By Jane Sterk
A hundred or so held a rally, while thousands lined the streets to cheer.
The party has started. The billions are spent, the bulldozers done, the contracts long ago signed, the legislation passed, and the security forces are “standing by”. The what ifs are now for the history books or post-Games analyses calculating the real toll for our monthlong winter party.
They’re here—and the days of stopping them are gone. I accept that there comes a time when one knows that an event tainted by protest, or not, will proceed.
The Green Party of B.C. has opposed the Vancouver Winter Olympics from the start. When the Games were certain, we reminded British Columbians what we were promised to “buy in”—the commitments to social housing and facilities to serve our communities. And don’t forget the failed “Green Games” pitch. It hasn’t been a happy or comfortable role to fill, especially when as B.C.’s third largest party, it’s still difficult being heard.
But our message has been clear. The Vancouver Olympics were built from the ground up on broken promises and budgets. The Games have hindered, not helped, our province, and will continue to do so for years if not decades to come.
Don’t misunderstand me. I commend the many athletes who have dedicated their lives to the pursuit of personal excellence, who represent their families, their communities, and their nations. Our party is based on health. I applaud the performers and artists who will display their talents to the world. My son will personally benefit—as the choreographer for Courtenay’s torch celebration who’s performing in the opening ceremonies. I know his hard work is matched by everyone involved in participating and planning the Winter Olympics.
However, when I think about the Olympics, I feel a great sense of sadness. Before it is over, it will have cost us a direct $5 to $6 billion. Nothing will compensate for the destruction of Eagleridge Bluffs to widen the road to Whistler. Nothing will make up for the virtual police state that will be imposed for the monthlong Games at an unbelievable cost of almost $1 billion. Freedom of speech and movement is threatened by legislation. The poor are targeted and the reality of poverty on our streets will be airbrushed from view.
Mostly, I am shocked at our misplaced priorities. We are five weeks away from the Copenhagen conference on climate change, the most important issue of our time. Every global alarm bell is ringing like tinnitus in our ears, and yet we as a province, as a nation, as a globe do little or nothing as the clock winds down.
A TD Financial report estimating the costs of meeting the government of Canada’s modest greenhouse gas reduction goals was issued just as the Olympic torch arrived. The story made the front page for a day, was buried well back the next, and gone from discussion by the third. Meanwhile, the torch continues its colour-page trek across B.C. and Canadian headlines day after day.
I don’t think it is a question of how we might have better spent the money. In reality, neither the B.C. Liberal government nor the NDP (who initiated the Olympics bid) would ever think to spend $6 billion on the common good.
I believe the real question is one for ourselves. What do you want to better your life and those around you? What is on your wish list for your family’s future? If it isn’t the Olympics or one-time mega projects, keep that in mind in 2013.
Will there be a legacy, a magical Olympic boost like the B.C. Liberals claim? Of course not. The legacy in the end will be that we spent countless future provincial budgets, our children’s legacy, our salvation from climate inaction, our provincial end to poverty, our development of a model justice system, and a crowning health-care masterpiece on a one-month winter party, a bridge, a highway to a ski hill—and a roof.
I only hope I’m wrong.
Jane Sterk is the leader of the Green Party of B.C.