I thought the vote would be closer. But after some lengthy discussion yesterday, city council voted 19-5 in favour of signing the memoradum of agreement with the province that spells out our financial responsibilities for the new downtown convention centre. Developer Joe Ramia will be making an announcement tomorrow where he's expected to say construction will begin within weeks. Councillors Watts, Barkhouse, Hum, Lund and Rankin all cast nay votes, the rest of council including the mayor said yes. Like it or not, Halifax is about to get a new $165 million convention centre, part of a $500 million complex to be called the Nova Centre.
Kevin Lacey of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation continues to insist this is a bad deal for the city's taxpayers and in the long run will likely see residents paying more taxes to cover the cost. And The Coast's Tim Bousquet pointed out on my radio show yesterday that 10 to 25 years from now, perhaps when we get a more accurate picture of the actual costs of the convention centre, it's not likely any of the current members of city council will be around to hold accountible. But again, we're in feet first now. Downtown Halifax councillor Dawn Sloane told council yesterday, "When you bring in economic drivers such as a convention centre, the spinoffs are unbelievable." Let's hope the project's proponents are right.
City council yesterday did not axe its much touted Solar City project as staff was recommending. Instead, it has put the program on hold after CAO Richard Butts revealed there appears to be a good chance now the program will get funding from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. It meets in September and Butts says he's been told federation officials are "very favourable" about granting the funding. Over 1,000 city residents have signed up for the opportunity to get loans and rebates under the program to purchase solar panels for hot water. The loans would be paid back through property taxes. Environmentalist Chris Majka says council has put the staff recommendation to kill the project on ice and come September he says the program will be back on track.
2 more highways deaths in recent days brings to 41 now the number of people killed on Nova Scotia's roads this year. With still half the year to go, we're closing in on a record year in 2007 when 99 people died in highway accidents. The number had dropped to 65 by last year, but for a reason still unexplained, fatalities are on the rise this year. Little wonder, considering the idiots you see driving these days. People talking on cell phones, zipping through yield signs, even stop signs or going faster than the speed of sound are all common sights daily. It's little wonder there aren't more deaths.
MADD Canada's renewing its call for the public to help rid our roads of a leading contributor to those highway deaths, the drunk driver. MADD teamed up with the RCMP and Halifax police yesterday to urge drivers to call 911 should they suspect a drunk driver. And don't worry about using your cell phone either. You're exempt from the cell phone ban if you're calling 911. City police say 35% of impaired driving charges are because of citizen complaints.
Have a great day. Get involved. And if you're not outraged, you're not paying attention.