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Reports raise convention centre questions

Four previously secret studies on whether to build a new conventioncentre for downtown Halifax have been made public, but the debate isfar from over.

Four previously secret studies on whether to build a new convention centre for downtown Halifax have been made public, but the debate is far from over.

The government released 218 pages of trade centre documents Friday morning. Generally the reports push for construction of a new centre.

A Gardner Pinfold report says the current centre is no longer serving the needs of customers and its physical limitations are stifling economic impact. A new centre, it says, would produce an extra $300 million plus in economic impact over a decade, with tens of millions more in tax revenue.

Other reports say Halifax has missed out on dozens of conventions and could attract as many as 20 more per year with a new centre.

However, convention centre opponents have raised serious doubts about the validity of the reports. The Coalition to Save the View said there were serious omissions in research.

One study by Criterion Communications warns it did no primary research and its conclusions “should not be relied on for any detailed business or financial assessments.” However, it is repeatedly cited in another report by Deloitte.

“Current research indicates that the convention centre industry in North America is in decline,” reads a coalition press release. “Yet the report appears to have relied on the optimistic projections of Trade Centre Limited staff.”

Trade Centre Limited president Scott Ferguson said he was pleased with the conclusion of the reports but said there’s still much research to be done before the July 19 deadline on whether to fund the project.

“I think by the time that process is completed close to July then we’ll have all the information in front of the government they need to make the right decision,” he said.

Transportation Minister Bill Estabrooks said he wants more studies completed before he brings a recommendation to provincial cabinet.

“Sitting around the cabinet table, the key thing is you’ve got to be able to look at (Finance Minister) Graham Steele and say this is good value for our dollars,” said Estabrooks.

“I’ve got to make sure I have everything in line so I can answer those tough questions.”

 
 
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