The good news: there are public consultations. The bad news: those consultations are happening late, and only after the central question has already been answered.
“Is a stadium a good idea for HRM?” demands the white-letters-on-red-bristol-board-styled poster on the home page of the Stadium Consultation web page.
But the actual questions we are now being asked assumes we already said, Yes-love-a-stadium-thanks-for-asking.
During Phase 2, which began in earnest last week, the so-called “citizen-led stadium analysis steering committee” invited us to say where we think this shiny new stadium should be located and how big it should be.
Not whether we want one.
The idea to build a big-ticket, big-event venue in HRM has been floating in the HRMament for at least two decades. But it suddenly became urgent in March after Canada won the right to host the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup soccer event. The tournament will be staged in a number of different cities.
Even though it lacks the 20,000-seat stadium required to host such an event, Halifax wants to be one of them.
So council set up a committee, ostensibly to tell it whether the idea made sense … really, to tell them it did.
Although there was a cursory nod to the opinions of the unconnected-but-for-their-tax-dollars rabble during Phase 1, the bulk of initial public input consisted of “business-case” sessions with 17 “key informants,” 30 members of “key informant groups” and seven provincial sporting organizations.
Unsurprisingly, they thought there was a business case for a stadium. Moving on …
To its credit, the stadium committee has not tried to “stifle” broader debate. Metro reporter Aly Thomson described attendees at last week’s first well-attended and engaged consultation as “hot, cold and everything in between” on the stadium proposal.
It could have been the beginning of a meaningful exercise in participatory municipal democracy. But that barn door has already closed. The committee must report by December so council can say yea or nay before FIFA announces which cities will host events. Hurry, hurry.
So much for participatory democracy. Pity.