-Grumpy Taxpayer$ of Greater Victoria
Almost’ the Best Place on Earth l grumpytaxpayers.com
Will we learn any lessons?
Now that the dust has settled – and before our community moves on – it’s important to look back and understand why Victoria’s bid for the 2022 Commonwealth Games is dead.
From the perspective of Grumpy Taxpayer$, the bid failed because it lacked community legitimacy, the budget numbers never added up, and the taxpayer was disrespected. Most importantly though, the rusty governance structure of the Capital region effectively spiked the event and has again hampered the community from reaching its potential.
Lack of community legitimacy – Before you turn a community upside down with a $1.5-billion, multi-year mega project, it’s critical the community at large give you permission and a majority of residents support the bid. During the summer that was never done and an adult conversation never occurred.
A project of this magnitude has major and long-lasting implications so it was fatal the public wasn’t involved in decision-making from the onset through a binding referendum.
Badly bamboozled by the bid budget – During the last several weeks five varied ‘budgets’ were presented to the public, which didn’t instill much confidence in the entire rushed and top-down process.
Infrastructure projects must be financially viable without an extravagant mega sports event needed to justify an expenditure. How could a stadium with a 40,000 seat-capacity be viable and nothing but a financial burden for a generation or two? In the end the numbers never did add up – a view wisely shared by Deputy Premier and Finance Minister Carole James.
Taxpayer was disrespected – In a clever gambit to garner regional support, the local municipalities would have contributed only $25 million of the $955-million budget. In the end, the Commonwealth Games are highly dependent on taxpayer largess and the bid was nothing but a funding request for 85 per cent of the budget.
The bid committee failed to understand that the federal, provincial and local taxpayers are all one taxpayer. That taxpayer is maxed by a plethora of taxes, fees and other payments and is very wary of any additional, large and unnecessary expenditures. Taxes are the average Canadian family’s largest expense.
Dysfunctional governance structure – The Capital region is effectively leaderless with no elected official speaking for it. So with a short time to pull the bid together, the ’22 Games group met the Capital Regional District directors in secrecy and received qualified support provided there was an approved budget.
But, from the start taxpayers know the CRD is an unelected committee and had neither sufficient mandate or legitimacy to act on behalf of the region for a project of this scope. A case in point is the financial loss to the community and the sewer treatment project boondoggle which still isn’t finished or forgotten.
Incredibly, one mayor initially sang the praises of the ’22 Games before ever seeing a bid and budget or understanding the ramifications of the expenditure on the taxpayers, municipality or the region.
Then shamefully, before any budget was scrutinized by the CRD, there was the spectacle of three local politicians appearing in advertisements by Black Press trumpeting the Games benefits. All this happened before gaining legitimacy with a public discussion or discussion in public or formal approval from their respective councils – thereby effectively undermining the CRD decision-making process.
Back to the future – Grumpy Taxpayer$ found the ’94 Games audited financial statement and final report, to try to cut through the hype and boosterism and take a fact-based approach. A starkly different story emerged by researching about 60 newspaper articles during the years 1988 to 1995.
While there were many positives that came out of the ’94 Games, it was also characterized by in-fighting among the municipalities, a successful lawsuit by a business against a municipality for illegally collecting a tax, a temporary gas tax that became permanent, several budgets that had no basis in reality, several trips back to the taxpayer, and so on. The dysfunction and rancor was very similar to the experience of our community during the lead up to the sewer treatment project.
Grumpy Taxpayer$ awaits the results of a freedom of information request to the CRD and a complaint filed with the province’s Ombudsperson regarding this failed governance process.
We believe the Commonwealth Games can bring considerable benefits to a community provided they are widely supported, transparent and affordable. Above all, we believe an improved and updated governance structure would help our community live up to its potential.