N.S. taxpayers foot McCartney concert

Fans can thank the taxman for the Paul McCartney concert held on the Halifax Common last July, with the Nova Scotia government spending $600,000 for marketing, and the Halifax Regional Municipality kicking in nearly $200,000 more.

Fans can thank the taxman for the Paul McCartney concert held on the Halifax Common last July.

Nova Scotia taxpayers put up $600,000 for marketing the concert and provided a loan guarantee to cover McCartney's $3.5-million fee, Premier Darrell Dexter said Tuesday.

The Halifax Regional Municipality kicked in nearly $200,000 more.

Promoter Harold MacKay of Power Promotions never mentioned the money taxpayers were putting up to bring the former Beatle to Halifax when the concert was announced last year.

The NDP government inherited the deal from the former Tory government after the election last June, Dexter said, and fortunately, ticket sales were strong. A regular ticket to the concert cost $136.

"There was a guarantee put in place at the time, but it was never realized because the ticket sales for the concert were able to pay the artist's fee," the premier said.

Part of Nova Scotia's contribution, however, included a $300,000 loan that was to be repaid if sales reached a certain threshold. The province would not reveal the threshold, but ticket sales fell short of it,

Dexter said he was happy the province could do its bit to promote the McCartney show, although the government rejected overtures from the promoter for more money for the concert.

"First of all, we thought the $600,000 as an investment was a lot of money for the province, in any event, and the fact that the province was potentially on the hook for the $3.5 million guarantee, it seemed like we had far and away done the lion's share," Dexter said.

MacKay said Tuesday that the province got its money's worth out of the concert because of the HST it generated. He wouldn't say how many tickets were actually sold but denied a report it was just 26,000.

"We set the concert site up for 40,000 people, and anybody who attended the concert, would have seen that we had a full house, " he said. "So, you can do an estimate of what it was, but it wasn't 26,000."

Dexter has not ruled out further investments in concerts but said caution is necessary.

"These are private ventures but they also have great economic spinoffs for the broader community and you know they raise tax revenue," he said. "They create economic activity. You know, those are the kinds of things you'd want to see in a cost-benefit analysis to determine it.

"You don't necessarily rule them out, but I think you would approach them very, very cautiously."

So far, he said, the government has not been asked for any money for the upcoming Black Eyed Peas concert set for July 24 on the Halifax Common.