Friday, January 9, 2009

Olympic Village update

City of Vancouver

January 9, 2009


In the last election, I made a commitment to Vancouver taxpayers to make public the previous council's business decisions on the development of the Olympic Village. Today, I am delivering on that commitment.

The Olympic Village is a billion-dollar project, and the City's on the hook for all of it.

To my great frustration, we can't turn back the clock on the actions of the last Mayor and Council. We are financially and legally committed to complete this project.

The 2010 Olympic Winter Games will be held here in Vancouver. We will meet this challenge, and we will excel as proud hosts to the world's greatest athletes.

And we'll be doing it in the most difficult economic environment we've seen in more than a generation. As Mayor, my job is to protect the interests of Vancouver taxpayers. I'm focused on making the best business decisions possible as we move forward, and to do it openly.

We now know why the previous city government didn't want to talk about the deal they'd made. The arrangements were not in the public's interest.

The decisions taken by the previous city government have put the city at enormous financial risk, even as we were told in 2006 by our elected leaders that the Olympic Village would be developed at no risk to the taxpayers.

I campaigned on the promise that I would provide to the public as much information about the Olympic Village finances as possible.

Here is what we have learned about how the city got to this point today.

We've learned that in 2007, as part of a complex three-way agreement, the previous council provided not only a financial guarantee for $190 million between the City, Fortress Investment Group, and Millennium Development, but more significantly, voted to provide a completion guarantee to Fortress Investment Group.

With that action, they effectively made the City of Vancouver the project developer from that point forward. This decision was only disclosed in the city's 2007 financial statement, released in April 2008.

Fortress, acting within their rights under that deal, stopped advancing funds to the developer for Olympic Village construction in September 2008. As you know from media reports, city council decided in camera on October 14th to approve payments to the contractors to allow construction to continue.

Upon taking office, it became clear that immediate action had to be taken. The current arrangement was not sustainable.

Confronted with the difficult situation, council has directed city staff to negotiate a financial arrangement that will best protect the taxpayers of Vancouver.

These negotiations are ongoing.

We know we've been dealt a very tough hand, but I believe we can meet our obligations. We're working very closely with our partners - VANOC, the province and the federal government - to maintain the financing for the Olympic Village project and deliver it in time for the Games. The work we are doing with our partners will get us there. And I commit today to Vancouver taxpayers that they will be informed of the decisions that we have to take in the weeks and months ahead.

Right now, we're in the middle of urgent and delicate negotiations. The information we are sharing today does not compromise those negotiations, and is important for clarifying the status of the project and dispelling ongoing rumours and speculation.

I will also be following through on one of my other key campaign promises, by holding a special meeting of council on Monday to share what we've learned with the people of Vancouver.

Media Contact: Kevin Quinlan
Executive Assistant to the Mayor
City of Vancouver

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Homelessness debate - what blogs are for

There is a great debate on homelessness and housing in Vancouver going on on France Bula's blog. Check out these posts and the comments sections, mostly the first two:

Solving homelessness — beyond spin

Solving homelessness, beyond spin 2: David C’s response

Pennsylvania Hotel opens supportive housing

A new light in the Downtown Eastside

Homeless shelter numbers from new emergency effort

This is what blogs are meant to do, I think. Good, constructive, reasoned, impassioned debate. Thanks, Frances et al.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Is Canada the new Somalia?

I wrote an undergrad paper about failed states, examining how Somalia seemed to be building itself from the bottom up. That was until the US decided the Islamic courts were the next Taliban and encouraged Ethiopia to invade at the behest of Somalia's pseudo-government, which radicalized the country and may have pushed the somewhat moderate Islamic courts further towards fundamentalism. Well done, gang.

In his last post, Paul Wells at Macleans compares Canada to Somalia. Yes, you read that right. He argues that we don't have a coherent government, and uses the listeriosis outbreak to support his theory. (I personally love the talk-show host reference.) The short version:

Capital Read, Inkless Wells - By Paul Wells - Sun, Jan 4 2009 at 4:31 PM - 49 Comments

So. Let us review the options.

  • Coherent government: (a) announce an inquiry; (b) hold the inquiry.
  • Alternative, conservative coherent government: (a) explain why no inquiry is necessary; (b) do not hold an inquiry.
  • Incoherent government — failing-state government: (a) announce an inquiry; (b) attempt to ban public-sector strikes while appointing talk-show hosts to the Senate.

And this is his response to some decent criticism of his post:
Actually I was trying for a kind of a Mark Steyn thing, albeit to make a point Mark would not like or agree with. But of course I take your point. To be clear: I do not actually think Canada is much like Somalia. In Somalia, for instance, you can buy private health care without going to jail. There! That’s the effect I was trying for!

That is the funniest thing I've read in Canadian political commentary in a while. Thanks, Mr. Wells.