Black Press owner David Black poses for a portrait in his office. Black is the lead organizer of a Victoria bid for the 2022 Commonwealth Games. (Don Denton/News staff file)

Taxpayers group questions Victoria’s Commonwealth Games costs

Bid committee expected to discuss Games budget, venues next week

Numbers revealed in a Commonwealth Games support letter from Sidney are old, says David Black, lead organizer of Victoria’s bid for the 2022 Games.

Black said Thursday morning the cost estimates for the bid have changed significantly since the bid committee asked area municipalities for their support, and following two days of meetings this week with Commonwealth Games committee members from London and Toronto.

The Victoria bid committee, led by Black, was expected to hold a media conference this morning to discuss sport venues, the budget and more, but that was postponed until next week. In an interview, Black said information out of those meetings changed significantly late yesterday, necessitating the delay.

The media conference was expected to shed more light on the Games bid process and costs associated with hosting the 2022 sporting event — especially following a watchdog group’s reveal this week of an endorsement of the Games bid from the Town of Sidney that revealed federal and provincial contributions of $450 million.

That letter, signed by Sidney Mayor Steve Price, outlines plans for $300 million from the Commonwealth Games Federation and Sport Canada and $150 million from the Province of B.C. “and a guarantee against overruns.”

John Treleavan, vice-president of the Grumpy Taxpayer$ of Greater Victoria, said that was the first time any monetary amount associated with the bid was revealed. For their organization, he said, it raised concerns about a lack of transparency with the public on just how much the Games could cost.

“Don’t we deserve to hear the pros and cons in a public debate?” Treleavan asked. “This falls apart if there isn’t public support.”

The Grumpy Taxpayer$, added Treleavan, are not against the Games, but question the need to spend so much money on the event, citing the high cost of past games, including the last time Victoria hosted the Commonwealth Games in 1994.

“We’ve seen this movie before,” he said. “And I hope Sidney had more information on the business plan (for the Games bid) before they made such a decision.”

Black, who owns media company Black Press, said criticisms of a lack of transparency on the cost “are fair.”

“I apologize to the people who might be worried about that,” he said.

Black said the postponed media conference — which he expects will be rescheduled to next week — will hopefully address those issues around transparency.

He said the numbers in the Sidney letter are old and have changed as the bid committee has learned new things, such as how big a percentage of money the federal government is willing to contribute. As well, in meeting with Games committee members recently, Black said they’re working through each sport’s requirements, venues available and the overall budget.

“We’ve revised some of the things we’re going to do,” Black added, but said he would not comment on costs specifically, until next week.

Black added the bid committee also kept a lid on costs while Vancouver was also bidding for the Games.

“They’re out, so it’s no longer an issue.”

Asked about security costs — another Grumpy Taxpayer$ concern — Black said Victoria is one of the safest places in the world to potentially host the Games. And while he wouldn’t give the associated cost estimate, said they are expected to be “less expensive.”

Victoria is making its bid against Liverpool and Birmingham, both in England, which are considered front runners.

The Grumpy Taxpayer$ have sad they are figuring the Games, if hosted in Victoria, would cost an estimated $1 billion, based on costs for the 2014 Glasgow Games, which they say cost $720 million (US), with security costs of $112 million (US) — “of which almost 80 per cent was public (taxpayer) funding.”

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