IN THE NEWS ~ Cost of Games security is setting new records

Cost of Games security is setting new records
The Daily News (Prince Rupert)
Fri 20 Feb 2009
Page: 3
Section: Local News
Dateline: VICTORIA
Source: Canadian Press

VICTORIA -- The security budget for the 2010 Winter Olympics in British Columbia has been set at $900 million, more than five times the original $175 million estimate.

Federal and provincial officials released the budget late Thursday after more than a year of negotiations. The main holdup had been how much each jurisdiction would contribute to protecting and policing the Games.

The federal government will pay $647.5 million, as well as cover any unexpected costs. British Columbia's share is equivalent to $252.5 million, but only a fraction of that will actually be spent on security.

Instead, the two sides struck a deal that sees Ottawa pick up a greater portion of the security tab but give B.C. less for new buildings and roads over the next three years.

In its latest budget, the federal government announced billions of dollars for infrastructure projects with matching provincial funds to rebuild roads, sewers and other projects to help stimulate the economy.

So, B.C. will actually pay $87.5 million toward the overall security budget, and spend an extra $165 million on $14-billion worth of infrastructure the province has planned over the next three years to fight the financial crisis.

B.C. Finance Minister Colin Hansen said the deal was a win-win for provincial taxpayers as the province finds itself in a deficit situation.

"This allows us to take what was going to be a pressure on the operating budget and cap it, so we didn't have to divert dollars away from other programs in the province such as health care and education to live up to our Olympic security obligations,'' he said.

Hansen gave details on the province's share of the budget at a hastily called news conference at the same time as the federal government posted the deal on its website.

Federal NDP Games critic Peter Julian slammed the timing of the announcement, saying it was deliberately released on the same day as U.S. President Barack Obama's visit.

"They released it today because they're hoping it won't become a story, it will die a quick death and somehow people will forget,'' he said.

"These figures are still approximate, they are still a guess but what they do show is that there are significant cost over-runs.''

But Federal Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan said the timing reflected the fact that details of the arrangements were only finalized Thursday.

The original $175 million estimate for security costs was included in the bid book but the RCMP later said the figure wasn't accurate.

The Mounties, who are overseeing 2010 security, submitted their revised budget in November 2007.

Van Loan said the new figure reflects a realistic plan to play host to a secure Games.

"It wasn't a question of setting a budget and saying here's what you have for security,'' he said in an interview.

"It was a question of saying how can you deliver a secure Games."

© 2009 The Daily News (Prince Rupert)