Selling out B.C. for Olympics

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If we cannot afford to help the sick, poor or unemployed, then we cannot afford the Olympic games. If wealthy folk want the Games, it is they who benefit, so they should pay for them.

When the NDP was in power in B.C., hosting the Olympics might have been possible. B.C. was financially sound, maintaining all Government services, with debt on a holding pattern.

Then came Gordon Campbell and the Liberals, who riddled the provincial coffers with tax cuts. They slashed education, social and medical services, gutted labour rights, forestry rules and environmental protection — all the while, assuring us that these measures would pay for themselves, eventually. The rich were bound to invest their savings in B.C...

Well, the rich pocketed their tax breaks. Wages plummeted, businesses foundered, thousands lost their jobs and the province suffered a revenue shortfall equivalent to a Fast Ferry expenditure every month the Liberals were in office. So Campbell sold the family assets, B.C. Hydro and the Fast Ferries, to private foreign corporations.

Clearly, we cannot afford the Games. Still, they will proceed! Why?

Because palms have already been greased and plans are afoot that have nothing to do with the Olympics, but a great deal to do with Business. Here are just a few of the names involved:

Gerhard Heiberg, chair of the 2010 Winter Olymplic bid evaluation commission — the Bid Board — that recommended Vancouver for the Games, has held corporate positions in Aker Kvaerner. Kvaerner, a multi-national engineering company, does it all: offshore drilling, chemicals for pulp and paper industries, equipment for oil, pulp, chemical plants and hydropower; and ferry-designing. Kvaerner built a floating platform for Li Ka-shing's Husky offshore drilling project on the East coast. With Campbellâe(TM)s lifting the moratorium on offshore drilling, Li Ka-shing and Kvaerner could soon drill off our shores. (Li Ka-shing became well-known in B.C., after he bought much of the Expo '86 land and developed it into a multi-billion dollar residential site. That is only a small part of his holdings.)

The whole IOC is rife with Li Ka-shing influence. Prime Minister Jean Chretienâe(TM)s daughter is an IOC Bid Board member and a former executive for Li Ka-shing's son. Her husband, Andre Desmarais, is a partner-director with Li Ka-shing in CITIC. The Olympic Convention Centre lands were purchased from Li Ka-shing companies.

Bid Board member Laurent Beaudoin works for Bombardier, which will get a share of the $2 billion Richmond-Airport-Vancouver (RAV) skytrain. The Bid Board included executives from CN and Great Canadian Railtour, and these could well be on the receiving end of BC Rail's privatization.

Li Ka-shingâe(TM)s partner in Merrill Lynch, Thomas Fung of Fairchild Group started building a mall and hotel near the new RAV skytrain, before any announcement of RAV was made.

So IOC members will gain lots from the Olympics in Whistler-Vancouver, while we taxpayers will lose lots, since Campbell committed us to underwrite all financial losses.

It should be hard for the corporate media to overlook possible Liberal collusion and IOC corruption to promote the Olympics, but the Asper media proved up to the task. Most British Columbians are now convinced that the Olympics will be just ducky, and the hype is growing.

Ironically, most people in B.C. will not be able to afford tickets for the games. The opening ceremonies will sell from $120 to $1,100, and skating events, from $45 to $425. While 50,000 free tickets will be distributed, they are unlikely to go to people who cannot afford to buy them. Since most B.C. citizens will be relegated to watching the Games on TV, the Olympics might as well be held in Seattle. It would save us billions of dollars.

Upgrades on the Pacific Coliseum, General Motors Place, and the Agrodome will cost around $30 million; Whistler Creekside, Cypress and Whistler Blackcomb, $34 million; the highway: $600 million; arenas and other buildings, ski jumps, and bobsled tracks: $620 million; security, $200 million; the Olympic Villages, $260 million; Convention Centre, $450 million; the operating budget, $1.3 billion. Add to all this, extra skytrains, ferries, buses and God knows what else.

On the plus side, ticket sales are expected to raise $216 million. Whoopee. The Olympics will create temporary jobs, mainly construction jobs and service jobs, but will they go to B.C. workers? Agreements under WTO, NAFTA and AIT specify an open worldwide bidding process. In any case, wages are unlikely to be good, for this government does not believe in paying decent wages, unless you are already rich. You can be sure that Whistler businessmen will charge high rents, and workers will get no bargains in restaurants, either, where a cup of coffee costs $5.

When the Olympic bills tumble in, taxpayers will be paying them long into their grandchildrenâe(TM)s future. But how much of taxpayer-built edifices, ski slopes and rinks have been, or will be, transferred into private hands? Will those hands even be Canadian?

Another thing, what to do with these buildings when the Olympics are over? Will sports facilities be under-utilized and who will pay for their upkeep? Who can use the Convention Centre — the laid-off millworkers in Hazelton whose taxes paid for it? Or the Whistler Chamber of Commerce, who reaped the benefits?

Who else will reap benefits? The businesses attached to IOC members, certainly; the regional restaurants, shops, resorts, motels and hotels; real estate companies along the superhighway and RAV line; construction contractors; filming companies, and Whistler and Vancouver taverns and taxis will profit big time. Perhaps a few “escort” services and drug dealers will boom, too, with a corresponding negative cost to healthcare.

A Salt Lake City Olympics report found that economic benefits focused only on the host city, while other regions “experienced a net reduction in economic activity”. So anywhere outside the Olympic region — Prince Rupert, Barkersville and Kimberly — can count on a tourist bust, rather than a boom.

“The Olympics will make the world aware of Beautiful BC,” say the naive and knave alike. “People will come here, invest here. An economic boom will follow!”

We do not need to tell the world about B.C., for the multi-national pillagers have already found it. North Vancouver Island is starting to look like Sudbury in the 1960s, as forest companies hasten to cut down every tree, rushing their kill across the border to American sawmills before the public wakes up to stop them. Meanwhile, our mills lie idle and our workers are unemployed, out of EI and out of hope.

If we cannot afford to help the sick, poor or unemployed, then we cannot afford the Olympic games. If wealthy folk want the Games, it is they who benefit, so they should pay for them.

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