Finance Minister Colin Hansen says security costs raise B.C.'s Olympics exposure to $765 million

Finance Minister Colin Hansen has announced that the rising cost of Olympic security is responsible for a $165-million increase in B.C.’s financial commitment to host the 2010 Games.

At a news conference in Victoria today (February 19), Hansen said the province has signed two new agreements with the federal government.

One agreement limits B.C.’s financial commitment to security at $87.5 million. The second agreement requires B.C. to take over $165 million of federal spending on infrastructure projects in B.C. over the next three years.

Hansen, who is also the minister responsible for the 2010 Games, has maintained in the past that B.C. will spend $600 million to host the Olympics. He acknowledged today that as a result of these agreements, that cost has increased by $165 million.

“I fully accept that meeting that obligation is now costing the province $765 million and that actually still includes a $79 million contingency that is not allocated,” Hansen said.

When Vancouverites voted in a plebiscite in 2003 on whether to host the Olympics, the public was told that the Olympic security budget would be $175 million, split equally between the federal and provincial governments.

Before long, several people who've spent a lot of time on security issues  stepped forward--including retired police officer Ron Foyle and Senator Colin Kenney--to criticize that estimate.

Today, Public Safety Minister Peter Loan said that the total cost of Olympic security will be $900 million. In a news release, the federal government stated that B.C.’s share will be $252 million.

Olympics critics such as Chris Shaw have suggested that the B.C. government hasn’t reported the full cost of hosting the Olympics.

They have noted that it will cost well over $800 million to expand the Vancouver Convention and Exhibition Centre, which  will host the international media at the Games.

In addition, the $2-billion Canada Line has not been included in the public accounting, even though Vanoc chair Jack Poole has stated in a letter to politicians that the rapid-transit project was “a valuable tool in the campaign to win the right to host the 2010 Winter Games”.

The expanded Sea to Sky Highway to Whistler will cost more than $600 million.

Defenders of the three projects  say they shouldn't be counted as an Olympic project because  they will serve the region long after the Games have ended.

Meanwhile, the NDP pointed out last year that B.C. Hydro and ICBC, two provincial Crown corporations, have ordered nearly 3,800 tickets to sought-after events at the Games. In addition, ICBC will provide $6 million of free insurance for Olympic vehicles, and contribute another $9 million from the sale of Olympic licence plates.