On August 10, VANOC announced that, “The B.C. govt is offering partially paid leave to its 30,000 public servants if they volunteer for the 2010 Olympics.”

The secondment of B.C’s senior civil servants for the next six months is VANOC’s creative solution to the $40-million budget shortfall, after the private sector shut the door on Olympic sponsorship and advertising.

This squandering of public money at the highest level is estimated to cost strained taxpayers over $28 million. VANOC claims that these bureaucrats will not be paid, and will be using their accumulated vacation time. Despite assurances from VANOC’s HR Manager, Donna Wilson and the Minister of State for the Olympics, Mary McNeil, we all know that these volunteers will be paid overtime hours to bring the games to fruition.

I’ve voluntered quite a bit, but I’ve never been paid for my services. By definition, a volunteer is “a person who chooses freely to do or offer to do something.” If you’re getting paid to use your skills, then you’re not volunteering and someone is paying your salary.

If we can live without these highly skilled public servants for the next three to six months, then perhaps we don’t need them after March 2010. Time to “trim the fat” in Victoria.

Not surprisingly, while taxpayers continue to pay for this two-week event for decades to come, VANOC has set aside $44 million to pay bonuses to some of their highest paid officials post-Games.

We’re damned if we do, and damned if we don’t.

VANOC’s secondment might also explain why Whistler’s mayor refuses to trim the fat at the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW). The municipality has chosen to raise residential taxes by 19 per cent over three years, despite the fact that “there are 61 senior managers earning a total of $6,135,861 in salaries (an average of $100,587.89 per employee)” in a town of 10,000 full-time residents, that has reached build-out.

It’s likely that the RMOW has also seconded their senior staff to VANOC to satisfy Games-time requirements, with Whistler taxpayers footing the bill.

It turns out that Intrawest (Whistler/Blackcomb) has also seconded their staff to VANOC. Several foreign seasonal workers employed on the mountains had their 2009/10 work visas renewed only if they agreed to work for VANOC during the Games at a lower wage. Workers accepted these conditions since it guaranteed entry into Canada for another ski season.

While I can understand what a massive undertaking the Olympics can be, there’s little sympathy for VANOC. If you decide to throw a party, shouldn’t you ensure that you have the funds and staff to cover the logistics? Don’t assume that regular folks will have the time, money or interest to assist you in your corporate affairs. If you’re a casualty of the economic recession, then tone down your party and serve artichoke dip instead of caviar.

If the Olympic Games were only held in a few designated locations around the globe, we could avoid these massive debts, PR bonanzas, cuts to social programs and environmental destruction. The Olympics might once again become focused on the athletes and their achievements.

if VANOC requires more staff, have they considered Canada’s prison population? These folks will be around next Feburary and they probably have skills that could benefit VANOC. It might be a little difficult getting their security clearance though.


Pina Belperio

Welcome to Word of the Rings, a new Rabble.ca blog that aims to serve as a one-stop examination at what’s happening behind the scenes in the lead up to the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver and Whistler. Pina...