Saturday, January 8, 2011

On spirit, freedom and legacy

You can bet your lucky loonie that the Olympic cauldron at Jack Poole Plaza will be reignited on Feb. 12, 2011 when the first anniversary of the 2010 Winter Olympics is marked. The B.C. government plans to spend $60 million from taxpayers until 2013 -- the next election year -- on a Sports and Arts Legacy program. But the details are hidden; the government refused a Freedom of Information request for documents.

Remember 2003 when the United States invaded Iraq? The French said "non, non" and did not join the "coalition of the willing". Americans retaliated by pouring French wine down sewers and renaming French fries as "Freedom fries".

The silliness even came north. I had a plate of Freedom fries on a trip to Calgary. I remarked to the waitress that the price wasn't very free. She didn't laugh.

In British Columbia, the official hackneyed word is Spirit. There is a Spirit Trail in North and West Vancouver. Vancouver's westside has Pacific Spirit Regional Park. Several ferries are part of the Spirit class, like the Spirit of British Columbia. There are Spirit of B.C. committees in 95 communities, meant to boost the Olympic torch relay and the Olympics, which came and went last February.

There is no money left over from the Olympics (VANOC needed $187.8 million from taxpayers to avoid registering a deficit), but the provincial government is spending $60 million through 2013 on a 2010 Sports and Arts Legacy fund. Community Spirit Festivals will peak every February to commemorate the anniversary of the 2010 Winter Olympics.

The next provincial election just so happens to be May 14, 2013.

That may be the real reason why the government refused to give me any documents about the budgeting and planning of the costly project. Click here for the Jan. 4, 2011 response to my Freedom of Information request. Through other sources, I was able to get some communications drafts, but not what I wanted. Perhaps the government is embarrassed after I found out its Olympic ad campaign was intended to prop-up the sagging popularity of Premier Gordon Campbell. The domestic target audience of its $36.7 million marketing was "voting age" British Columbians.

NDP critic Spencer Chandra Herbert says that the Liberal government's 2010 Sports and Arts Legacy is creating the illusion of an Olympic legacy while returning money cut before the Olympics to community arts and amateur sports organizations. The Liberals' goal is to win the next election. First, the Liberals will replace Campbell on Feb. 26 -- two days shy of the first anniversary of the closing ceremony.

Think of it. Yet another pool of dough that can be drawn upon for grip and grin spending announcements in communities large and small for the next three years. By 2013, the media will be analyzing where the money went and don't be surprised if more went to Liberal ridings than those held by NDPers. Every government since the 1980s Social Credit has used community grant programs in this fashion.

It's really just vote-buying.

But this time, it has five-rings and red mittens attached.

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