporary pop-up stadium by contract. That was just as HRM closed the field in 2017 for improvements spending ~$1 million of public money. During the Master Plan public consultation both HRM staff and facilitators at the public consultation refused requests to include the field as part of the consultation. [3] All of the decisions regarding the Wanderers Grounds lease arrangements with Martin have taken place without public consultation and outside of the Halifax Common Master Plan process.

HRM Staff Report-Larger Permanent Stadium Would be Located Elsewhere: The 2017 HRM staff report also noted that hosting a professional soccer team at the Wanderers Grounds is not consistent with the more general use as the field must be maintained to a higher standard and overuse can impact the field.[4] HRM’s 2017 staff report stated that a “temporary stadium on the Wanderers Grounds will also help indicate the viability of a larger permanent stadium in the region, which would have to be located elsewhere in an appropriate non-parkland context, and where more land is available.” [6].

Poor Location: The inappropriateness of the location is already notable. There is negative impact from noise and traffic in a densely populated area next to hospitals, the Public Gardens and the Halifax Lancers. The Lancer horses have to have ear plugs during games. The organization needs more space. Where is HRM’s consideration for their needs? They are strictly non-profit and do tremendous public service with their many programmes, especially for other-abled. There is also the negative visual impact of an oversized structure with a lot of clutter and 60 portapotties that is already significant, from all views. 10,000 spectators would only add to the harm.

Public Health: During COVID, it was again confirmed that public open space is critical for mental and physical health. Paying to watch professional soccer at the expense of shutting out amateur players is not sensible, practical or affordable. Asking for $20 million of public money shows how out of touch the developer is with what our society needs at a time where almost 600 citizens are homeless.

On-going Halifax Common Master Plan Public Consultation: In a Feb 8, 2022 directive HRM staff was instructed to “undertake public consultation and a review of the Master Plan and return to Regional Council within 18 months with the results of the consultation and any recommended amendments, along with implementation plans as may be advised.”

HRM has enabled the Wanderers Club to grow a huge fan base, garner corporate sponsorships and use connections and PR to cultivate the notion that the permanent location of the Wanderers Club on the Wanderers Grounds is the next logical step. Evidently there is the same presumption for $20 million public money. At the same time all amateur players have been locked out of play since 2016 and no longer have a cohesive voice. It would be inappropriate for the on- going public consultation to engage on the issue of the permanent stadium.

What HRM should do is acknowledge the importance of on-going public access to public space on the Halifax Common and its critical role in public health. Please remember HRM’s initial commitment was for a temporary removeable stadium. As per the HRM staff report the “temporary stadium on the Wanderers Grounds was to indicate the viability of a larger permanent stadium in the region, which would have to be located elsewhere in an appropriate non-parkland context, and where more land is available.

According to the 1994 Halifax Common Master Plan the city committed to plan for the entire Halifax Common granted “to and for the use of the inhabitants of the town of Halifax as Common, forever” in 1763. To date almost all aspirational plans laid out for the Halifax Common by HRM have been ignored, contravened, dropped or still just aspirational.

Less than 20% of the Halifax Common remains as public open space. We ask that there is a firm end to this misappropriation of a public venue. We encourage HRM to work with the developer to find a suitable location. We are not opposed to a professional soccer league but we are opposed to the process that has led us to this place and we are opposed to the continued use of public land for private profit.

Regards, FHC Directors

Peggy Cameron, Howard Epstein, Judith Fingard, David Garrett, Peggy Smith, William Breckenridge, Lawrence McEachern, Beverly Miller, Alan Ruffman,
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

  1. p. 5, HRM Staff Report, June 20, 2017
    https://www.halifax.ca/sites/default/files/documents/city-hall/regional- council/170620rc14113.pdf

  2. Ibid, p. 9

  3. FHC raised this at the HRM public consultation facilitated by Co-Lab and was told this was not part of the consultation.

  4. p. 5, HRM Staff Report, June 20, 2017
    https://www.halifax.ca/sites/default/files/documents/city-hall/regional- council/170620rc14113.pdf

  5. FHC conducted two FOIPOPs asking for a record of games and events.

  6. p. 6, HRM Staff Report, June 20, 2017
    https://www.halifax.ca/sites/default/files/documents/city-hall/regional- council/170620rc14113.pdf