Maureen Bader: Olympic security budget will create a big brother legacy

By Maureen Bader

Those who have followed the saga of bursting Olympic budgets were likely unfazed when it was finally confirmed that the original $175-million Vancouver 2010 Olympic security budget was a work of fiction. The most recent, but probably not the final budget is pegged at $900-million. It has long been assumed our politicians, and their RCMP minions, knew the original security budget was pure figment, yet were loath to come clean. Now, less than a year from the Olympics, taxpayers are getting a better picture of the security costs and the lasting legacy they may bring.

As early as 2005, the RCMP was forced to admit the security budget didn't reflect current costs. However, it wasn’t until February 2009 when Federal Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan confirmed, "[the security budget] was developed without an actual plan for security in the first place." Once again, we see that politicians say things they know are not true to get citizens on side for big-ticket items, and only reveal the truth once it is too late to do much about it.

So, just what are we paying for?

The RCMP's 2010 Integrated Security Unit, in charge of security for the games, has over half of the $900-million budget -- $491.9-million. The vast majority of that goes to operations, including salaries and expenses (such as food and accommodations) and capital expenses (such as radio communications equipment and vehicles). The next biggest chunk of the budget, $212-million, goes to the military, and $11-million to Canada's spy agency, CSIS.

Right now, anyone who dares question the need for massive spending is told, 'we wouldn't want to have what happened in Munich happen here.' But taxpayers must still insist on getting the best bang for our buck. Maybe, for example, instead of housing police officers in luxury cruise ships during the Olympics, the police could save money by billeting with their local brethren.

But regardless of how much we spend, of how tightly controlled, even a total police lockdown won't eliminate all risk. In China, where police can regularly be seen hauling peaceful protestors off to jail, the father-in-law of US Olympic Men's Indoor Volleyball Head Coach Hugh McCutcheon was stabbed and killed during the Beijing Olympics.

Certainly, steps must be taken to protect athletes and their families during the Olympics, but the last thing B.C. needs is another legacy -- a legacy of electronic surveillance.

And that’s just what might happen. At a press conference on the eve of the one-year countdown to the opening of the 2010 Games, the president of the International Olympic Committee, Jacques Rogge said, "Security investment always leave a good legacy of security for the country. Whenever the Games are finished, everything that has been built, the expertise that has been acquired, the hardware that has been put in place, is serving the country and the regions for decades to follow."

Great -- closed circuit TVs, surveillance planes, metal detectors, spies, command and control systems, perimeter protection systems -- all left over after the games so that government can do a better job watching us.

British Columbians have been sold an Olympic illusion so politicians can create legacies to themselves. Paternalistic politicians tell us things they know are not true when they think it is in our best interest. This must change. Politicians must be up-front at the beginning of these processes, or get out of them altogether. It's time to give all government spend-a-thons a reality check -- especially when the true legacy is big brother intruding not only into our pocketbooks, but into our daily lives.

Maureen Bader is the B.C. director for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.



The Blackbird

Mar 3, 2009 at 9:55am

Excellent analysis, but I must disagree with one of your assertions, i.e., "Paternalistic politicians tell us things they know are not true when they think it is in our best interest." Rather, they tell us things they know are not true when they believe it is their own best interest.

My question is, what the hell are they so afraid of? If anyone it's got to be gangs but the least they should do is acknowledge their own part in creating the monster.

Successive federal Liberal and Conservative administrations have allowed our major financial institutions to launder billions of dollars in profits from the sale of illegal narcotics annually. Prosecutions used to occur with nominal fines levied but even that doesn't happen these days.

Our port staffing is a joke, with a dozen or so inspectors watching thousands of incoming containers enter unchecked.

They throw us bones, like Insite, to give the impression they care, though the Federal Government's ongoing challenges show they don't. Homelessness has tripled in the past half decade, largely a result of Olympic accelerated gentrification, and the Conservative-Liberal coalition won't develop a housing strategy.

Though Canada has never been the target of a foreign terrorist attack, politicians have us fighting a War on Terror in a nation that produced 93% of the world opium supply after 6 years of allied occupation. More than 100 of our soldiers have died in those faraway fields while our brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, mothers and fathers succumb to addiction and death here at home.

Who knows how dark its heart goes? If you want to descend into paranoia, perhaps they're planning a Madrid or London style "attack" during TOPOFF5. Such an act would instill an acceptance, among many, that a threat not only exists but is present, thereby "justifying" spending even more of our tax dollars on the Olympic apparatus.

These folks are gearing up for some kind of showdown, for the dystopian nightmare future they envision the world descending into perhaps before their lifetime, definitely during their children's. The Apocalypse is coming, baby! Pick your horse! I'll put my money on War and Conquest and leave Pestilence and Death for the losers. A-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha! [insert clap of thunder and lighting crackling before a night sky] A-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!!!

So what's the big solution? First we need a plan and then we need to make a whole lot of noise so these paranoid, greed-driven mobsters in sweater vests and makeup don't have an opportunity to drop the iron heel on The Greatest Place on Earth.

(Please read "The Blackbird's Fix: 9 Steps to End Gang Violence in Canada" in the next issue of Megaphone Magazine.)


Nov 28, 2009 at 12:41am

I agree - good analysis - but just a note re CCTV especially. Having lived for almost 50yrs in the UK and watching the introduction and operation of the CCTV, most people agree that they are doing more good than harm. no-one complains about nosey neighbours,leaning on their balcony fences, observing you walking down main street and following your every move. from my observations and subsequent investigation into CCTV operations I have been impressed with the audits carried out. Yes there have been privacy violations ,but they are logged and 'naughty'operators' can lose thier jobs for violating CCTV rules.