By Andrew Macdonald
I recently featured a column on Geoff Machum, a Saint John-raised corporate law partner at Stewart McKelvey’s Halifax office.
I also talked to regional business leader Jim Spatz, who is chairing the fundraising committee for a new Art Gallery of Nova Scotia (AGNS) building on Halifax’s waterfront. Spatz, based in Halifax, co-owns the Algonquin Resort in St. Andrew’s-by-the-Sea.
This week, I am turning to Stewart McKelvey lawyer Grant Machum, a younger brother to Geoff Machum.
Grant is acting chair of the AGNS board of directors, and practices employment law in Halifax, alongside his brother. Grant is a corporate board specialist.
Grant told me that over the summer, a fundraising committee, called a counsel, will unveil its 35-member board, which Spatz will chair.
An announcement on the counsel make-up will be made over the summer: “It is being tied to making sure Jim [Spatz] is ready to go with the announcement. It was expected to be released in June, but we are just finalizing names to be on the capital campaign counsel.”
Ottawa is contributing $30 million to the project, Halifax is chipping in $70 million and the City of Halifax has committed $7 million. Spatz is being tasked with raising $40 million from the public.
A McCain from New Brunswick will also sit on the committee, and Spatz has said it will be a cross-Canada campaign.
“New Brunswick and all across Canada – remember, Nova Scotia has a lot of friends all across Canada, including in Toronto and out west” which will be part of the financial ask, said Grant. “The intention is to have a campaign counsel that reflects the spread of supporters of Nova Scotia across the country,” he added.
“You just look at Dalhousie University, itself, with all the graduates from there who have moved out west or to Toronto or further. All kinds of people would be very keen to support the art gallery. The campaign committee will be comprised of people across Canada – including New Brunswick,” said Grant.
Spatz also owns the Marriott Residence Inn in downtown Moncton. Grant, meanwhile, was raised in Saint John. He is the son of noted late lawyer Lawrence Machum, who was a bag man for former New Brunswick premier Richard Hatfield.
“I can’t disclose names yet on the campaign counsel, but there will be others from New Brunswick, as well, and we think that will give us good reach into New Brunswick, and also people who may not live in New Brunswick but have New Brunswick contacts and connections,” Grant added.
I understand the campaign committee already received its first multi-million dollar donation from someone whose identity has not yet been released. This is on top of a $10-million donation from the Sobey family, long-time patrons of the arts.
Grant says he, too, will draw on his New Brunswick roots and will “definitely” be making calls into the Picture Province to raise money.
“Even though we have not announced the names on the campaign counsel, there are steps being taken on a preliminary basis to have those counsel members commit to making a contribution – and we have to set the example by having members commit and that is sort of what is going on now.”
That is just common sense, since those tasked with raising $40 million from the general public should also pony up their own donations as part of the committee’s financial ask of others.
Well-known Halifax philanthropist Robbie Shaw has given his nod to the committee: “As Robbie Shaw has said, it is one of the most impressive campaign counsels he has ever seen,” added Grant.
Grant asked Jim Spatz to chair the fundraising work. Spatz owns a second-generation apartment and condo company, Southwest Properties, which controls 1,800 residential units in Halifax. He had been serving as a director of the Port of Halifax and recently left that post to devote time to the AGNS project.
I asked Grant why he approached Spatz.
“If you go a look at the area where the art gallery is going to be built on [the Halifax waterfront] and you look around and you see the Maple [apartment complex which opened in 2018], and you see Bishop’s Landing [residential and retail complex which opened in 2002] and you see the under-construction new Cunard Block [apartment project], and you look around the downtown area generally, you see projects by Spatz all over the place, and he just seemed to be a natural candidate to take on that role.”
Grant was attracted to public comments Spatz made in recent years, the latter saying he was committed to making a great city and province: “I was closely aware of what he is doing in New Brunswick. I like what he did with the Algonquin … I am familiar with that resort, I used to go there in the summers, and I have watched what he is doing in the community with his award-winning projects,” added Grant.
“He seemed to be the perfect person at the right stage, and I knew he wanted to leave the Port of Halifax and I suggested to him that the AGNS project might be something else for him to do for the city.”
Grant won’t say which McCain is joining the committee, but did say “The McCains, generally, are all supportive of the gallery, among those we have spoken with. Scott McCain lives in Halifax, and so do others. But, I can’t confirm which one of the McCains is on the committee because we do want to make the committee announcement as part of a co-ordinated communications plan,” said Grant.
The new AGNS is expected to open in 2025: “What we are doing now is finalizing costing to make sure we have a clear sight of what it is going to cost and once that is done, the general contractor will start the whole process of preparing the land.”
The project value is $140 million, and general builder EllisDon has been awarded a contract to build the new gallery with a circa $4.5-million contract.
“To give you a clear date on a construction start, I have not spoken to them yet, because we are just waiting for the costing. It’s really important to this [provincial] government that they have a clear understanding of what it will cost because money is not endless,” said Grant.
I asked if it will be within the original 2019 announcement budget projection of $140 million, because construction costs have increased, especially during 40-year historic highs on the inflation front.
“That is the million-dollar question. I suspect there will be some cost increases but we are waiting to hear on that very question … Everything is costing more, so we have to take steps to understand fully what it is going to cost.”
Grant Machum’s New Brunswick roots
Grant Machum grew up in Saint John.
He went to Millidgeville North High School, in Saint John, and later took commerce at Dalhousie University. He obtained his law degree from the University of New Brunswick, a school known for its fine law program because it focuses on commerce elements.
“UNB stands out. I worked in Toronto for seven years before coming to Halifax, and I think if you are a graduate of UNB, or from some other small law schools, you sort of stand out from the bigger schools when you go for interview applications for jobs. They are looking for people with different backgrounds, different parts of the country, and it actually helped me in 1991 when I was looking for a job in Toronto and I stood out, partly I think because I went to UNB,” said Grant.
Before he went to law school, Grant was employed by the City of Saint John, assisting Elsie Wayne when she was the mayor and working with the then-city manager.
“I got that job because I used to have a lawn care business in Saint John for five years and I did some of the municipal properties, a lot of residential and commercial properties, with 150 customers and that is how I got to know city hall and worked with Elsie until 1986.”