Let Them Eat Cake

homelessathlete village

(Homelessness Ignored as the Party rolls Through Town)

Photos above: on left a homeless makeshift shelter near downtown Toronto.  On the right, foreign athletes enjoying the brand new athlete’s village in Toronto. It looks like priorities are questionable.

$2.5 billion in spending by the province of Ontario is being wasted on something that is (at best) a second-class athletic event.  The province is already over $288 billion in debt and has had its credit rating changed to negative. We have over 50,000 homeless in Ontario and a premier who says that Ontario has no money to provide housing.

Looking at the lavish five star athletes’ village in Toronto, it does not seem fair.  7,600 foreign athletes, coaches and officials are living well while Canadians are left to get out of the weather in tents and make shift shelters.

When this present government began talking about hosting the present Pan Am games they were in a minority position in the legislature.  They were on a life support system furnished by the New Democrats (the NDP). Apparently the NDP disagreed with the Wynne Lieberals so much that they constantly joined forces with the Wynne Lieberals to keep the scandal prone Lieberals in office.

Things were different in those days.  Wynne kept her cards close to the vest and kept her party’s secret plans private.

And then an election happened.  The Lieberals election finances needed new donors. The election laws curbed the amount of personal and business contributions that could be made to any party.  The Lieberals needed money to run a campaign and the need was urgent.

Those of us who have been in and around campaigns know that there are many “ways to skin a cat” when it comes to corporate donations.  Promises get made and money seeps into party coffers. The Lieberals won the election and ended up with a clear majority in the Legislature.  Things changed.

During the time of the Lieberal minority and NDP love-in with Wynne, things were said by the Lieberals in order to make the horrendous cost of the PanAm games more palatable and to present the situation in a better light.

There is absolutely nothing amateur about the PanAm fiasco. Here is a sample of what is being done with taxpayer’s money:  $500,000 lavish parties[i]  [1] ; Bonuses for officials – $7 million of the $1.44 billion cost of the event has been set aside for bonuses of up to 200 per cent of base salaries for key executives[2];  200 per cent completion of project bonuses for PanAm executives [3];  severance package of $478,200 for terminated Pan Am Games CEO Ian Troop  including $3,500 in legal fees, $10,000 in outplacement payments, deferred retirement benefits including an RRSP worth $27,300 and medical benefits of $15,800[4];  another pair of huge severance packages for Louise Lutgens who had served as vice-president of community and cultural services and Elaine Roper, who served as senior vice-president of human resources. Lutgens collected $302,153.31 and Roper collected $335,076.05 on their terminations.[5]  ; $9,000,000 (nine million) in air transportation subsidies for 6,000 foreign athletes[6]; almost one million dollars from the City of Toronto needed for PanAm signage and additional street cleaning[7] ; Food supplied to the PanAm athletes and assorted officials will cost tax payers another $7,000,000. 464,000 meals are expected to be served during the Pan Am and Parapan Am Games, at an average cost of $15 each, including equipment and labor expenses. That adds up to nearly $7 million.[8]

For Canadian families (and specifically Ontario families) struggling to afford accommodation and food, this is appalling and truly unfair.

Turning then to construction side of the mess, the Athletes’ Village being constructed by constructed by EllisDon Ledcor PAAV Inc.[9] on 80-acre site[10] along Toronto’s waterfront area, the West Don Lands.  Many unsubstantiated stories concerning the total cost of the “Athletes’ Village”.  That there are gigantic credibility gaps to be found in the Athletes’ Village cost was already pointed out by NDP Leader, Andrea Horwath who is quoted as saying, “It takes a special kind of Liberal incompetence to have two sets of books, neither of which are showing $700-million or more for the athletes’ village,” said NDP Leader Andrea Horwath. “It’s unbelievable.[11]

What is revealing itself is a shift in plans for how this massive development will be used when the “games” are finished. The once noble and lofty plans to put a good supply of affordable and subsidized housing to work in Toronto have turned into plans for expensive condominiums in the majority of constructed facilities with a small part designated for “market based” rental.  Take whatever meaning you wish from the term “market based” but given the fact that this small number of rental units is cheek to jowl with lavish condominiums, one would suspect that “market” rates will be well beyond he means of the working poor.

The devil is in the details as to total cost of the “Village” and those details are so well concealed presently that they are not readily available. That, in itself is scandalous given that we are talking about taxpayers’ money.  The obvious question is: why the secrecy????

What is known is already, the Village construction costs were increased by way of make-right costs to repair defects in the floor.  That “little” bumps in the road.  The floors in many of the Village’s 2,200 units were found to be uneven and pitted resulting in a repair cost of $1,400,000.  PanAm CEO, Saad Rafi was quoted as saying that he felt that the repair cost was “not exorbitant[12]

Saad Rafi has collected salary was $438,718.52 in 2014 to run the PanAm fiasco and comes to the “games” with “some” background” issues.  It seems that Mr. Rafi was Ontario Deputy Minister of Health during the Ornge (helicopter) scandals[13] (2011)

When you cast your eye to the photos of homelessness (above) and foreign athletes living in the lap of luxury inside the Athletes’ Village, something is wrong – very wrong and very unfair.


Copyright   Thunderbird Rising 2015

 The above article is copyrighted.  You may use, copy or distribute this article conditional on attributing your source (Thunderbird Rising) and the author (Lloyd Fournier)

[1] The Metro News, October 8, 2013

[2] The Metro News, October 8, 2013

[3]   The Metro News, October 8, 2013

[4] Global News, January 31, 2014

[5] The Globe and Mail, September 26, 2014

[6] The Toronto Star, December 22, 2014

[7] City of Toronto Internal Staff report, February 11, 2015

[8] Our Windsor, June 11, 2015

[9] http://urbantoronto.ca/database/projects/pan-am-village-west-don-lands

[10] Global News, February 20, 2015

[11] The Globe and Mail, October 01, 2013

[12] Hamilton Spectator, July 12, 2015

[13] The Chatham Daily News, June 08, 2015


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