Today, the Globe and Mail reported that Vancouver city council approved lending up to $100 million to complete the Olympic village in time for the 2010 Games.
The story, which relied entirely on unnamed sources, also proclaimed that the city’s finance director, Estelle Lo, has resigned.
I called Lo’s office this morning and was told that she is away. The City and the mayor’s office haven’t returned my calls to confirm whether council held an in-camera meeting on October 14 to approve lending up to $100 million, as the Globe and Mail reported.
Good journalism is like good science: it can be replicated by relying on the sourced documentation. The Globe and Mail story failed to meet this test.
But given the history of the NPA in dealing with the Olympics, I believe it’s probably true.
Prior to the 2003 Olympic plebiscite, Vancouver taxpayers were assured that any Olympic cost overruns would be covered by the provincial government.
Then-NPA councillor Sam Sullivan and his then-sidekick on council, Peter Ladner, highlighted this point in a notice of motion opposing the COPE council’s plan to hold a plebiscite.
Since then, we’ve learned that the cost of one Olympic legacy project, the Trout Lake Ice Rink Replacement Project, has more than tripled, saddling Vancouver taxpayers with more than $10 million in extra costs.
As a result, a much-needed community centre replacement has been put on hold.
Now, we hear that council has agreed in secret to lend up to $100 million to complete the Olympic village. It will be interesting to see if the bond-rating agencies decide to drop Vancouver's credit rating after they learn the details.
All of this was predictable. The Georgia Straight published an article on January 30, 2003 laying out the City’s potential Olympic liabilities (see below). No other media outlet covered this story.
Those liabilities arose because of four secret deals signed by the City, under the control of the NPA, two days before the 2002 election. Isn’t it funny how history has a way of repeating itself?
Georgia Straight story published on January 30, 2003 on Vancouver's Olympic liabilities:
An opponent of the city’s 2010 Olympic bid has claimed that Vancouver taxpayers—and not the provincial and federal governments—could be liable for cost overruns on some of the facilities.
Last year, the city signed four separate contracts with the Vancouver 2010 Bid Corporation concerning the construction of an athletes’ village on city land at southeast False Creek, a curling facility at Hillcrest Park, an ice-hockey practice facility at either the Killarney or Trout Lake arenas, and figure-skating and short-track speed-skating venues at Hastings Park.
The four agreements each acknowledge that “BidCorp” is not an agent of any of its partners, including the federal and provincial governments.
Phil Le Good, a spokesperson for the No Games 2010 Coalition, alleged that this clause means city taxpayers, and not other levels of government, will be liable for all risks except where BidCorp states otherwise.
The city has also agreed to forgo any rent for Vancouver-owned facilities, as well as parking revenues for Vancouver’s parking lots and streets.
“Vancouverites were led to believe they wouldn’t have to pay a cent, that the province would cover all the costs,” Le Good said.
He added that citizens should worry about a clause granting the International Olympic Committee the right to order any changes to meet its regulations and requirements.
Trevor Miller, a spokesperson for the Vancouver 2010 Bid Corporation, told the Georgia Straight that the Olympic Games Organizing Committee—which is identified as BidCorp in the legal agreements—won’t exceed its $30-million capital contribution for the village.
“The developer would be liable for any cost overruns with regards to the athletes’ village,” he said.
Miller added that the provincial government’s guarantee would cover any cost overruns on curling and skating facilities. He said those would be financed from the federal and provincial governments’ $620-million capital contribution to the bid.
“The idea, obviously, is to work in partnership with the planning people to ensure that there won’t be any cost overruns on those because we’re working with a fixed amount here,” Miller said. “Basically, the official line is there is going to be opportunities for program enhancement and cost-
sharing, and those will continue to be explored with the city and the two levels of government.”
Vancouver Mayor Larry Campbell and Coun. Tim Louis, chair of the city services and budgets committee, were unavailable for comment.
In the Vancouver Athletes Village agreement, BidCorp has agreed to cover the costs of all “temporary facilities”, which include tents, trailers, signage, building modifications, temporary partitioning within residential or commercial units, and temporary parking lots and infrastructure.
Apart from BidCorp’s $30-million capital contribution to the “permanent facilities”, the city is responsible for everything else, including: 612,000 square feet of residential accommodation, not less than 30,000 square feet of commercial space, internal roadways, pedestrian walkways, underground parking, lighting, and site servicing for power, water, sewer, and other utilities.
The overall budget is $167.3 million: $16.3 million for environmental remediation, $31 million for infrastructure, $15 million in financing charges, and $105 million for building construction. Approximately 250 of the 564 housing units will be converted into subsidized housing after the Olympic Games.
The city is also responsible for site remediation and site preparation.
Le Good has demanded a full cost-benefit analysis, including an examination of City of Vancouver staff time that has gone into the bid.
“There is some deliberate stuff going on to hide the costs that are going to be borne by the residents of Vancouver,” Le Good alleged. “Where are they getting the money to pay for this?”
BidCorp has agreed to contribute $28 million for the curling facility at Hillcrest Park.
The city has agreed that the city manager will ask council by February 2006 to provide a maximum of $5 million. According to the legal agreement, this may be in the form of “in-kind” contributions, such as waiving city fees, development-cost charges, or levies.
BidCorp has also agreed to spend $23 million to refurbish the Hastings Park Coliseum, Agrodome, and Rollerland for figure skating and short-track speed skating.
BidCorp will reimburse the city for relocating or evicting any tenants. The city will be responsible for all capital and operating costs after the Games.
In addition, BidCorp has agreed to contribute $2.5 million for the ice-hockey practice facility. According to this agreement, the city will “construct, install, refurbish, operate, commission and decommission all fixtures, improvements and equipment”.
In 2000, the City of Vancouver contributed $300,000 to the Vancouver 2010 Bid Corporation. In July, 2002, council approved another $450,000 for security planning, cultural initiatives, staffing, and administration to support the bid process.