Halifax Politician In Concert Flap

A chief administrative officer for the city of Halifax, Nova Scotia, recently announced his resignation amid news of a secret cash advance to a concert promoter who later went broke.

In a statement to the city’s Chronicle Herald, Wayne Anstey announced he planned to retire June 30 and linked the decision to a $400,000 forgivable grant he last year authorized to Harold MacKay’s Power Promotional Events.

“I would like to first state that in every instance when I had a choice to make, I truly believed I was making the right choice on behalf of [the Halifax Regional Municipality],” he said. “Of course, if I had to do it over again, I would do things differently.”

Power Promotional Events put on two concerts on the Halifax Commons last summer – a Black Eyed Peas date July 24 and an Aug. 6-7 country festival. While city councilors threatened to cancel the concerts because of weak ticket sales, MacKay met with Anstey and Halifax Mayor Peter Kelly just days before the Peas show to ask for more money to help with costs, the Herald reported.

The city reportedly had already forwarded $1.8 million to the promoter for the shows but Anstey, worried about possible financial losses, gave the OK to advance an additional $400,000 to MacKay.

“The practice of the advances exceeds the authority of any HRM official, violates the HRM charter and exposes the organization to financial risk,” Anstey said in his statement. “I knew this at the time, but I chose to proceed anyway.”

However, it wasn’t the first time a secret cash advance had been made to the promoter.

An internal audit reportedly found the city began granting money to Power Promotional Events beginning in 2008, the first year concerts took place on the commons.

Anstey said the advances began “to ensure that the promoter had the required liquidity to stage the concerts. As a major investor in the concerts, it was to our advantage to ensure they were a success.”

But when the concerts weren’t a success and Power Promotional Events went under last fall, the city was left in the lurch for nearly $360,000, the paper said.

While some officials have also called for the resignation of Kelly, he told the Herald he had nothing to do with the advances and has no plans to step down.

“There were discussions that they [the promoters] were in a difficult situation,” he said. “There were several meetings with the promoters and with the province to help resolve this issue and things … but ultimately after the meeting we all went our own way and Mr. Anstey, clearly, as indicated in his statement, made a decision.

“He did not ask for my consent, nor was any given.”

The city is reportedly consulting with its insurers to see if the money can be recovered through its errors and omissions policy.
Meanwhile, the Canadian government is considering a request from the city of Halifax for $47 million in funding toward a $500 million convention center project.

Member of Parliament Megan Leslie told the Herald the concert scandal doesn’t necessarily suggest the city is unable to handle the convention center project.

“I am eager to hear more about what’s going on,” Leslie said. “Right now I don’t think this points to the municipality’s capacity to manage big projects. There are a number of projects they have managed to monitor quite well. But I imagine Ottawa will be monitoring this to see if anything else comes of it, if more is revealed.”