Trade Centre jobs gone as deficit hits $2M

The Crown corporation that runs Nova Scotia's largest convention hall is losing money and will need a bailout from the province for the first time in 13 years, an all-party committee heard Wednesday.

The Crown corporation that runs Nova Scotia's largest convention hall is losing money and will need a bailout from the province for the first time in 13 years, an all-party committee heard Wednesday.

Trade Centre Ltd., which runs the World Trade and Convention Centre and the Metro Centre in Halifax, ended the 2007-08 fiscal year with a $2 million deficit, its president told the public accounts committee.

Fred MacGillivray said the Crown corporation is looking at an operating deficit of $250,000 this year and has already laid off six employees.

MacGillivray said he'll be seeking help from the province, but wouldn't say how much money is needed.

The province has not funded any of Trade Centre Ltd.'s operating costs since 1995. 

"As a result of the increasing costs in the past year and couple of years, we will have to revisit that relationship," MacGillivray told the committee.

Pension top-up raises questions

But a pension top-up for McGillivray worth about $800,000 has some politicians asking questions.

"If you want to retain somebody, you boost their pay. Why was it that Trade Centre Ltd. did it this way? In a way, that's not transparent," said New Democrat MLA Graham Steele.

"Maybe it's justified, but the first step is to have the facts on the table."

The pension fund for MacGillivray was set up in 2002. Each year, Trade Centre Ltd. sets aside about $150,000 for it. The 63-year-old is entitled to the money when he retires, on top of his regular pension benefits.

Stewart McInnes, chairman of the Trade Centre board of directors, said independent auditors have examined and approved the arrangement, which he said was made to keep MacGillivray in the job.

The premier and his cabinet ministers only approved the pension arrangement last fall.

When asked if he's worth the money, MacGillivray said that was a decision for "the people I work for."

Trade Centre Ltd. and its businesses pumped $170 million into Nova Scotia's economy last year.