Budget Day in B.C. hit like a brick yesterday. After all the empty patriotism and uncritical headlines in Vancouver mainstream media that glossed over eight years of democratic distortion, which approached neo-authoritarianism at times, the sad reality of Olympic opportunity costs are about to hit daylight.
Axe to the arts
After unpacking the numbers, it looks like the arts and cultural sector is facing a 50% cut which will result in job losses, less cultural events and the demise of several organizations which have decades of history in the province. After seeing the bloated presentations of the opening and closing ceremonies, the axe to the arts is devastating precisely at a time when the sector was reaching a new level of maturity and organizational excellence. These cuts will completely undermine long term organizational planning in the sector and push many organizations in to triage. The sad reality on the ground is that many of our most important voices will simply be forced to move elsewhere.
Increase in public debt and decrease in public services -- reality check
Provincial debt will be boosted to $56 billion from the current $41 billion over the next three years - a whopping increase of 35.4% since 2001 when provincial debt was $36.1 billion. The carrying costs of the debt will increase with higher interest rates and be a futher drain on operating funding in future years. The inability of government or financial analysts to look at opportunity costs for the games was completely irrational from the outset.
We have yet to see a proper cost/benefit analysis for the Olympics. In fact, it's never been done - not even by the $2 million Pricewaterhouse Coopers report. The initial estimates of between 118,000 to 228,000 jobs created by the 2010 Olympics and the economic impact of between $5.7 billion and $10 billion that was released during the bid process are one of the great works of fiction in BC economic history.
Incidentally, the bid boosters wanted to say that the Trade and Convention Centre should not be included in the costs of the Olympics, but wanted to include the economic benefits that were associated with the project. Under the economic model used by bid boosters, cost-overruns were viewed as a contribution to GDP.
There will be an 11% reduction in the provincial public service over the next three years which will see 4,142 fewer employees by 2013. There will be a 9.11 % rate hike for BC Hydro. Taxes will be downloaded to citizens, disproportionately impacting low and middle income people, particularly with the HST, the carbon tax and hikes to medical premiums. There will be a $198 million cut to the Ministry of Forests. This year alone, there will be a $1.7 billion deficit.
Was the $40 million price tag for the Opening and Closing ceremonies worth it? Was the $1 billion cost of the Sea-to-Sky Highway worth it? How about the luge tracks and the sliding centre?
This year, BC will be forced to pay $252.5 million as its share of the Olympic security costs. The provincial government covered $20 million of the $40 million cost of the Opening ceremonies that included a faulty hydraulic system and an unlit torch.
Social housing units under threat
At the Athletes Village, the promised 252 units of social housing may never materialize due to the mismanagement of the project under the City of Vancouver's previous NPA government. It is possible that the City of Vancouver may sell the units and build them on a future site, if at all. It is possible that no affordable housing on Southeast False Creek may be available until 2015. Once again, the Inner City Inclusive Commitment Statement has been a total and unequivocal failure due to the active marginalization of civil society by VANOC and its government partners. The promise of a funded watchdog group never materialized.
Furthermore, the City of Vancouver will be eliminating 158 full-time jobs this year to make up for a $28.1 million budget shortfall.
More to come.
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