Sunday, May 3, 2009

VANOC and feds sing from same choirbook on B.C. Place scandal

Hot potatoes. People in power with governments and government-funded agencies avoid them. Unless they're fried, dipped in gravy and cheese and called poutine.

Take the damning WorkSafeBC report that charged B.C. Pavilion Corporation with violating the British Columbia Workers' Compensation Act. An April 9 inspector's report found B.C. Place Stadium -- the site of the 2010 Winter Olympics' opening and closing ceremonies -- to be an unsafe workplace because the roof control workers are not properly trained.

I sought an interview with VANOC CEO John Furlong on April 28. B.C. Place, it can be argued, is the most important Games' venue because of the ceremonies. The ceremonies are traditionally the most-viewed event of the Olympics by the worldwide TV audience. If WorkSafeBC says it's an unsafe workplace for those employed by PavCo, then there are also safety implications for VANOC personnel that frequent the stadium.

More than a day later, I received this statement credited to VANOC vice-president of communications Renee Smith-Valade:

"VANOC has every confidence that B.C. Place will serve as a safe, extraordinary venue leading up to and during the Opening and Closing Ceremonies and Nightly Victory ceremonies for the 2010 Winter Games. Questions around day-to-day operations and facility management should be directed to BC Place management team."

On May 1, I also sought an interview with federal Secretary of State for Sport Gary Lunn and/or Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore. The federal government is investing $20 million of tax dollars in the opening ceremony. Shouldn't Lunn and Moore be concerned if a workplace accident or illness occurs before or -- gasp! -- during the Olympics? What if the roof rips and collapses again, just like Jan. 5, 2007?

On May 3, Lunn's press secretary Michelle Yao emailed this quote from Lunn:

"The Government of Canada is confident that B.C. Place will serve as a safe venue for the successful delivery of the Opening and Closing Ceremonies and Nightly Victory ceremonies for the 2010 Winter Games."

Yao added: For specific comment on WorkSafeBC's management and operations, please refer to the B.C. Place management team.

There you have it. VANOC and the federal government. Singing from the same choirbook. Praying nothing goes wrong at the Blunderdome.

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