This morning there was more bad news and more concern about the costs and performance of the Nova Centre and its heavy financial impact on regular households. The CBC article was trailed as it always is by reader comments snarkily stating how obviously flawed this plan has always been.
And yet every government expert interviewed by the CBC steadfastly stays with the notion that this... building... is the best thing ever for the city.
How do we change or improve if we can't, like the famous AA 12 steps, first admit that there is a problem and second believe that change is possible.
At the heart of the matter is the question, "Under what circumstances will we change our mind?"
Nearly 10 years ago I attended a meeting of the convention centre boosters/planners that included Paul McKinnon, the people who ran the trade centre, the Chamber of Commerce and the usual government officials. I had the opportunity to ask a question. That's a big deal in a system like this and I took the responsibility seriously.
As they all strongly supported the scheme, I asked under what conditions and facts they would change their mind. This is a standard business planning question learned in every business school in the world. It helps tease out the limits of investment, under-performance, unplanned consequences, threats and weaknesses to the plan that would be important to consider. It's also a simple test of rationality. A person who holds a rational position can express conditions under which they would change their mind. People operating from self-interest, passion, or simple faith have great difficulty answering this simple question.
So I asked, under what financial conditions they would change their mind about supporting the convention centre plan.
After considerable humming and hawing in front of the 500 or so people in the audience the head of the Trade Centre, said that they felt this was a trick question and would not answer.
It's not a trick. But people who are lying, or hiding something, or being manipulative, will often refuse to answer this question and be openly frustrated when it is proposed.
When blocks teeter at the top of a child's pyramid they instinctively look to the foundation stones of their creation to find the problem, and when it falls they stop and start again with a new plan in mind of stronger and steadier foundations. We should do the same with the economic development schemes supposed to help our households become more prosperous.
It's not good enough to relegate this decision to the fault of past and departed governments. It's too easy, and unhelpful, to simply say oh it was Darrel Dexter's NDP, or Mayor Peter Kelly's wacky cadre. We need to be responsible now or the next thing... the stadium, the ferry, the land speculator's schemes, the golf course airport, or whatever else is cooking... floats in and again robs us of the last finger hold we have on the wealth we create in this province. It's the foundational process that is wrong and we've got to learn to be able to say under what conditions we will change our minds.
Writing about life, citizenship, and Nova Scotia.