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Toronto Taxpayers Deserve Transparency in the 2024 Olympic Bid Process

09/11/2015 08:04 EDT | Updated 09/11/2016 05:12 EDT
Melissa King via Getty Images
Pulling Money out of Wallet

The September 15 deadline for Toronto to submit a "firm commitment to bid" on the 2024 Olympics is fast approaching, yet details on whether or not Toronto will bid officially remain a secret.

Premier Wynne and Mayor Tory refuse to say whether or not Toronto will be bidding on the Games. Wynne and Tory fall back on the line that there are still a "lot of questions" about a possible Olympic bid, and that time is needed to answer those questions.

The fact that the politicians leading the Olympic charge are saying questions remain so late in the game should raise eyebrows. The smart money says that they have been planning on filing the bid letter all along, but have been keeping taxpayers in the dark.

The truth is that the city has been looking into the 2024 Olympics for years. John Tory backer Bob Richardson has been organizing a 2024 Olympic campaign since 2011, and in 2013 the City of Toronto conducted a feasibility study for the 2024 Games. The city manager issued a report on the feasibility of the Games in January 2014, and the issue of hosting the Games was considered by the Economic Development Committee in November 2014. The Canadian Olympic Committee even trademarked TO2024 this past July.

Taxpayers shouldn't fool themselves -- the idea that public debate will start after the September 15 bid letter has been filed is a farce.

This public debate already took place in Boston, where the public's concern about the unsustainable cost of the Olympics harpooned the bid and resulted in the city withdrawing.

However, if there had been transparency about the bid, obvious concerns about how Toronto can host a multi-billion dollar international sporting competition would arise. Ontario has an $8.5 billion deficit, spends nearly a billion dollars a month on interest, and many residents can barely afford to pay their hydro bills. Without the pesky public debate that resulted in taxpayer opposition in Boston, Tory and Wynne have been free to continue to push for their vanity bid on the Games behind closed doors.

Their claim now that the bid letter needs to be filed so that there is more time for public debate is merely a delay tactic, designed to take us to a point of no return. Characterizing the intention letter as merely an "expression of interest" is another tactic designed to delay public scrutiny until Toronto has entered the phase two portion of the Olympic bidding process.

Once the intention to bid letter is filed, the bid campaign will get underway in earnest. Toronto will be expected to develop a vision and concept for the games. Even if private money pays the $50 and $60 million for bidding, and no such private money has in fact been publicly committed, the city could be on the hook for billions if Toronto's bid is successful.

The Sochi summer Olympics had a $51 billion operating budget, and there hasn't been a summer Olympic Games that came in at under $7 billion since Sydney, in 2000.

The taxpayers of Toronto deserve transparency around what could become one of the largest financial undertakings in the city's history, and the time for that transparency was before September 15.

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