THE BLOG

Pan Am Poured Taxpayer Funds Down the Drain

07/29/2015 01:00 EDT | Updated 07/29/2016 05:59 EDT
JIM WATSON via Getty Images
Fireworks shoot off from the CN Tower during the opening ceremony for the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto, Ontario, July 10, 2015. AFP PHOTO/ JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

As the trope goes, "nobody washes a rented car." That is, unless you're the Pan Am Games, and you can pay for it with someone else's money.

Documents obtained by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation reveal that by May 2015, the Pan Am Games had spent over $10,000 on car washes and maintenance for its borrowed fleet of vehicles. That's two months before the Games even began, and before the vehicles were even being used.

Those sparkling Pan Am cars sitting unused in lots under the Gardiner were sparkling for a reason. Instead of collecting dust, these vehicles were treated to regular washes at Big Wax and Imperial Oil. Throughout the games, Pan Am vehicles were seen regularly rolling through these same car wash facilities.

All of these car washes were at your expense, and well before the cars were even being used for the Pan Am Games. Taxpayer money down the drain indeed.

These car washes are just the newest example of wasteful spending by the Pan Am Games. With a $2.5 billion budget, there has been plenty of outrageous spending to go around, and very little transparency.

Consider just a few recent examples of waste and questionable expenses at this year's Games:

- Fancy rented tents averaging $10,000 a pop, for a total cost of $8.1 million;

- $1.4 million for upgrading uneven floors in the apartments at the Athletes' Village, in order to preserve the event's "international image." Toronto, the city of world class baseboards. At taxpayer expense, of course;

- Pachi, the Pan Am Games mascot, which at last count in November had already cost taxpayers $383,045. That includes $33,250 in mascot "research," and $3,685 in cleaning and repairs months before the Games began;

- The double dipping in salary from Pan Am Games CEO Saad Rafi. Rafi's contract will see him collect $428,000, a full year's salary, in so-called severance when the games are complete. Essentially, Mr. Rafi will be making two years' salary for nineteen months of work;

These are only the newest examples of tax dollar waste at the Pan Am Games. Don't forget the Games former CEO Ian Troop, who was fired for questionable spending including expensing 91 cents for parking, $1.89 for a cup of tea, and lavish parties in Mexico. After he was fired, Mr. Troop received a severance payday of $534,000.

And these expenses don't include the economic cost of those unpopular HOV lanes, which Premier Wynne has now admitted may become permanent toll lanes.

The Auditor General expressed concern over the Games, and launched a special probe into the security spending. She warned of ballooning security costs, and of the Liberal government low-balling the cost of security by tens of millions of taxpayer dollars. She warned that the $247.4 million security budget, which was more than twice the original estimate, could go even higher.

Now that the Games are wrapping up and Kanye is heading home, the Auditor General should conduct a full and comprehensive audit of the total costs of the Pan Am Games. The waste that has been uncovered to date is almost certainly only the tip of the iceberg, and taxpayers have a right to know exactly how this government spent their hard earned money.

The importance of transparency in the Pan Am Games is further underscored by the new possibility that the City of Toronto may be making a bid for the 2024 Olympics.

The final tally will be ugly, as it's certain there was a lot of money -- just like the water washing off the parked cars -- that went straight down the drain.

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